As we are using the opportunities of lockdown to convert old catalogues and resources into a digital format, I thought I would include this information about the Derbyshire coat of arms – the notes appear to have been written by Miss Sinar, the first County Archivist for Derbyshire, in the 1960s or 1970s. I have re-typed almost word for word.
Derbyshire County Council were granted their current arms on 17 September 1937. Until then the Council had used for its seal (on the advice of J. Charles Cox at its establishment in 1889), the old county badge of a rose with an imperial crown above it. The imperially crowned rose is a royal device reserved for use by the crown or reigning monarch and those who have received the crown’s permission to use it.
John Reynolds of Plaistow, an 18th century antiquarian, wrote in 1750 that Edward IV granted the badge of the rose to Derbyshire and Charles II permitted the county to use his own device of a crowned rose – Charles II like his father and grandfather actually used a rose and a thistle beneath a crown. The red and white Tudor rose imperially crowned was worked into the initial H on a number of Henry VIII’s charters.
Cox claims that Derbyshire was using the imperially crowned rose in the early 16th century and that Henry VIII or even Henry VII must have given permission. Neither Plaistow nor Cox produce any evidence to support their claims and no-one really knows when and why Derbyshire began to use the rose or when and why the imperial crown was added.
The old badge was not authorised by the College of Arms, and when in the 1930s the County Council needed a new seal, it was decided to seek a grant of arms. The Heralds could not use the crowned rose in the arms because no royal grant of the right to use it could be traced. So a rose of the same type above a buck in a park was suggested. Several towns in Derbyshire use a buck as their badge and the buck in the park is the old heraldic pun on Derby – a Scandanavian name which probably means the farm of the deer. Deer were in fact plentiful in early medieval Derbyshire for many places have names associated with deer: Derby, Darley, Buxton, Hindlow, Harthill, Hartshay, Hartshorne (but not Hartington).
The council did not like the suggested design and asked the Duke of Devonshire, then Lord Lieutenant, if they might use the three stags heads from his arms. There were two reasons – the three stags heads and the rose made a better balanced and more attractive design, and the Cavendish family have a long history in the county, both as land owners and in public service. The duke agreed and the present design for the arms was then prepared by the College.
The heraldic description of the arms reads:
Or a rose gules surmounted by another argent both barbaed and seeded proper on a chief stable three stags heads caboshed of the third
The council also adopted, at the same time the motto: Bene Consulendo, by taking good counsel. This is part of a phrase of Sallust, a classical Latin author, and is not actually part of the grant of arms.
Following local government reorganisation, the arms were re-granted to the new Derbyshire County Council in 1975 and supporters and a crest were also granted.
The basic coat of arms is that first granted to the County Council in 1937, a Tudor rose with three stags heads above. The rose was taken from the centuries old county badge, and the stags heads from the Cavendish arms by the permission of the Duke of Devonshire.
The new supporters, a stag and a ram, have special significance for Derbyshire. Deer are very closely associated with the county, founded by the Danish invaders of the 9th century, who named their first fort, Derby, for the wild deer were so abundant in the area. Sheep were introduced in the New Stone Age. They were the foundation of local farming, and later provided the raw materials of the early cloth and leather industry on which many of the county’s towns are based. The ram was the county’s regimental mascot.
The dragon of the crest, with his plainly turned out metal collar and golden pick, symbolises at once the county’s foundation by the Danes (men of the dragon ships) and also the county’s mining and engineering enterprise. Dragons traditionally amass underground and guard great mineral wealth. Derbyshire has mined, quarried and worked its raw materials for centuries to build the heritage of the present and future county.