W. Gurney (William Gurney) Benham.

Essex Borough arms and the traditional arms of Essex and the arms of Chelmsford diocese online

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SERI^ELEY

UNIVERSITY Of
CALIFORNIA



Plate I.





Fig. I.

ARMS OF

THE BOROUGH OF COLCHESTER

as recorded at the College of Arms, August 1558.



J'lo: 2.

ANCIENT FORM OF COLCHESTER

BOROUGH ARMS

as emblazoned on Borough Charter,

July 1413.




ARMS FOUNDED ON THE
ANCIENT "raven SEAL" OF COLCHESTER.

USED AS THE ARMS OF THE PORTREEVE
AND OF THE BOROUGH AS A PORT AND
HARBOUR AUTHORITY.



ESSEX BOROUGH ARMS

AND THE TRADITIONAL

ARMS OF ESSEX ^^^^



AND THE

ARMS OF CHELMSFORD DIOCESE.




COLCHFSTER rOROUGH ARMS.



NINE COLOURED PLATES AND FORTY OTHER
ILLUSTRATIONS.



By W. GURNEY BENHAM.



Bkniiam and Company, Limited

High Strfet, Colc?tester.

1916.



INDEX.






Admiralty Seal of Maldon, plate 2,

description of, 19, 20.
Angles, East, see East Anglia.
Anne of Cleves, 48.
Arthur, King 74.
Athill, C. H., Richmond Herald,

13.
Atkinson, Dr. J. P., 47.

•Bacon, Francis 11, 34.

Barron, O., 61.

Bayne, Baron J. de., quoted, yy,

78.
Beaufort badge, 36.
"Beck, Rev. Mr., 78.
Belgium, scramasaxes in, 78.
Beowulf, yy, 78.
Best, John, 10.
Bramston, Francis, 14.
-Braybrooke, Lord, Hist, of Audley

End, 40, 41.
Bret, Richd., 20, 21.
• Briteyne, Kings of, 75.
Brother ton, Thomas de, lord of

Harwich, 34.
Brute, King, 74, 75.
Burke's Armory, 64.
Bysshe, Sir E., 7, 14, 42, 51.

Cecilia, mother of Edward IV.,

50.
Charles H. at Harwich, 35, 36.
Chaucer's reference to Stratford,

60.
Chelmer, ford of the, 5^.
Chelmsford, Arms of. Coloured

illustration, plate 6 ; descrip-
tion of, 52-54.
Chelmsford, incorporation of, 52.
Chelmsford See of. Coloured

illustration of arms, • plate 8;

description, 7 ; reference to, 52.
Christy, Miller, 49.
Cimabue, 11.
Clacton-on-Sea, Arms, used by.

68, 69 ; (illus.) 69.
Clacton Urban District Council,

use of arms of, 68.
Clare, Honor of, 49, 50.
Clark, Dr. Andrew, 44 note ; 46.
Clement, St., ^7.
Coe, John, 15.

Coel (Coilus) King, 5, 7, 74.
Coke, Sir E., 34.
Coker, Edwd., 20, 21.



Colchester, Arms of. Coloured
Illustration. Plate I. (Frontis-
piece) ; as shown on Borough
Charter, July 1413. ditto ; arms
of Portreeve founded on Raven
, seal, ditto ; account of Borough
I Arms, I -1 2, recorded on Charter
i of 1413, 4 ; at Visitation, Aug.
I 26. 1558, 4 ; Visitation 1664-
-68, 7 ; (illus.) 9 ; ancient
I tricks of (2 illus.), 10.
College of Arms, 7, 13, 61, 64.
Cologne, 5 ; arms of, 5.
Constantine the Great, 5 6.
Cook, Robert, Clarenceux, 15 ;
confirmation of Maldon Anns
by, 1569, 26 ; y_=) note.
Crest of West Ham, a rising sun,

60.
Crests inappropriate for boroughs,
I 61.

i Croye, with masts, 25.
Cursor Mundi, 6.
Cutlery industry at Thaxted, 49.

