Civic Heraldry of the Black Country
by Mick Pearson (for email link please see bottom of page)
(Since this book was published the author, Peter
Skidmore, has sadly passed away. His contributions to Black Country
history will be missed, and the Society has lost a valued member.)
This volume was recently published by Black Country
Society. All proceeds from the book will go back into the Society
funds to support new projects. The author believes this book is
unique in that it is the only publication which contains the civic
arms of ALL the Black Country local authorities, which existed
before the reorganisation of local government in 1966. None of
the three standard works on civic heraldry contain all the Black
Country civic arms. In this book all the civic arms of the Black
Country are illustrated and described.
Peter has carried out painstaking research into
this subject, successfully finding images of some of the arms,
which at first proved difficult to track down.
The cover image (see picture below) shows the old
coat of arms of the county borough of Dudley (granted in 1957).
Former history teacher Peter has spent several years researching
this 52 page book and stated that it was a labour of love for
him. He believes that the book will help people maintain civic
traditions. The book covers the areas of the four current Black
Country Metropolitan Boroughs - Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell
To obtain a copy of the book you can either visit a local
book shop as it is widely stocked across the region, priced
Alternatively it is available via mail order. If you are
in the UK, please send a cheque or Postal Order payable
to "The Black Country Society" for £8.00
to the following address:
19 Honeytree Close
Please mention that you saw this article on
the Society website.
If you are reading this from outside the UK
then please email
me so that I can give you payment options and the correct
price including postage and packing. Probably the easiest
way to pay is via the Paypal
service, click on the link if you have never heard of
Paypal. If you have
access to sterling cheques then please confirm with me the
correct postage before sending your cheque
The formation of the current four Metropolitan Authorities came
about as a result of the re-organisation of local government by
Parliament in 1966 and 1974. Many people living in the Black Country
today have no idea about the pattern of local government that
used to exist. Each town, for example Bilston, Coseley, Oldbury,
Tipton, Dudley etc. had a locally elected council empowered to
provide such services as housing, libraries, parks and baths.
Each town had its own individual identity and proudly displayed
their civic arms on its buildings, documents and vehicles. (taken
from the preface to Peter's book)
"In examining the background and the composition of these
civic arms the emphasis is on understanding the local factors
that influenced their design, rather than on understanding the
rules and language of heraldry". As a result that mix of
French and English commonly associated with heraldry has been
deliberately ignored. There is, however, a brief glossary of heraldic
terms, as well as a list of informative books, all easily available
in local libraries.
Before 1966 there were 21 Black Country Local Authorities. These
had evolved over centuries through a variety of legislation, starting
with the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. Further legislation followed, including
1888 (county councils and county borough councils formed), and
1894 (urban district, rural district and parish councils were
formed). By the beginning of the 20th century there were examples
of each of the types of councils to be found in the Black Country.
This pattern of local government was to remain, largely unchanged,
The changes in 1966 created 5 County Boroughs in the Black Country
- Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley, West Bromwich and Warley. The
last change came in 1974 when 5 became 4 and Dudley,
all became metropolitan boroughs, the theory being that better
services will come out of the economies of scale of setting up
authorities with, ideally, a population of 250,000. I will leave
you to decide if the change bought about the desired effect!
One other change came about in December 2000 when Wolverhampton
became a city by royal command to commemorate the Millennium.
This did not confer any additional powers or functions on Wolverhampton,
nor did it entail any change to their coat of arms.
In my opinion the book is a wonderful resource for anyone interested
in the history of the Black Country. It is very informative, not
only on the granting of the arms themselves, but also some of
the history behind the town itself, and how the arms itself came
to evolve. There are also sections on Civic Pride, the College
of Arms, how to acquire civic arms, an analysis of the themes
and symbols used in civic arms and a comprehensive list of the
mottoes used by Black Country councils.
If anyone has any questions about the book, please email me
and I will pass them on to the author. Remember, by purchasing
this book you will be assisting the Black Country Society to continue
to achieve it's aim 'to foster interest in the past, present and
future of the Black Country' as all proceeds from the book are
ploughed back into the society.
Mick Pearson 2nd May 2003
email the web master Mick Pearson: