More on (Birtwistle) Coat of Arms

My posts about my Birtwistle family ancestry have by far the most active comments. There seems to be a common ancestor we might all be descended from with some commenters being more rigorous at proving so than me:

Ralph de Bridtwisell (c.1160) of Bridtwisell in Hapton (between Burnley & Accrington)

There’s an archaeological dig that may have even discovered the small Hamlet of Hapton Cum Bridtwistle we may all hail from in Lancashire:


But one of the hot topics being discussed is heraldry, prompting my last post about my Uncle’s Coat of Arms (Col. Michael Albert Astley Birtwistle):


I thought you might also be interested to hear about another Birtwistle Coat of Arms. More on this below, but when it comes to the Kirby Coat of Arms’ from my father’s side it turns out that is apparently bogus:

Kirby Coat of Arms

Interestingly, the motto is ‘Principiis Obsta,’ which means ‘resist the beginnings’ or more simply ‘nip in the bud.’ Apparently, it is from the legal term Principiis obsta (et respice fine) that means “resist the beginnings and think about the outcome”… and is a word of warning to the defendant in litigation procedures about what could happen if they lose the lawsuit.

Our GGG grandfather George Goldsmith Kirby, whose ancestry we know next to nothing about, was originally a lawyer, as were at least two of his sons including our GG grandfather Alfred Octavius Kirby. There’s been a gap for a while but two of his GG grandchildren have followed in their ancestors’ footsteps.

I mention all this because our GGG grandfather’s earlier profession and the legal nature of motto might support the contention of the Bluemantle Pursuivant at the College of Arms back in ’95, who thought the ‘Coat of Arms’ was “probably a charming and late example of the outrages that the painter stainers/undertakers/stationers were carrying out on an unsuspecting public”, but then explained how he could petition for its registration for a mere £2,200.

This left me thinking that the granting of arms was a racket. My cousin informs me that heralds have not had a pay rise since 1830s and so make up for their meagre stipend with genealogical consulting. Clearly, they are not ones for unionisation and as much as I empathise about the lack of a pay rise, I’m not sure any of us are in a hurry to pay to have to have the bogus Kirby ‘Coat of Arms’ granted… fun as it is.

Anyway, the Bluemantle Pursuivant’s forensic pulling apart of the bogus Kirby ‘Coat of Arms’ is actually a fascinating explanation of heraldry because it explains why he sees no “rhyme nor reason” for the way that the different elements of the “bookplate” had been “illogically thrown together” (more on this here).

And that’s one of the reasons for why I have mentioned it in what might seem like my Tristram Shandyesque shaggy dog story above.

On the Birtwistle side it would seem to be rather expensive to prove direct descent from the last Birtwistle ancestor(s) who was granted a Coat of Arms. From what I understand that was Oliver Birtwistle of Huncoat Hall (1567) but, who knows, maybe John Birtwhistle of Dundeuch (c1830) also had his coat of arms granted (see more on Birtwhistle Family History site) and there could be others I don’t know about:


My mother has the embroidered Birtwistle Coat of Arms below hanging on the wall of her London home and we purchased it via someone getting in touch via this blog:


But I digress, David Birtwistle has also got in touch about his Coat of Arms and he has kindly written about his passion for heraldry that I have included below.


Blazonry (description in heraldic terms) in heraldry can be confusing so I will put the heraldic descriptions in modern terms and their meaning.

But first you need to know about our family to understand some of our heraldry. Grab a coffee /tea/scotch.

I served in the RCAF as a Fire Fighter in crash rescue in the early sixties and later as an officer in the mid part of the new millennium (2004+).

Between these tours of military service I was a social worker and college professor from 1970 – Dec. 2016 when I retired. When we retired we left Toronto and moved north and built our lakeside “Wolfhound Cottage” for our retirement.

When I applied for a grant of arms in the early seventies, received in 1975, these armorials reflected who I was, and still am:


David Birtwistle Coat of Arms

Arms: Per pale dancetty Argent & Sable a Sword erect the blade enflamed proper pommel and hilt Or between two Flaunches counterchanged 

Crest: On a Wreath Argent & Gules A demi-Dragon armed & langued Gules grasping in the dexter claw a Cross Crosslett Fitche Or and resting the sinister claw on a Rose Gules barbed and seeded proper, mantled Sable doubled Or

Motto: SAPIENTIA CRESCITO VERITAS POLLETO – “Let Knowledge Increase and Truth Prevail”

The shield was black and silver (white), divided by a jagged line. On either side of the shield in opposite tinctures were two curved sections. Overall was charged a sword with a flaming blade. The outside curves (flaunches) represented the worlds of light and darkness; the jagged line (dancetty line) represented the conflict between good and evil; the sword for justice and the flames for learning. All appropriate for a fire fighter, a social worker and later civilian and military teacher.