Danes, raven an emblem of, 9.

D'Arcy family and Clacton, 68.

Dethick, Sir Gilbert, grant of
arms to Maldon, 15 ; strange
confirmation by, 23 ; illus. from
his ' Guiftes ' 24 ; lists of his
grants, 25.

Dethick, Sir William, 25.

Dovercourt, manor of, 34.

East Anglia, arms of, y^, 75 ;
, unconnected with Essex, yb.

East Ham, Arms of, 4. Des-
cription and illus., 62, 63.

East Ham, incorporation of, 62.
j East Saxons, Reputed Arms of,
} Coloured illus., plate 9 ; des-
■ scription and explanation of,

71-78.
East Saxons, shield of, as ines-
1 cutcheon in Southend (former)
arms 55, 56 ; Clacton arms, 69,
; Eastwood (Southend) ^y.

Ebblewhite, E. A., 57.
1 Edward III. and Halstead Col-
I lege, 67 ; his coronal emblems,
67.
Edward IV., badge of, 50.
Egbert, King, arms of, 73.



N



134



INDEX.



Elizabeth, queen of Henry VII.,

50.
EUe, arms of, 75.
Elliot, Rev. H. L., 2. 7, 19, 32, 64.
Erkenwyne, King, 71, 72, 73.
Essex and Suffolk " Insurance

Society, old fireplate of ( llus.),

76, 77-
Essex Archicolog.cal Society, use

of East Saxon arms, 76.
Essex, County Arms, see East

Saxons.
Essex County Council, 76.
Essex Militia, use of East Saxon

arms by, 77.
Essex, suggested arms of, 76.
Essex Volunteers, early use of

armorial bearings by, 77.

Farrye Clerk at Little Maplestead,

.07.
Fetterlock, 30.
Fiske, T. H.. 40.
Fitch, E. A., 27.
Fords in Essex, 53.
Fowler, K. C, 60, 67.
Fox-Davics, A. C, 37, 49.
Fraire Clerk, 66, by.
Furbank, A. J., 52.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, yx.
Gibbons, Kev. T. G., 65 note ;

66, 67.
Gournay, Francis, 14.
Grimston, Sir Harbottle, 11.
Guild at Saffron Walden, royal

licence of incorjx) ration, is, 14,

46.

Hales, Sir Roger, 34 ; Alice, 34 ;

Bridget, 34.
Halstead, alleged arms of, 64,

67 ; illustrations, 65.
Halstead, Bourchiers' College at,

64, 67.
Halstead, Fraire Clerk. 66, 67.
Halstead m? rket, 65 ; court Icet

6() ; Moot hall anrl t;uild liall,

66.
Halstead Urban JJislnct Council

seal, 64.
Ham, East, see East Ham.
Ham, West, see West Ham.
Hammers of West Ham, 60.
Harlxjttle, T. H.. 77.
Hart, John, 14, 15.
Harwich Akms ok, 34-38 ; apf>ear

on borough mace, i()69, 35 ;

coloured illus., plate ^ (facmg

p. l3<>)



Harwich, incorporated in 1318,
34 ; its Portreeve, 34, 35
Charter of, i()04 ; 34, livery
buttons at, 38 ; motto, 38.

Hastier, E. (Maldon), 14, 26.

Helena, St., her connection with
Colchester Borough Arms, i ;
legends of, 5, 6 ; guild of, 5 ;
and Nottingham, 7.

Hengist, 72, y^, 78.

Heptarchy, arms of, 73, 74, y^.

Hertfordshire, suggested arms of
76.

Hervey, William, Clarenceaux, 21,

Hsylyn, Peter, 74.

Hjlman, William, of Halstead,

65, note ; 66.
Holme, Randle, 75.
Hope, Sir W'. H. St. John, 61.
Horsenaile, Thos., 15.
Howard, J. J., LL.D., 30, 31, 43,

51-
Humphreys, Robt., 48. ■
Humphry, A. P., 49, 51.

