The arms of Norfolk County Council

The Norfolk County Council Arms were granted on 3 July 1904 following a Royal Licence of King Edward VII dated 11 May 1904.

The King, in the Royal Licence, specifically instructs on the design of the arms to be granted “in commemoration of our long residence in Norfolk”, which refers to the Royal residence in Sandringham.

The arms are blazoned, or described, as follows: “Per pale Or and Sable a bend ermine on a chief Gules a lion passant guardant of the first between two ostrich plumes Argent quilled and each ensigned with a Prince’s coronet thereon the motto “Ich Dien” as borne on the banner of King Edward III”.

The top part of the shield, the chief, shows a lion from the Royal arms of England together with ostrich plumes and coronet referring to the Prince of Wales, which is a very special honour for the County Council.

The rest of the shield refers to Ralph de Gael or Guader, Earl of Norfolk from c 1069. These arms were attributed to him later for he could not have borne them in his lifetime as heraldry did not begin until about 1127. The ermine may well refer to Brittany as Ralph was Lord of Gael in that Duchy.

On 22 December 1982 supporters were granted: “On either side a lion guardant or that on the sinister dimidiating a herring erect Argent”.

The Lion represents Norwich and the lion/herring Great Yarmouth. Supporters are a further honour reflecting the stature of Norfolk County Council.

The Norfolk County Council Crest can only be used by Norfolk County Council. Organisations other than Norfolk County Council may only use the Norfolk Shield.

Grant of Arms of the County Council

On 2 January 1904 the Norfolk County Council, which had been established by the Local Government Act 1888, authorised Mr Hamon le Strange to petition the College of Heralds for the grant of a Coat of Arms, the cost to be defrayed by private subscription and appointed a Sub-Committee consisting of Lord Amherst of Hackney, Sir William H P Folkes and Mr Le Strange to select the design.

On 1 October 1904 Mr Le Strange presented the Coat of Arms to the Chairman of the Council together with the Royal Warrant authorising its grant.

The Arms are unusual for a local authority, in consisting only of a Shield. They where attributed to a Norman noble, Ralph de Guader, who was the first person to bear the title of Earl of Norfolk.

Having rebelled against the King, he died on his way to the First Crusade in 1095 and left no descendants. The Lion and Plumes portrayed in the Chief were authorised by King Edward VII in commemoration of his lengthy residence in Norfolk.

Local Government Reorganisation

The new County Council created by the Local Government Act 1972 resolved in June 1973 to seek the transfer to it in pursuance of S.274 of that Act of the former Council’s Shield coupled with the addition of Supporters and Crest.

The fees paid to the College with the formal Memorial on application amounted to £695.35.

The Design – College of Arms Requirements

An Order in Council, the Local Authorities (Armorial Bearings) Order 1974, authorised the transfer of the former County Council’s Arms to the new Council, subject to their being “exemplified according to the Laws of Arms and recorded in the College of Arms”.

The College, with the support of the Department of the Environment, stipulated that no local authority should be permitted to inherit the Arms of its predecessor if there was more than a 10% difference between the two organisations in respect of population, rateable value or acreage.

Given the incorporation of the former County Boroughs of Norwich and Great Yarmouth in the new Norfolk, it could not meet this requirement on the first two counts and the Council was accordingly faced with the need to import some element of “difference” to distinguish the new Arms from the old.

The Design – Debate in the Council

This situation was much criticised by Members of the Council and the process caused frustration.

In 1974, the Council cancelled its request for Supporters and Crest but then changed its mind again and decided to seek Supporters only. It was agreed that these should reflect the former County Boroughs of Norwich and Great Yarmouth and should therefore take the form of a Lion and a Lion/Herring respectively.

At this stage the Council agreed to leave all further decisions on the detailed design to its Chairman and Vice-Chairman and over the next couple of years several distinguished holders of these Offices reluctantly found themselves making judgements on such as which way the heads of the Supporters should be facing, whether the Herring’s tail should be silver or green or curly or straight and whether a motto should be added.

Eventually in July 1978 the detailed design negotiations reached a conclusion but 2 days before the Policy and Resources Committee were due to endorse the outcome, a telephone call from the College of Arms indicated that owing to an oversight the Supporters requested by Norfolk had been granted 12 months previously to Stockton-on-Tees and that therefore Norfolk’s version would have to incorporate yet further differencing.

Following the intervention of the President of the Norfolk Heraldry Society and changes at the highest level within the College of Arms, indications were received in February 1981 that there would no longer be any difficulty in proceeding with Norfolk’s Supporters as envisaged, because it had been noticed that those of Stockton had webbed extremities rather than claws.

Thus the Council was able in October 1981 formally to approve the design now incorporated in the Letters Patent, but in so doing it stipulated that no expenditure should be incurred in connection with its use.

A revised Memorial of application was submitted by the County Secretary in February 1982, leading to the production within the College of Arms of the Letters Patent for presentation.

The Design – Symbolism

The Dexter Lion is taken from the Arms of the Norwich City Council, with the Lion/Herring taken from the Arms of the Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

As such the new Arms provide a reflection and record of the merger of 3 independent authorities into 1.

Display of the Letters Patent

It is unlikely that the County Council will wish to make any public use of the Arms, incorporating the Supporters and is likely to confine itself to the traditional Shield alone.

Consideration is being given to a permanent display of the Letters Patent at an appropriate point in the Committee Suite.