The Coat of Arms

The MGS Coat of Arms, which the School displays in the Memorial Hall, is that which Hugh Oldham bore as Bishop of Exeter. It consists of the arms of the Bishopric of Exeter and Oldham's personal coat side by side.

The Exeter arms show the deys and sword, emblems of St Peter and St Paul, to whom Exeter Cathedral is dedicated. Oldham's own arms include owls, which it is assumed he chose as a pun on the first syllable of his name, and red roses, indicative of his Lancastrian origins.  The motto Sapere Aude translates as 'Dare to be Wise'.

During a visit by the Queen to MGS in 1965 it was discovered that the School had (within living memory and the available records), in all innocence, been using the Bishop Hugh Oldham's Episcopal arms. Heraldically, this is improper practice, though the use of a founder's arms by scholastic establishments is not uncommon.

As a consequence the Old Mancunians undertook to finance an application by the School to the College of Arms for a grant of Arms personal to itself. Arms are honours and all honours in this country stem from the Queen. Heraldic matters come under the jurisdiction of the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, and he is approached in such matters through the College of Arms in London. The officer of the College who dealt with the School's petition for a grant of arms was Colonel J R B Walker, Clarenceux King of Arms.

The College of Arms issued Letters Patent granting the following armorial bearings:

Sable, a chevron or between three owls argent, a chief or, thereon a pale between two roses gules barbed and seeded proper, the pale charged with as many keys in saltire wards upward and outward or, in front of a sword erect proper hilt and pommel or. For the Crest on a wreath or and sable an owl holding in its beak and scroll argent inscribed D.O.M. in letters sable and supporting in its dexter claw a pastoral staff or.

The arms subsequently granted are of the Oldham family Arms the difference being that the centre rose in the chief (the band across the top) is replaced by the arms of the Diocese of Exeter.

A problem arose with creating a new School crest. Having to find an alternative to the mitre, the School advisers decided this should be replaced by a helmet with the rebus* as crest. But what the College of Arms introduced as crest was an owl with a scroll across its breast on which the inscription dom became D.O.M. The original early royal charter, signed by Henry VIII and dated 21 February 1509 depicting Hugh Oldham's Arms depicts dom.

To-date no-one has been able to explain why this was translated to D.O.M. on the new crest, but evidence clearly shows that the D.O.M. used by the College in the new Grant of Arms is not the dom as used by Hugh Oldham, his scribes and illuminators, and his stonemason. In the words of Sir Harry Page "There is nothing intrinsically wrong heraldically in extending the crest in this way.

A case can be made that this enlargement gives greater depth to the pun; it is now a double pun." The evidence is that the College believed what they adopted was the correct form.

* The term rebus is short for Non verbis sed rebus, 'not by words but by things'.

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© 2013 The Development Office, The Manchester Grammar School