Isse, Ellesen of, 7^.

Jam3s I., charter to Thaxted, 48.
James II. at Harwich, 36 ; char-
ter to Saffron Walden, 43.
.Jam2s, St., emblem of, 69.
Jennings, John, 15.

Kent, arms of, 73, 7^.

Kings, Three Holy see Magi.

Krohn, Aid. H. A., 19 note.

Lancaster, borough of, 39.
Laurence, St., emblem of, ^7.
Leche, JoHh, of Saffron Wa'lden,

40.
Leigh-on-Sea, 37, 58. -
London, Maurice, bishoj) of, '^1 ;

William, bishop ot,' 60 ; Bishops

of, lord.s of Clacton, 68.
London-over-the-Border, 60.
Lucius, legendary son of Helena, 7.
Lyvynge, Christopher, 14, 26.

Magi, relics of the, 5.

Maldon, Arms of. Coloured
illustrations, plate 2 ; Account
of 13 — 33 ; at visitation r>f.
161 4. 14 ; at Visitation- oi,
i6()4, 14, 15 ; corrupt versions
of, 21, 21, 22, trick of 1558
(illns.), 21 ; strange version,
(illus.) 23 ; drawing, April 30,
1562, 24 ; trick in Harl M.S.



INDEX.



2198 (illus.), 26 ; erroneous des-
cription of, bv W. C. Metcalfe
(■Uus.), ^7, trick in Harl. M.S.,
0065 (illus.) 28 ; spurious arms
in Dr. Howard's Visit of Essex
(1888.)

Maldon, seals ol, see Seals.

Maynard, Guy, 47.

Maynard, John, 10.

Meantys, Sir Peter, 11.

Mercia, arms of, 73, 75.

Metcalf, Walter C, 27.

Middlesex, arms of, 76.

Mildmay arms, 52, 53.

Monmouth, Duke of, 36.

Montfitchct, William de, .59 ; arms
of, 59-

Moore, Wm., Mayor of Colchester,

9.
Morant, Philip, 2O, 37, 48.
Mottoes : Clacton-on-Sea, 09.
Mottoes : Chelmsford, 52.
Motto of Southend (discarded) ^^ ;

present motto, 3O, 57, 58.
Motto of West Ham, 59.
Motto of East Ham, O3.
Mottoes : Beau forts', 37 ; Wem-

man family, 38 ; Harwich (?) 38.
Moulsham, manor of, 53.

Nails, the Holy, legends of, 5 ;
in arms of Colchester (illus), 10 ;
number of, 11 ; part of Col-
chester arms in 1558, 12.
Northumberland, arms of, 7}^^ ys-
Nottingham, arms of (illus.), 7.

Oath Book of Colchester, 9.
Osyth, St., Priory, arms of, 75.

Parkeston, 38.

Parr, Wm., Marquis of_^Northamp-

ton, 67.
Plume, Saml. 15.
Portcullis (Harwich), 36.
Portreeve and Port of Colchester ;

arms in use, Plate i, fig. 3 ;

Seal of (illus.), 8.
" Pretensed " arms, 21, 30.
Prittlewell church, 56, 57.
Prittlewell, priory at, ^y.

Railing, Philip, 14.

Raven. John, Richmond Herald,

13 ; his visit of Essex, 1614,

26 ; drawing of Maldon arms

(illus.), 26.
Raven Seal of Colchester (illus.)

8 ; description of, 9.
Robinson, Reuben, 14, 15.



Round, J. Horace, LL.D., 18

53, 61.
Ruffe, 26, 27.
Rutland, Edward, Earl of, his

seal (illus.), 19.

Saffron culture in Essex, 42 ;
Dr. A. Clark's article on, 46,
colour of crocuses, 4O.

Saffron Walden Abbey, see Walden.

Saffron W\\lden, Apms of.
coloured illus. of, plate 4 ;
description of, 39-47 ; shown
on borough mace (illus.), 44 ;
erroneous idea of a crest, 47 ;
tinctures, 46, 47.

