Having managed to completely take leave of my senses I gave Bristol Derbyshire’s axe wielding dragon crest in error yesterday – it was swiftly remedied but I decided to have a closer look at the city’s coat of arms.
Sinister – is left, dexter is right.
So starting at the bottom we have the motto: Virtue et Industria – so virtue and industry.
The lovely green clumps of grass above the motto form the compartment.
The two unicorns (or with sable manes) are supporters holding the shield, then there’s a helm, a torse which is still not a horse despite the spell check’s best efforts anchoring the mantling into place and then the crest.
In heraldic terms the crest is ‘issuant from clouds two arms embowed and interlaced in saltire proper the dexter hand holding a serpent vert and the sinister holding a pair of scales or.’ The symbolism behind the serpent is wisdom and the scales are justice – so good governance comes from wisdom and justice.
And that leaves us with the arms which were licensed in 1569. There’s a fortified harbour and a ship – which more or less sums up what Bristol was famous for at the time given the wool trade and the commerce between England and Ireland. It also traded with Iceland and with Gascony. In 1497 John Cabot set off to North America and Bristol’s port became a focus for trade with the Americas. It was one of the ports associated with the slave trade. George III signed the act banning the slave trade on 25 March 1807 but it was only in 1833 that slavery was abolished within the British Empire and even then it was a gradual process.