The black semi dragon crest on the helm is my totem beastie, fierce and protective, holding the cross crosslet fitché of my Christian values in its right claws and under the left, the red rose of Lancashire, my birth place (Bolton). The wreath on the helmet is in the colours of England and the very decorative mantling from the helm is black with a lining of gold.

My English badge is the flaming sword from my arms and the dragon wings from my crest:


The Canadian badge is two wolfhounds’ heads with a golden cross crosslett fitché in between. This badge is in memory of our two Irish Wolfhounds, Boadicea and Kenna:


My first wife’s arms are a blue shield with an ermine unicorn lying down (couchant) with a golden horn and body highlights of gold:


My daughter Gillian, m. Petersen, (b.1978) was granted quartered arms of both her parents with my crest and motto by CHA in 1996. This allowed for the continuation of her mother’s beautiful arms in Gillian’s line:

Gillian's arms CHA (2)
Gillian Petersen (née Birtwistle) Coat of Arms

Arms: Quarterly, in the first and fourth per pale dancetty Argent and Sable a sword erect the blade enflamed proper pommel and hilt Or between two flaunches counterchanged; second and third Azure a unicorn couchant the tail erect ermine armed unguled crined and tufted Or languid Gules.

The crest and motto the same as mine.

My second wife, Joanne M. Avery (née Smith), m. 1985 was granted arms by CHA in 1995.

Recently Chief Herald of Canada has granted an alternate blazon which does not change the arms but better reflects the arms in 3-D. Either way she has a blue shield with a golden sun in splendour (representing the renewal of the life from the sun’s energy and renewed hope each day) charged with a red cross crosslet fitché for her Christian ideals with two red hearts for her sons (Mark, b. 1974 and Jonathon, b. 1977) as well as a play on the name of her Hartley ancestors. Her motto translated is “Through the light of love we grow”. Her Canada Goose crest is for her national identity and on its wings are ahnks, the symbol for life. The crown rayonné also symbolizes hope and the renewing energy of the sun. Her badge is for our past Great Dane, Daisy von Avery. These arms truly reflect my wife’s professional and personal approach to living.

Arms - CHA
Joanne M. Avery (née Smith) Coat of Arms

Arms: Or, a cross crosslett fitché between two hearts Gules a chief enarched rayon 

Azure: Alternatively,(2017):  azure, a sun in splendour, a cross crosslet fitché gules between two hearts gules.

In 2-D there is no difference visually. In 3-D the sun in splendor overlays the blue as intended.

Crest: Rising out of a crown rayonné Or a Canada goose wings displayed proper each wing charged with an ankh Or; 

BadgeA Harlequin Great Dane bitch rampant proper gorged with a collar and chained and holding between the forepaws an Ankh Or; 


Badge - CHA

Joanne has also been a social worker and therapist most of her life. Her arms reflect her ideals and her life very well. The boys have a differenced version of her arms.

Most of our family members are armigers. All our children’s and grandchildren’s arms are differenced according to the laws of arms in Canada.  Joanne, Gillian and our daughter-in-law, Barbara Avery (nee Scott), have helms and crests.


Unlike the UK, in granting arms in Canada there is gender equality at the armigerous level, little or no differencing between male and female children/grandchildren and no armigerous signs for adoption as in England.

Well, I do go on. It is indeed my favourite subject. I just wanted you to understand our immediate family and its armigerous symbols and relationships and its relevance to the larger Birtwistle family.

Thank you for your interest and patience.

David Birtwistle, Esq.
Lake Wah wash kesh, Whitestone, Parry Sound Region, Ontario, Canada


One thought on “More on (Birtwistle) Coat of Arms

  1. Hello Justin,

    How are you and family? We have just come through the winter of winters…phew! May I ask how I could go about “applying” for the Squarey Coat of Arms?

    This writing was very interesting to read.

    All the best for a lovely spring Selina xx

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


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