"Coats of Arms" can be found all over Chester and Chester has associations with heraldry through Randle Holme the deputy Chester herald (who lived in Bridge Street). One interesting example of arms is found on the front of what was once the Grosvenor Club next to the Eastgate. Other notable examples are on the Suspension Bridge, in the Town Hall and in various pubs and churches. For thos with a particular interest in "coats of arms" around Chester, we are working on a Chester Heraldry Tour.
The "Welsh Arms" on the frontage of the Grosvenor Club in Eastgate Street
Number 47 was originally a Gentlemens Club and bank. It was constructed 1883-4 and designed by Douglas and Fordham, it was enlarged in 1908. The bank was a Welsh bank (The North & South Wales Bank, established in 1836), hence the first storey frieze bears shields with (supposedly) the arms of twelve of the thirteen former shires of Wales (excluding Monmouthshire). These counties were: Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire, Brecknockshire, Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Merionethshire, Caernarfonshire and Anglesey. Monmouthshire was at various times counted as an English county. In the lintel over the doorway in the entrance bay is a carving of the portcullis from the Grosvenor coat of arms. Above the door is a three-storey canted oriel window carried on corbels; between the corbels are two more coats of arms. The windows are all mullioned, those in the middle storey also having two transoms, and that in the upper storey has a transom. Between the windows is brick diapering. At the summit of this bay is a spire with a lead finial. To the left of the entrance bay is a wing containing two mullioned and transomed windows in each storey; the left-hand window in the middle storey is a canted oriel window. Centrally at the summit is another spire with a lead finial. To the right of the entrance bay are three mullioned and transomed windows in each storey, plus a two-light window in the gable. Centrally between the middle and top-storey windows is the Grosvenor coat of arms. Above the top-storey windows is the gilded date "1883". Over the window in the attic is the sheaf (garb) from the Grosvenor arms.
It is not evident at first glance which arms are associated with each county. The arms include some clear cases: three golden eagles (Caernarfonshire) and bats and daggers (Brecknockshire). However some are less clear: a white castle and a golden lion may also be Caernarfonshire, and chevrons could be Glamorgan. It is hard to identify which are the arms of Cardiganshire, Pembrokeshire, Merionethshire or Anglesey. Several of the arms appear to be related to the arms or seal of the county town. There is also a general trend that from left to right the arms are those of the historic counties from to north to south.
The first four shields are the arms of counties in North Wales:
- Ship with gold shield bearing three lions and red castle. Possibly Anglesey, due to the castle being surrounded by water. Similar to the arms of Beaumaris.
- Three golden eagles (Caernarfonshire):- originally attributed to the 12th century king, Owain Gwynedd, king of Gwynedd. Apart from the actual eagles living in the county, it is possible that the symbolism harks back to the Roman eagle (and the Roman fort at Segontium (modern Caernarfon) constructed around 77 AD. Three eagles also appeared on the three turrets of the "Eagle Tower" at Caernarfon Castle. Also appears in the Kaffee Hag collection as Caernavon.
- Red lion on gold:- appears in the arms of the Kingdom of Powys. The main center of government was at Mathrafal in historic Montgomeryshire. The arms are identical to those of Ranulf de Meschines. Ranulf de Meschines has arms which are, on the Queens Park Suspension Bridge, a white lion on a red ground and, in the stained glass of the Town Hall, possibly a red lion on a gold ground. To add further confusion some versions of the arms of his son Ranulph De Gernon (shown in the church window on his page) and that shown on the bridge also differ - the window shows a metallic lion on a red field, while the bridge shows the opposite. Before the formal award of arms to the former Montgomeryshire County Council, the body made use of the arms of the old kingdom of Powys as reported in the 1894 Book of Public Arms by Arthur Fox Davies.
- Gold castle and ship at sea. Possibly Flintshire - the castle upon a rock and ship are possibly taken from the ancient borough seal of Flint and show that Flint is a sea port with a castle on a rugged coastline. The arms of Flintshire itself are quite distinct with a cross and birds taken from the arms of Edwin King of Tegeingl, a former Kingdom that covered most of the present county.
- Black castle: by elimination (if all others are correct) this would be Merionethshire, but does not feature the more familiar leaping goats.
- Crossed keys:- appear above the shield in the "official" arms of Denbighshire and also appear in the arms of the diocese of St Asaph. Under the Local Government Act 1972, the use of Denbighshire for local government and ceremonial purposes ended on 1 April 1974, with the creation of the new county of Clwyd. A different county of Denbighshire was created on 1 April 1996, for modern local government purposes, covering a substantially different area from the historic county.
- Bats and daggers (Brecknockshire):- based on the supposed arms of Brychan a legendary 5th-century king of Brecknockshire. The swords/daggers are for Prince Anlach, Brychan's father and the blue "reremice" or bats are for Marchell, his mother.
- Black castle with separate flanking towers (Cardiganshire?):- similar to the seal listed in the Kaffee Hag collection.
- White castle and golden lion (Carmarthenshire?):- the castle above the lion appears on the arms of the Carmarthen town council (granted 9th April 1936, to the Carmarthen Borough Council, but based on a seal in previous use). Two ostrich feathers are arranged at the sides of the castle and atop each of the outer towers of the castle is perched a Cornish Chough.
- Red and gold chevrons (Glamorgan):- The gold shield with three red chevronels was the arms of the de Clare family, Norman Lords of Glamorgan.
- Black castle with flags (Pembrokeshire?):- similar to the seal used by Pembroke prior to the grant of arms.
- Blue and gold stripes (Radnorshire):- it would seem that a variation of the banner of the arms of the Mortimer family.