Thursday, 31 March 2011

Derby daze

This was the first ‘portrait’ signboard that intrigued me and inspired me to do a little digging. At the time the sign showed this chap:

The Earl of Derby, signboard up to the end of 2010

He is Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby. Quite an illustrious man, having served as prime minister three separate times. Now he might have been earl when the pub was built, although it’s possible that his father, Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby (and a Trinity man to boot), might still have been alive. But he (the 14th Earl) was an Oxford man, with no connection with Cambridge.
Another more suitable candidate for the relative immortality of a pub signboard would have been his son, Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby, who was both a Trinity man and a member of the University Commission.

So when the sign was replaced early in 2011, who was it that Greene King’s sign painters decided to honour? Well, the chap they chose (no doubt after much detailed research) looked like this:

The Earl of Derby, signboard 2011
So far as I can work out, he is probably Edward Stanley, 11th Earl of Derby. (I can’t find the original picture that this was taken from, but this sketch looks a lot like him.) It’s a nice, colourful image. But the subject has no connection with Cambridge whatsoever, and was getting on for 100 years dead when the pub was built. Brilliant! Who could be better?
That said, credit where credit is due: at least they’ve stuck with a picture, not rebranded the place as ‘The Derby’ and gone for some fancy lettering on a drab background.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

This bird has flown

I noticed that this pub had a bit of a makeover recently, which of course meant a change of signboard. Gone is the old one, in the lush style that Greene King used briefly, including for the nearby (and now defunct) Rose and Crown. The colours could have been a lot brighter, but I rather liked it.
The ‘in hand’ bit has now been dropped, and its liberty is now celebrated with this cleaner, more ‘bistro’-style thing:
Now I may be mistaken here (rare, but not entirely impossible), but I thought the whole point of signboards was that they should be eye-catching and stand out from the crowd. There are so many brightly coloured birds out there, so why GK’s designers seem to have taken the well-camouflaged dunnock as inspiration for the colour scheme is a mystery to me.

Monday, 28 March 2011

County matters

The County Arms
Sitting as it does opposite Shire Hall, the name requires no further explanation. But what caught my eye, and both inspired my interest in signboards and what they depict, and rekindled a boyhood interest in heraldry, is that the arms on the board and the arms on the bracket are different. I wanted to find out why.

And the reason? The arms of the county have themselves changed over the years.

First, the arms on the signboard. These are the present arms of Cambridgeshire County Council, granted in 1976 following the incorporation of Huntingdon and Peterborough in 1974. The full blazon is given on Civic Heraldry of England and Wales as follows:
ARMS: Or three Palets wavy alternating with two Palets Azure a Bordure Gules flory on the inner edge Or; the Shield ensigned by a Mural Crown Or.

SUPPORTERS: On either side a Great Bustard proper the exterior leg resting on a closed Book Gules garnished Or pendent from the neck of the dexter by a Cord Argent two Keys in saltire wards uppermost and outwards Gules and from the neck of the sinister by a like Cord a Hunting Horn mouth to the dexter Or.

MOTTO: 'Corde Uno Sapientes Simus' – With one heart let us be men of understanding.
The wavy lines (which you have have to look pretty hard to see any waviness to on this representation) represent the three principal rivers of the county (the Cam, the Nene and the Ouse). The alternating straight lines represent the many straight man-made fenland drains.
The fleurs-de-lys (‘flory’) in the border are a relic of the earlier ‘double tressure flory counterflory’, derived from the Royal Arms of Scotland, representing the fact that the earldom of Huntingdon was held by Scottish monarchs in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. (Henry of Scotland, son of King David I of Scotland, inherited the title in 1130 via his mother, Matilda, daughter of Waltheof, 1st Earl of Northumberland and 1st Earl of the Honour of Huntingdon and Northampton. The title was then settled on his descendants until the line became extinct with the death of John of Scotland in 1231, when it was annexed to the Crown.)
The great bustard was for a long time extinct in England, but has recently been reintroduced. The books these supporters stand on represent the University of Cambridge. The cross keys hanging round the neck of the left-hand bird represent the Keys of St Peter and stand for the Soke of Peterborough; the hunting horn hanging from the neck of the other supporter is a canting reference to Huntingdonshire.
The motto combines the earlier motto of Huntingdon and Peterborough City Council (‘Cor Unum’) with that of the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely County Council (‘Sapientes Simus’).
The arms on the bracket are now in a rather sorry state, but depict the original arms of Cambridgeshire County Council, in use from 1914 to 1965.
Arms: Azure, an Bend wavy Or overall a double Tressure flory counterflory Or.
Motto: Per Undas Per Agros (‘By waves and by fields’)

The gold wavy line on blue represents the River Cam and the wealth of the trade it bore to Cambridge. The double tressure and the bustard supporters have already been mentioned. Why it has a helmet with crest and mantling, I know not.