Ancient coat of arms discovered in a Norfolk attic

This coat of arms was found in the Great Yarmouth magistrates' court attic and dating possibly from the 16th century. This coat of arms was found in the Great Yarmouth magistrates' court attic and dating possibly from the 16th century.

Friday, January 10, 2014
7:45 AM

Magistrates have turned detective to trace the origins of an ancient coat of arms discovered languishing in a court room attic.

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A provenance sheet - the wording relates to a coat of arms found in the court attic.A provenance sheet - the wording relates to a coat of arms found in the court attic.

The large insignia is reckoned to date from as early as the 16th century and features Great Yarmouth’s distinctive crest and its trio of lion-headed herring, garlanded with laurels.

Robert Price and Richard Howard, joint deputy chairmen of the Norfolk bench, said they were both delighted with the discovery - a unique slice of civic history - and keen to see it on display.

Mr Price said it came to their attention while they were showing the High Sheriff of Norfolk, the Countess of Leicester, around the court buildings and explaining court procedures and staff duties.

Intrigued, the party all crawled into the storage space where the town arms had presumably sat unseen at least since 1992 when the new court building in North Quay opened.

At one time, Mr Howard, said someone had cottoned on to the fact it was a piece of history and gone to the trouble of recording what was known about its provenance and framing it for display alongside the arms.

The sheet claims the arms, carved curiously on a curved barrel-shaped timber, were rescued from the wreckage of the Second World War from a building in South Quay.

The site was said to have been occupied by “a fair, ancient and stately house” which belonged to Thomas de Drayton (died 1359), Admiral of the North and one of the leading townsfolk of Yarmouth.

The building was acquired by the town in 1580 and was variously a custom house, chapel for the Dutch community and a library.

Mr Price, also a trustee at Great Yarmouth Minster, enlisted the help of town historian Dr Paul Davies who confirmed some of the details and said he hoped the arms could be displayed in the minster “further uniting town and church.”

Its curved shape could indicate that it once adorned the bow of a ship or a curved door.

Mr Price said: “We are both local boys who have come through the system and represent our town. Both of us feel so proud that this has been discovered, it is part of our heritage and we feel a responsibility to rescue it.

“Both of us are really interested in Great Yarmouth and what goes on in Great Yarmouth otherwise we would not be doing what we are doing.”

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