29th JANUARY 2023
Two Heraldic Beasts of Somerset
... both very similar and still different, but firmly linked to the county of Somerset.
The arms of the county of Somerset shows a dragon originally from the attributed arms of the Kingdom of Wessex, also called the Wessex dragon. The Wessex dragon is also the heraldic symbol of the neighbouring counties of Dorset, Avon and Wiltshire. To distinguish this one from the others, this dragon holds in his claws a civic mace. Thus the arms shows that this is a local council in Wessex.
The Motto is 'Sumorsaete Ealle' meaning 'All the people of Somerset' as mentioned in this extract from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is also the first written reference to the county of Somerset:
A.D. 878. This year about mid-winter, after twelfth-night, the Danish army stole out to Chippenham, and rode over the land of the West-Saxons; where they settled, and drove many of the people over sea; and of the rest the greatest part they rode down, and subdued to their will; -- ALL BUT ALFRED THE KING. He, with a little band, uneasily sought the woods and fastnesses of the moors. And in the winter of this same year the brother of Ingwar and Healfden landed in Wessex, in Devonshire, with three and twenty ships, and there was he slain, and eight hundred men with him, and forty of his army. There also was taken the war- flag, which they called the RAVEN. In the Easter of this year King Alfred with his little force raised a work at Athelney; from which he assailed the army, assisted by that part of Somersetshire which was nighest to it. Then, in the seventh week after Easter, he rode to Brixton by the eastern side of Selwood; and there came out to meet him all the people of Somersetshire, and Wiltshire, and that part of Hampshire which is on this side of the sea; and they rejoiced to see him. Then within one night he went from this retreat to Hey; and within one night after he proceeded to Heddington; and there fought with all the army, and put them to flight, riding after them as far as the fortress, where he remained a fortnight. Then the army gave him hostages with many oaths, that they would go out of his kingdom. They told him also, that their king would receive baptism. And they acted accordingly; for in the course of three weeks after, King Guthrum, attended by some thirty of the worthiest men that were in the army, came to him at Aller, which is near Athelney, and there the king became his sponsor in baptism; and his crisom-leasing was at Wedmor. He was there twelve nights with the king, who honoured him and his attendants with many presents.
The crest of our family coat of arms shows a very similar heraldic symbol. This depicted heraldic beast - called the St. George's dragon - is actually a wywern as it has only two clawed feet and is characterised by a throat pierced by a lance.
The Motto is 'Nil Desperandum' meaning 'Never despair'. Our family motto for as long as we can remember and has always been a guiding light for us.
In addition, our coat of arms features King Arthur's sword Excalibur, symbolising our connection to North (and South) Cadbury in Somerset. Cadbury Castle in South Cadbury is the most probable site of King Arthur's principle court 'Camelot'. The historical map of Somerset from 1766 shows the feudal barony of North Cadbury (marked with an arrow).
Map Somersetshire 1766, Joseph Ellis © The Baron de Newmarch Collection
17th JANUARY 2023
Links to our manorial Lordships
Last year we have launched separate websites for our two other manorial Lordships. These can be visited by clicking on the images.