Friday, 8 February 2019

Three Crowns on the Crest

Hull has in its three gold crowns on a blue background, a very handsome coat of arms. It’s instantly recognisable and very popular; many readers will remember that upwards of twenty years ago the City was re-branded with a ‘cog’ logo which was widely criticised as lacking the antiquity of our coat of arms. After all, our ‘Three Crowns’ date from the fifteenth century.

The crest of the City of Hull

(By the way, while technically the golden regal headgear is described as ‘three ducal coronets’, they represent crowns).

However, unlike many cities, Hull doesn’t have a crest (the arrangement on a helmet above the shield), supporters (figures flanking it), or a motto (generally an apt phrase in Latin on a scroll beneath the shield). It doesn’t appear that we either assumed them or petitioned to be granted them by the Heralds. Their absence has been commented on in the past – Hull’s Edwardian historian JR Boyle was of the opinion that that “the importance of the city of Hull might justly be regarded as entitling it to additions to its arms in the form of supporters, crest and motto.” Sculptors and artists have felt the absence of supporters in the past, and have invented supporters for various representations of the arms. For instance, Roman gods Neptune and Ceres recline on either side of the coat of arms on Brook Chambers at the top of Prospect Street; mermaids act as supporters at the College of Art (now the Northern Academy of Dramatic Art) on Anlaby Road; and lions serve on the former Northern Library.

Concerned by this lack of heraldic frills, at least one heraldry enthusiast has had a stab at designing extras for our coat of arms in the past. A letter of 24 November 1946 to the Town Clerk accompanied this splendid illustration [C TMA/13]. In it, a Mr H Ellis Tomlinson of Thornton le Fylde, Lancashire pointed out that Hull was the only one of the ten principal cities that did not have crest, motto, or supporters. He goes on to offer his services in negotiating between the City and the College of Arms, (apparently he had arranged the grant of arms to the East Riding County Council in 1945) and explains his illustration.

The crest, a medieval ship, known heraldically as a lymphad, is taken from the image on the medieval seal of the Admiral of the Humber which shows a similar ship with the three crowns on its single sail. The supporters are royal lions of England, as appropriate for the King’s Town upon Hull, and are distinguished with black collars bearing the white roses of Yorkshire. The motto, Mare Copia, means ‘Abundance from the Sea’.

The Town Clerk was not convinced unfortunately.

“Dear Sir” he wrote on 5 March 1946 “I have consulted the appropriate authority and have received instructions to inform you and whilst your offer is appreciated the Corporation cannot, at the present time, avail themselves of it.”

And there the matter continues to rest.

Martin Taylor, City Archivist

Friday, 18 January 2019

Dry January and the Temperance Movement

For many it’s the time of year to take on Dry January the UKs one-month booze free challenge. There are many benefits to abstaining from alcohol and the challenge often goes hand-in-hand with a desire to begin the year with a health-kick. However, 20th January is said to be the day that most people give up their pledge to go dry for January and fall off the ‘New Year New Me’ band wagon!

Cutting out alcohol from your life is, of course, not a new phenomenon. During the 19th Century and early 20th Century the Temperance Movement was a social movement against the consumption of alcohol. Members of the movement typically criticised alcohol intoxication, demanded new laws against the selling of alcohol and promoted complete abstinence (teetotalism).

[L DIBF, Certificate of membership of the UK Alliance, 1879]
Bertram Fox played a pivotal role in the Temperance Movement in Hull. A Temperance lecturer, general secretary of the Citizens’ Committee to conduct a campaign in support of the Government Licensing Bill, District Superintendent of the United Kingdom Alliance and Honourable Convenor of the Hull United Temperance Board, he helped to promote and encourage self-restraint from alcohol consumption. His papers held at collection reference L DIBF include numerous leaflets, pamphlets, correspondence, photographs and postcards.

[L DIBF, Effect of Licensing Bill postcard, c.1908]
Other records found amongst our collections relating to the consumption of alcohol include an essay discussing the evils of strong liquor, how abstinence is key if you want to be the best in sport, and states that ‘prisons, hospitals, and the divorce court are in no small degree tenanted by people with the “alcohol habit”’ [ref. C DFX/41/5]. In addition, statistics relating to the Licensing Bill and regarding the difference in alcohol consumption between the classes can be seen below.

[C DPLT/3, The Drinks Bill statistics, 1912]
The Licensing Bill of 1908, introduced by Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government sought to radically reduce the number of licensed premises in the UK, which provoked vigorous opposition from brewers, publicans and all suppliers associated with the industry.  

1908 was a significant year as it saw individuals in the trade who were traditionally divided by sectionalism and regionalism come together to amalgamate their power in order to protect the trades’ interests they had so long enjoyed and profited from.

So when you’re struggling to stay dry for January it may be useful to remember the history of the Temperance Movement in its warning of the evils of liquor as well as the efforts made by the trade to keep the alcohol industry thriving, and go easy on yourself in this time of conflict but remember, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Laura Wilson