Saffron Walden, charter (1549),
39 ; guild of, 39-41 ; commis-
sioners at, 40 ; a borough, 43 ;
fanatics at, 43 ; mace of,
43 ; arms on (illus.) 44.

Saffron Walden Seals, see Seals.

Saixe, a steel tool. 77.

Salmon's Hist, of Essex, 2O note,
42, 49.

Saxons, name derived from Seax,

71, 72, 77-

Saxons, South, arms of, y^, y^.

Saxons, West, arms of, 73.

Scramasaxe, weapon of war, yy, yS.

Seals : Colchester. Early seal
(c. 1189), I ; illus. 3 ; seal of
early 13th century (illus.) 2 ;
Halstead Urban District Council,
64 ; Harwich 34 ; (illus.) plate
3 ; Lord High Admiral (c.
1400) (illus.) 19 ; Maldon
(Admiralty), plate 2; Maldon
Borough (ancient), 15-19;
(illustrations), 16 ; (modern), 28-
33 ; (illus.) (29) ; (ditto) 31,
Raven (Colchester) (illus.) 8 ;
Saffron Walden : early seal
(illus.) 39 ; account of, 39, 40 ;
seal of 1549 (illus.) 41 ; account
of 41, 42 ; (illus.) 43 ; seal of
t688 (illus.) 45 ; seal of 1836
(illus.), 45 ; Thaxted, 48 (illus.) ;

Seaxes, The Three, 71 ; y^, etc.

Sebbi, King, 75 note.

Ship provided by Maldon, 18, 19.

Smith, Miss C. Fell, 33.

Smith, Roach, yy.

Smyth, John, 41.

Smyth, Sir 'Jhos., 41.

Southchurch (Southsea), 57.

Southend, Arms of, 55-58 ; dis-
carded arms (illus.) 55 ; modern
arms (1915) (illus.) 56.



INDEX



Speed, John. Hist, of Great
Britain. 73 ; his illu.strations of
arms oif the East Saxon Kings,

Starling, Jas., 14. 15.

Stratford Abbey, owner of East
Ham, 63 ; arms of Abbey, 59.

Stratford Nunnery, Chaucer's re-
ference to. 60.

SupjxDrters of Southend Arms, 58.

Sussex, see " Saxons, South."

Sussex, arms of, y^.

Symonds, Henry, 15.

Thames Ironworks, 60.
Thaxted, Arms of. Coloured

illus., plate 5 ; description of,

48-51 ; borough seal 48 ; (iJus.).

50.
Thaxted church, 48, 49, 50.
Thaxted, earliest charter of, 48 ;

herald's visitation, 48.
Tufnell, W. M., 54.

Vernon, Wm. 28, 29.



Verstegan, Kichd., 71, yz, yy.

Victoria Docks, Oo.

Victoria Hist, of Rssex, 47. 49,

33, 60, 67:
Volunteers, yy.

Walden Abbey, arms of, 47.
Warburton, John, Somerset Herald,

30, 31, 43-
Ward, A. J. H., Town Clerk of

Harwich, 38.
Wenman, Vi.scount, 38.
Wessex, see Saxons, West.
West Ham, Arms of, 59-O1 ;

Coloured illustration, plate O.
W^est Ham, incorporation of. 59.
Westminster Abbey, 63.
Westminster, Abbots of, 53.
Wilkinson, Christopher, y^.
Woden, King, 74 ; 75.
Worwood, H. J., S7.
Wright, A. G., \y.
Wright, Paul. 74.
Writtle, 52.
Writtle Loyal Volunteers, yy.



INTRODUCTORY.

The heraldic emblems of Cities and Boroughs contain much
interesting history and legend, and are of recognised value
and utiUty in association with local government. Unfor-
tunately they often suffer mutilation and indignity from a
want of knowledge as to their meaning and the correct
manner of displaying them. This work is intended to give
information on these points so far as the armorial bearings
used by Essex Towns are concerned.

