Spring Hill Library, Coat of Arms
"The Armorial Bearings of the City of Birmingham 1889-1977 as depicted on Spring Hill Branch Library", written by A. P. S. de Redman, Honorary City Armorist (abridged and amended)
On the outside of Spring Hill Library can be seen the Coat of Arms granted to the city of Birmingham on the third and fourth of April 1889.
The shield and crest were granted, on the third of April (1889), by: Sir Arthur Woods, Garter Principal King of Arms; Walter Aston Blount, Esquire, Clarenceux King of Arms; and George Edward Cokayne, Esquire, Norroy King of Arms.
The shield and crest are blazoned as illustrated on the left:
Quarterly first and fourth Azure a bend of five Lozenges Or second and third per pale indented of the last Gules over all a Fess Ermine charged with a Mural Crown of the second
The Fess Ermine was to mark the connection with Edgbaston, which was included in the Borough. The Fess comes from the Arms of the Calthorpe family who were Lords of the Manor of Edgbaston.
A Mural Crown issuant therefrom a dexter Arm embowed the hand holding a Hammer all proper
The motto was not granted, merely assumed, as the Crown has not claimed the authority to do so. (Anyone who wishes to can adopt a motto.) Birmingham motto orwarddates from at least 1838 and perhaps even earlier.
Updating the Coat of Arms
In 1930 the City Council decided to update the coat of arms. On 14 April 1930 the General Purposes Committee approved a design submitted by the School of Art. Although the College of Arms had been consulted the new design was not officially substituted.
There was some confusion and so Sir Gerald Wood Wollaston, K.C.V.O., Garter, made an exemplification of Arms on 31 August 1936.
The Arms continued in use until a fresh grant became necessary to reflect the changes of the local government re-organisation of 1974.
The main change was the inclusion of the Royal Borough of Sutton Coldfield in the City. New Arms were granted by Sir Anthony Wagner, K.C.V.O., Garter; J. R.B. Walker, Clarenceaux; and W. J. Verco, Norroy and Ulster, by Letters Patent dated 10 May 1977.
New Coat of Arms
The new Arms are still in use and are as illustrated on the right
Quarterly first and fourth Azure a Bend of five Lozenges conjoined Or second and third per pale indented Or and Gules over all a Cross Ermine thereon a Mitre proper. (The Mitre commemorates John Harman, Bishop of Exeter, known as Bishop Vesey, who was born in Sutton Coldfield and procured the Charter of 1528. He died in 1555).
Issuant from a Mural Crown Or charged with a Rose Gules Charged with another Argent barbed and seeded proper a Dexter Arm embowed the hand holding a Hammer all proper. (The Tudor Rose marks the Charter as well, it was granted by Henry VIII).
Dexter - a female Figure (representing Art) proper vested Argent wreathed round the temples with Laurel Vert tied by a Riband Gules holding in the sinister hand resting on the shield a Book bound also Gules and in the dexter a Painter Pallette Or with two Brushes proper
Sinister - a Man habited as a Smith (representing Industry) holding in the dexter hand resting on the shield a Cupel and in the sinister a Hammer resting on an Anvil all proper
A Roundel per pale indented Argent and Sable within a Cogwheel Gules between each pair of Cogs a Bezant. (The Roundel in the Badge is one of the de Bermingham coats which was used by the Borough between 1853 and 1867. The cogwheel is an obvious reference to the City heavy industry.)
Argent: silver or white
bend: a band crossing the shield from dexter chief to sinister base
dexter: the right hand side of the wearer
embowed: bent like a bow
lozenge: diamond shape
mural: like a wall
per pale: from top to bottom
proper: in natural colours
quarterly: by quarters of the shield in the following order;
1st - dexter chief (wearer's top right)
2nd - sinister chief (wearer's top left)
3rd - dexter base (wearer's bottom left)
4th - sinister base; sinister,left handed side (of wearer)
See also City Council - Coat of Arms page
The Letters Patent, in the archive at the Central Reference Library.
History of the Corporation of Birmingham, Vols. I and II by John Thackrey Bunce, F.S.S.
The General Purposes Committee of the Corporation of Birmingham. Vol. V, 1915 1935, Part II, by Joseph Trevor Jones, F.S.S.
Birmingham and Midland Institute Transactions, Archaeological Section, 1880-81, ome Notes on Heraldry in General and That of Birmingham in Particularby Charles Williams, 23 February 1881.
Publication No. 123 7/68/3M P5979 of the City of Birmingham Information Department.
Publication P123 (R1) Publicity Section of the City of Birmingham.
Dictionary of Birmingham, by Walter Showell, (first published by Walter Showell and Sons, Oldbury 1885) S. R. Publishers Wakefield, Yorkshire, 1969.