VISITATION OF SHROPSHIRE
NEWPORT BENBOW ARMS
Visitations occurred in Shropshire in 1569, 1584, 1623 and 1664. The College of Arms holds these papers as unofficial records of the Visitations under the names of the various Heralds of the day: notes of the 1623 Visitation are held in the Vincent papers. However, the Harleian Society has published the Shropshire Visitation of the year 1623 based on several manuscript copies, with additions from the two earlier ones of 1569 and 1584. This publication was made in 1889 under editors George Grazebrook and John Paul Rylands. The original 1623 Visitation was conducted by Robert Tresswell, Somerset Herald, and Augustine Vincent, Rough Croix Pursuivant of Arms.
Some information on the 1664 Visitation can be found in the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 2nd Series, vol.iv, 1892, in the article “The Last Visitation of Shropshire, 1663″ by W.H.B. Bird” Apparently, there are no Benbows mentioned in this last Visitation.
The editors of the Harleian publication give the following code:
The 1623 manuscript (Harl. 1396): Roman type,
A 2nd 1623 (Shrewsbury School) manuscript: italics within square brackets
The 1584 manuscript (Harl.1241): italics,
The 1569 manuscript (Harl.615): italics within parentheses
Editors notes: Roman type in square brackets.
The Benbows of Newport and Bolas are covered in the following two pages of the Visitation of Shropshire in 1623 (as published in 1889):
Visitation of Shropshire
A careful analysis of the text reveals:
No date is given for the Grant of Arms and Crest other than ‘[per Camden Clarenc.]’, and the editors note. The Camden Clarenceux note is a 1623 2nd manuscript addition, while the description of the Arms and Crest are primarily from the 1584 manuscript (rendered in italics). The number of arrows which is given as three in each bundle, would appear to be derived from the 1569 manuscript (rendered as italics in parentheses). This is significant in that there are descriptions in other sources of bundles of arrows consisting of four, five and more arrows in a Benbow Coat of Arms.
William Camden was Clarenceux King of Arms from 1597 to 1623 (correspondence to Dr. John A. Dick from W.G.Hunt, Windsor Herald of Arms, Oct.2000). This means that Callender and Britton erred in their analysis which states that the Grant of Arms and Crest was made in 1584 (Callender and Britton p. 134-5). They may have arrived at this date as a result of the Arms and Crest being rendered in italics which according to the editors code means it is derived from the 1584 manuscipt. What they missed, is that the Camden reference signifying an official grant or confirmation is in square brackets, so a 1623 addition.
However, the Visitation manuscripts do indicate that Benbows used a Coat of Arms as early as the 1569 manuscript, and quite likely as early as Roger Benbow, circa 1475 (allowing 30 years per generation of the pedigree). A fuller explanation of the Grant is explained in the correspondence from the College of Arms which I will give on a separate page.
In terms of the Newport Arms as described in the College of Arms’ Vincent Visitation notes, P.L. Dickinson, Richmond Herald, in correspondence with W.R. Benbow in Feb.1998, gives the following description:
“The shield has two longbows, as in our registers, but on either side of them is a sheaf of three arrows bound together, their points downwards. The crest comprises a harpy, but instead of an arrow through the neck, it has a wreath of roses around the head.”
This is of interest in that it indicates the arrows point downwards. Some Benbow Arms mistakenly show the arrows pointing upwards.
The 1889 editors of the published Visitation note that John Benbow, son of Roger and Margarett, is the officer shot in 1651 in Shrewsbury and buried at St. Chad’s. This is an important break with Owen and Blakeway who mistakenly place the executed officer in the Cotton Hill line of Lawrence Benbow.
It is significant that the Coat of Arms as described, and as used by the Newport branch of the Benbows for generations, is extremely close to that used by Admiral Benbow on the Alms dish. The only difference being the arrow through the Harpy’s breast: the Newport Crest has no arrow, but rather a chaplet of scarlet roses wreaths the Harpy’s head.
In addition, the Newport Benbow Arms bears a striking resemblance to the Medieval Arms found on a Kirton (Crediton) Church window in Devonshire. The main difference being the number of arrows in each bundle. (Display of Heraldrie, John Guillim, London, 1610)
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