In regard to the article on the ancient arms of the Borough
of Colchester, the following supplementary information will be
of interest.

Following the advice of many eminent heralds and anti-
quaries, the Colchester Town Council unanimously decided on
March 3, 1915, to assume and revert to the original arms of
the town as shown on the Borough Charter in the year 141 3,
and as used at the same period— and ever since — in the com-
mon seal of the Corporation.

The official description of these arms is as follows : —

' Gules, between three crowns or, a cross raguly couped, vert, com-
posed of four portions joined together in the centre of the cross in the
manner shown in the coloured drawing on the Royal Letters Patent of
July 7, 1413, the mortising being in the form of a fylfot ; each of the
two crowns in chief surnjounting a nail, sable, point downv/ards, the
point of each nail piercing the arm of the cross beneath it ; the third
crown enfiling the vertical staft" of the cross in base and surmounting
a third nail, also sable, piercing the cross in base diagonally, from
dexter to sinister ; the raguly projections of th-^ arms of the cross all
pointing to sinister.'

These armorial bearings are shown on the title-page, and
also (in colour) in Plate i., fig. 2.

In regard to the so-called ' Essex ' arms — the traditional
arms of the ancient Saxon Kingdom of Essex — Mr. Wilson
Marriage, of Alresford Grange, a member of the Essex County
Council, brought forward a proposal, in 1914, that the County
Council should consider the question of formally adopting
these.— or such variant of them as might be authoritatively
decided upon as appropriate and correct — as the armorial
device of the modern County of Essex. A special Committee
was ap])ointed to consider the matter, but the intervention
of the European War led to the question being indefinitely
postponed. It is to be hoped that it will, in due time, be
reconsidered. W. G. B.



Erratum.— On pages 7 and 9 for "Sir William Bysshe " read
" Sir Edward Bvsshe."



ARMS OF THE ESSEX BOROUGHS.



I.— COLCHESTER.



THE earliest record of the armorial bearings of the borough
of Colchester is to be found in a coloured representation
of them, on the Charter granted to the town by Henry V., in July
1413. It must be added though, that the arms also figure in the
fine old Common Seal ot the Borough of about the same period —
probably a year or so later than the charter itself. Whether
the arms were first granted at this period cannot be stated, for
there is no record of the original grant in the College of Arms,
nor amongst the archives of the Corporation of Colchester.
Presumably the town had no borough arms when its first Comrhon
Seal was engraved, some time after the earliest of the chapters
of the town was granted in 1189. A representation ; of Ijiat
early seal is given on page 3. It bears inscriptions f: —
(i) QuAM Crux insignit Helenam Colcestria gignit (Col-
chester gives birth to Helena whom the Cross makes famous) ;
and (2) Colcestrensis sum Burgi commune sigillum /I am
the Common seal of the Colcestrian borough).

It will be seen that it has no armorial bearings upon it.
Probably at that remote period very few boroughs or cities
possessed any coats of arms.

The Colchester Charter of 1413 is elaborately and beautifully
illuminated. A reproduction is given in Benham's '' Guide
to Colchester" (6d.). Under a representation of St. Helena,
the arms are given as now reproduced, Plate I., Fig. 2.
It will be seen that each of the three crowns surmounts
a large nail and each naiV pierces the cross, which is formed of two
' raguly ' staves coloured green. Note that this is not a * cross
raguly.' If so, the ragged projections from the two arms of
the cross would point right and left. In the design on the charter,
these projections on the horizontal staff of the cross all point
in the same direction, viz., to the sinister side of the shield,
which impHes that this portion of the cross was of one piece,
;3ut there is anpther puzzling peculiarity about thi3 early- drawing;.



^ ARMS OF THE ESSEX BOROUGHS

Carefully depicted in the centre of the cross are certain markings
which seem to denote that each of the two staves has been cut
into two pieces, and that the four portions have been joined
together in the centre.

