Beginners Heraldry

When wandering around old churches its not long before one comes across a coat of arms or shield and I've often wondered how to decode or read these images of the past. One such example from Badgeworth church is shown here and I'm indebted to Russ for providing an interpretation. Heraldry has a language of its own and I have added non specialist meanings in brackets

Badgeworth Coat of arms

Coats of arms have their origins in the designs used by medieval knights to make their armour and shield stand out in battle or tournaments and enable quick recognition by allies or spectators. The designs were used to decorate clothing worn over the knight's armour, from which we derive the term coat of arms.
In addition to being painted on the shield, elements of a knight's coat of arms were used to decorate the helmet crest, pavilion, and banners used by knights and lords.

When two coats of arms are arranged side by side on one shield it is known as an IMPALEMENT. It usually represents a marriage with the gentleman's arms on the dexter side and the lady's on the sinister side. It must be noted that the DEXTER or righthand side is viewed from the point of view of the bearer i.e. standing behind the shield !

The colours and metals used in heraldry are known as TINCTURES
           The METALS are Or (gold, yellow) and Argent (silver, white)

and the COLOURS are
            Azure (blue) Sable (black) Gules (red) Vert (green) Purpure (purple)


The blazon(description) of the Dexter side of the arms is
Azure(blue), a chevron between three suns Or(gold)

A sun is conventionally shown as eight straight line points like those on a compass and can have eight wavy lines between them; when depicted with a human face as here , it is a 'sun in splendour'.
The chevron, which is probably commoner in heraldry than even the cross, together with the three suns are portrayed on an Azure background.
This is the coat of Henson alias Powell family.


The blazon(description) of the Sinister side of the arms is as follows
Per pale, Argent(silver) and Gules(red), a lion rampant Sable(black).

The lion is the heraldic beast par excellence. In early usage it was almost always shown rampant as here. Shields were then all three pointed and the lion was made to fill it with an erect body the left rear leg reaching down to the base point. The other legs raised aggressively on one side were balanced by an elaborate curly tail....this is the traditional lion rampant. The Lion represents a symbol of nobility, virtue and authority.
The FIELD(background) is PER PALE(divided into two equal parts by a vertical line) one part Argent the other Gules and the Sable lion is set over the Paler line.
This is the coat of the Roberts family.

Hence the complete shield shows the marriage of Henson alias Powell with Roberts