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The Colourful Arms of Devon’s Colourful Gentry (History Section)

Sat. 20 November 2021 at 2:00 pm

To be held by Zoom video conferencing.

A talk “The Colourful Arms of Devon’s Colourful Gentry” by Dr David Oates.

Devon churches are blessed with a good number of surviving hatchments. These give an intriguing picture of some of the more prominent of the county’s gentry from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The talk is based both on the study of the heraldic devices themselves and on the personal history of the individuals commemorated.

Dr Oates has been interested in heraldry since his schooldays. Latterly he helped produce the Devon section of the “Hatchments in England” series. He speaks regularly on heraldic topics, recently including to the Heraldry Society and the Cambridge University Heraldry and Genealogy Society. He is a member of both.

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Report on the talk

Dr David Oates gave members an interesting illustrated talk via zoom on “The Colourful Arms of Devon’s Colourful Gentry”. His talk was about coats of arms and hatchments – diamond shaped boards with a coat of arms usually seen in churches. Hatchments were for an individual and were put up at the time of the person’s funeral. During the period of mourning for the individual their hatchment was displayed above the front door of their primary residence and then hung in the church after the funeral. They only seem to have appeared after the Reformation.

There are three general configurations – bachelor, married couple and widow. For a married couple, both their coats of arms appear, the husband’s on the left and the wife’s on the right, but with a black background for the one who is dead and a white background for the one still alive. Consequently, a widow’s hatchment has the background of both sides in black.

David then used several examples to show the various models.

In the church at Newton St Cyres there are hatchments to four different John Quickes. The hatchment for the first John Quicke (1687–1729) has the Quicke coat of arms together with the Nuttall coat of arms from his wife. A “label” indicates he was the eldest son. The hatchment of the second John Quicke shows that he married an heiress from the Coster family. A skull and crossbones on the hatchment usually indicates that there were no children of the marriage but this is not true in this instance as they had two children. The Quicke arms are quartered with the Coster arms.

Gittisham church near Honiton has the hatchment of Sir Thomas Putt. His shield is divided into three parts as he had two wives (though not at the same time!) A badge of a red hand indicates that he was a baronet. Coronets on hatchments indicate the level of hierarchy in the peerage, they change according to the rank of the individual.

The church at Poltimore displays the three oldest hatchments in Devon, one of which is for Sir Coplestone Bampfylde who died in 1691. The vicar of Pinhoe church also died in 1691. He was 90 and called Joseph Hayne but it is very unusual to have a hatchment for a vicar. The same hatchment appears in the Guildhall but with a different name!

Viscount Sidmouth who was Prime Minister from 1801 to 1804 married two heiresses from the Hammond and Stowell families that are shown on his coat of arms. The sign outside the Sidmouth Arms public house at Upottery displays this Viscount’s coat of arms.

Sir Thomas Trayton Fuller-Elliot-Drake, Bart has stars, a sea wave and a ship on top on his coat of arms as he was descended from Sir Francis Drake.

The Order of the Baronets was founded in 1611 by James I for “Gentlemen of good birth with clear estate of £1,000 a year” in order for him to raise money for his campaign in Ireland. The baronetcy could only be inherited by “heirs male of his body” – i.e. no daughters could inherit the title.

It was possible to have an Arms of Office. Dr William Archibald Spooner was a warden at a college in Oxford from 1903 to 1924 and who died in 1930. He was regarded as being married to the College and therefore his coat of arms shows the college of the left and his (being regarded as the wife) on the right.

The styles of the shields on hatchments did change over the years so that it is possible to give them a general, though not specific, date.

David’s talk was recorded and is available on request to members (see this page).

Chris Reader
December 2021


Sat. 20 November 2021
2:00 pm
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History Section (Derek Smithers)
History Section (Lynda Vickery)
01409 253927


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