At first glance, heralds are apt to surmise that these markings
are intended for that mysterious sign, known as the ' fylfot.'
This may be so. On the other hand the markings may be merely




COMMON SEAL OF BOkOUCiH OF COI-CHKSTER
(KAkLY I5TH CENTURY).

meant to show the junction or morticing of the four limbs of a
cross. The Rev. Henry L. ElHot, of Gosfield, well knowTi as a
high authority on matters heraldic, has kindly given me his
opinion. He regards the markings as a fylfot, intended to
emphasize the junctures of four pieces of a cross.*

•Mr. Elliot adds :' This fijjure is soinrtinics called a Gammadion, from the Greek letter
gamma (r). This is the way it is carved on thf doorway given on the cover of the K.ssr.r
tieview. I do not know whether the drawing of the ' swastica ' on the charter is the more
correct, or that 00 the door; or whether it was considered immaterial in which direction
be flexure of the limbs of this fylfot cross wa.s made.'



COLCHESTER.



It should be added that the old Borough Seal of the same
period shows these projections in the same way, and also shows




FIKSl' COMMON SEAL OF BOROUGH OF C )LCKi:srER
(?IITH OR I2TH century) OBVERSL.



KK^/ERSE OF SEAL.



the three nails. It does not show the markings in the centre
of the cross, for (as may be seen in the illustration) the desii(n
is too small to allow these markings to be represented.



4 AkMS OF Trt^ EfeSEX feOROUGrtS.

Before further considering the design of this old version
of Colchester's arms, I will give the description of the Borough
Arms as in use up to modern times, and as entered in what is
known as the Visitation of 1552, though it will be seen that
the entry is six years later : —

COLCHESTER.

THE ARMES OF THE TOWNE OF COLCHESTER.

Gules, two staves raguly and couped, one in pale surmounted by the
other in fess, both argent, between two ducal coronets in chief or, the
bottom part of the staff [in pale*] enfiled with a ducal coronet of
the last.

Taken in the tyme of John Best and John Maynard Bayly ffes the xxvjth
of August 1558.

It is not necessary to translate the heraldic terms, as this
is the descriptibn of the arms shown in Fig. i of coloured
Plate I.

Why were these arms different from the older form ? Why
had the three nails vanished, why had the two staves become
argent (silver or white) instead of green, and why were they
simply crossed instead of being conjoined ?

There is every reason to suppose that the motive for these
alterations, or at any rate for two of them, is to be found in the
famihar cry of * No Popery.* At the time of the Reforma-
tion, the College of Arms had instructions, presumably from
high quarters, to purge armorial bearings, when opportunity
occurred, of what had become regarded as Romish superstitions.
Many cases are on record — notably, the arms of the Merchant
Taylors' Company of London — of coats of arms which were
' reformed ' in this way. The movement Lad begun in the
reign of Henry VIII. , and had no doubt continued with
additional vigour during the time of Edward VI. It need
not. therefore, be regarded as strange that the record of the
altered arms happens to be dated in the last month but three
of the reign of Queen Mary. The alteration was no doubt
some years earlier, and the entry of 26th August 1558, only
professes to be a record of arms existing and recognised at
that date.

What then was the hidden meaning of the older Arms of
the Borough ? It is not at all difficult to elucidate, and it is

•Thwc words have been accidentally omitted.



COLCrtESTEfe. 5

worth elucidation, for those arms are really a beautiful,
ingenious, and at the same time decorative specimen of
heraldic symbolism.

Clearly they must be considered in conjunction with the repre-
sentation of St. Helena which accompanies them both on the
charter and on the borough seal. On the charter in a scroll
round the figure of Helena is the inscription : ' Sancta Elena
nata fuit in Colcestria. Mater Constantini fuit et Sanctam
Crucem invenit Elena.' (St. Helen was born in Colchester.
Helen was the mother of Const antine and she found the Holy
Cross.) There is plenty of other evidence to show that Helena
was regarded as the patron Saint of Colchester, and that the
legend of her birth in the town (she was reputed to be the daugh-
ter of King Coel Godebog) was devoutly believed, and was
regarded as the great glory of Colchester; The story of Helen
and of her discovery of relics, held in extraordinary veneration
throughout Europe, had greatly impressed the imagination of
all Christendom. Her chief exploits were the finding of the Holy
Cross and of the three Holy Nails, and last, but not least, her
discovery of the bodies of the three Holy Kings, otherwise the
Magi, whose reputed remains are still magnificently enshrined
in Cologne Cathedral. The arms of Colchester seem to have
been clearly intended to represent the Holy Cross, the three
Holy Nails, and (by means of the crowns) the Three Holy Kings,
who are similarly indicated by three crowns in the Cit}^ Arms of
Cologne.

No one has hitherto tried to explain the markings in the centre
of the ' cross,' dividing it into four portions.

The legends about the Invention of the Cross were well
known to clerics and laity in all Christian countries, and were
doubtless specially well-known in Colchester in medieval times,
for Colchester swarmed with ecclesiastics. The cult of St. Helen
was an inherited tradition ; there was an important Guild of St.
Helen in the borough, and also a church specially dedicated to
her.

There are many versions of the story of her discovery of
the Cross, and it is not necessary here to labour the
slight points of difference between them and to show how
embelUshments and corruptions varied the original story.
As accepted in England in the fifteenth century the story was



6 AkMS OF THE ESSEX BOROUGHS.

that the cross when discovered, was in four pieces — (i) the
upright portion. (2) the cross beam which supported the arms,
(3) the socket in which the base of the cross was fixed, and (4)
the tablet or inscription board. Thus the actual cross consisted
of two beams. The well-known ' Cursor Mundi,' of which
numerous manuscript copies were dispersed throughout England,
says that the mystic tree from which the cross was originally
made (a tree whose curious legendary history is too long to
be narrated here) was still in the temple at Jersualem when
Helena miraculously found the True Cross. It ' gave out a
sweet smell ' which indicated its connection with the cross. A
Jew informed Helena of this fact and she prayed for guidance,
and especially as to what she should do with the cross. Then
(according to the ' Cursor Mundi ') an angel was sent to her by
our Lord. The angel bade her divide the cross into four parts
—one was to be left in the temple at Jerusalem, one to be sent
to Rome, one to Alexandria, and the fourth portion she was to
take herself to her son, the Emperor Const antine.*

This legend of the division of the cross seems to explain
sufficiently the partition of the cross in the Colchester Borough
Arms into four portions. In fact the designer has contrived
to indicate the two legendary details (i) that the cross itself
consisted of two separate beams ; (2) that it was divided by
Helena into four pieces.

These legends were at the time of the Reformation regarded
as fantastic superstitions to be rooted out. So the reforming
heralds omitted the nails. They chose to call the crowTis * ducal,*
though these were of the form which had always been known
as royal. They changed the tincture of the cross from green
or * proper ' to argent (silver) . One excuse for doing this was
that it is not correct heraldically for colour to be placed upon
colour. The original intention of the green colouring (as of
the ragged projections) was presumably to indicate wood.
By converting this tincture into metal (argent) the symbolism
of the * True Cross ' was partially destroyed. To further destroy

•Other versions state that it was the sacred tree in the temple — and not the cross itself — •
which Helena by divine guidance cut into four pieces and sent to the four quarters of the
world. This seems to be the genuine legend, but that which appears in the ' Cursor Mundi '
was prevalent in England an.i was no doubt generally accepted there. On the other hand
it may be an open question whether the cross' in the arms was intended not for the
• True Cross ' but for the ' Holy Tree.' It is more likely, having regard to the inscription
on the old Bori>ugh seal and the inscription (already mentioned) on the Charter, that the
cross was intended.



COLCHESTER. 7

the resemblance the * cross ' was not described as such, but was
made into two staves one placed over the other. By this time
the heralds no doubt felt that they had purged the design of


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Online LibraryW. Gurney (William Gurney) BenhamEssex Borough arms and the traditional arms of Essex and the arms of Chelmsford diocese → online text (page 1 of 7)