In the first of our new Henley’s Heritage series, where we’ll look back at the history of Henley, we’re starting with how our town’s coat of arms above was formed.
The shield is based upon the ancient seal that has been used by the Town Guardians of Henley and then by Henley Borough Council. The motif of the sun radiating from clouds was the royal badge of Edward III and has been used on Henley’s seal since 1624.
The mural crown symbolises the town’s borough status which extended from 1241 until 1974. It is charged with a fleur de lys, the symbol of St. Mary the Virgin to whom Henley’s Parish Church is dedicated. The bishops’ mitres, suggests the two episcopal benefactors of the town, Archbishop Laud and Bishop Longland. The Diamond Challenge Sculls denotes Henley’s identification with the sport of rowing in general, and with the Royal Regatta in particular.
The lion is derived from that depicted on the town’s seal from 1306, and the ox too denotes Henley’s historic links with Oxford and Oxfordshire. The bugle horn hanging from a bowed string, is the regimental badge of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, with whom Henley men fought and fell in two world wars.
The Tudor Rose is a badge of James I, who is traditionally treated as the founder of Henley Grammar School. The rose also denotes the rent that was annually paid to the crown for the Manor of Phyllis Court.
The Catherine Wheel is the symbol of St. Catherine, ‘the favourite saint of Henley’ according to the historian Burn. The Bridgemen’s Chantry was formerly in a chapel within Henley’s Parish Church, dedicated to St. Catherine and endowed by the town with a considerable rental. The compartment denotes the town’s situation in the region where the grass-covered Chilterns sweep down to the Thames.
The badge is a re-arrangement of the charges shown on the shield. A crowned letter H is shown within an oval surrounded by the rays of the sun radiating from clouds.
The petition to the Earl Marshal for a grant of arms to Henley Town Council was made in 1974. Eighteen Henley clubs and societies, 35 businesses and over 150 private persons who lived or took their recreation in the town quickly subscribed to the public appeal that paid the fees associated with the granting of the arms. At that time a Latin motto suggested by Mr WE Bruce, translated as ‘A borough for a long time, but a community for ever’ seemed to sum up local sentiment. This has now been shorted to Semper Communitas – ‘Always community’.