Derbyshire Coat of Arms

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

County coat of arms 1937

The 1937 coat of arms (from a stamp in one of our library books)

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.

Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms granted 1975

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.

Building History – Next Steps

A guide to other detailed records and tips for specific types of building.

If you are new to researching the history of a building try our getting started guide first.  There are also more complex records available for discovering the history of property and land, including:

  • Estate records: including rentals and terriers which can be used to identify tenants
  • Manorial records: primarily court rolls/books containing information about land tenure and changes in ownership and occupation.
Sources for standards of living, i.e. wealth of owners/occupiers
  • Wills and probate inventories listing goods and chattels in the house
  • Medieval and early modern Inquisitions Post Mortem are held at The National Archives and provide evidence of land ownership, inheritance and transfer
  • Tax returns, including land tax assessments for 1780-1832 (available on microfilm in Local Studies) and The Derbyshire Hearth tax returns (published 1982).
  • For some farms business records may have been deposited, check the online catalogue to see what is available.
  • Surveys of farms were undertaken during both World Wars. The records of the WW2 National Farm Survey are held at The National Archives.  During WW1 surveys were undertaken by local War Agricultural Committees, and only a small number of records survive, including for the Ilkeston (reference D331/1/21).

For all churches the first place to check is the archive of the parish or church in question.

For Anglican parishes, glebe terriers provide a written survey or inventory of the church’s property in the parish, e.g. the rectory or vicarage, fields and the church itself. They may contain the names of tenants and the holders of adjoining lands, information on cultivated land, or how the income from tithes was calculated and collected.  Most terriers are held under reference D2360/1, but some are in parish or estate collections – search the online catalogue for the place name and the word glebe.

Some Diocese of Derby archive collections will also include information about church property, for example the Diocesan Registers (reference D4633/2) give details of consecrations, mortgages, sequestrations and licences.  Records of Queen Anne’s bounty at The National Archives may also include useful information about Anglican churches and parish property.

Under the Toleration Act of 1688 dissenting congregations were obliged to register their places of worship with the bishop, archdeacon or justices of the peace.  From 1812, registrations were retained by both authorities.  The returns to the justices are held under reference Q/RR/12 and Q/RR/13.


Search the online catalogue for records relating to a particular school – we recommend searching the Title field using the name of the school – if you’re not sure about the school name or if it might have changed, try searching just for the word school and the town/village name:

For most school buildings it is also worth checking the records of the relevant School Board.  There are also architects plans for many schools that were built in the 19th and 20th century, click here for a full list from the county and borough architects.  

Public Houses

Licensing registers between 1753 and 1827 can be found under Q/RA/1.  There are no registers available between 1827 and about 1870.  Thereafter, the registers were maintained by the local magistrates at the Petty Sessions courts to 1974. Click here for a full list of the Petty Sessions archive collections.

The National Brewery Centre Archive at Burton on Trent launched it’s new catalogue in July 2020, including collections of various brewery companies, and many references to Derbyshire.

Shops/Trades buildings

Goad maps are detailed rolled street maps showing individual buildings with their uses, for example shop names.  Available in the Local Studies Library for Alfreton, Ashbourne, Bakewell, Belper, Buxton, Chesterfield, Derby, Glossop, Heanor, Ilkeston, Long Eaton, Matlock, Ripley, and Swadlincote.

Trade (and later telephone) directories survive from the mid-19th century, usually listing prominent landowners, officials and residents, with a commercial section arranged by surname and by trade, although not everyone is included.  Original and microfiche copies of Derbyshire directories are available in the Local Studies Library, as are published town guides for the 19th and 20th centuries.

See the Looking for Organisations guidance for tips on searching for archives relating to specific businesses and industries.

Public works/buildings

For County Council buildings contact County Property.  Check the online catalogue for records relating to the authority that owns/owned the building in question – see also Looking for Organisations guidance.

For buildings associated with late 18th to early 20th century public works such as canals, railways, roads, gas and waterworks see deposited maps and plans under reference Q/RP.

Listed Buildings

The Department of Environment Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest can be consulted in the Local Studies Library or online via the National Heritage List for England.  Each listing gives a precise location, historical information and full architectural details of the site.

Also available in Local Studies are Derbyshire County Council Planning Department’s Listed Buildings record cards which often include a photograph.

Further Reading

Always search the online catalogue and the onsite indexes for other sources.  The following publications (and many more) are available in the Local Studies Library

  • Nick Barratt (2006) Tracing the History of your House
  • Anthony Adolph (2006) Collins Tracing your Home’s History
  • Pamela Cunnington (1980) How old is your house?
  • Colin and O-Ian Style (2006) House Histories for Beginners

Routes to Derbyshire for refugees in the event of an invasion (1916)

This morning we received an enquiry from the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham asking about any further records we might hold relating to a map in their collection entitled Map Showing Routes for Refugees from Eastern Counties in case of Invasion, which was produced in January 1916 when the threat of an invasion from hostile forces resulted in preparations being made for civilians to be evacuated from coastal areas in the East into the landlocked county of Derbyshire.

View the map and find out more about it in this blog post by Professor Matthew Smallman-Raynor.

In answer to the enquiry, unfortunately, I couldn’t say for certain whether we do hold any records that might provide further information.  However, we hope that further investigation by the team at the University, particularly using the County Council (see ref DCC) and County Constabulary records (see ref D3376) might provide some additional insight into the scheme that fortunately never needed to be put into action.

If you’re interested… we do have a number of records relating to First World War refugees from Belgium (search the catalogue for refugees).