The arms and crest of Southam are familiar but how many of us know their origins and meaning? They were granted by the College of Arms to Southam Rural District Council on 19th May 1959. The red and silver of the shield are the basic colours of the arms of both Warwickshire County Council and the See of Coventry. The silver border is adapted from the Coventry diocesan. On the border are eight red crosslets derived from the County arms – these give 32 points representing the 32 parishes in the district at the time. The crest symbolises the district’s main industries and an important historic event. The crown represents the brick, tile and cement industries, the ears of wheat allude to agriculture and the hill with a Royal Lion standing thereon with a blood-stained sword represents the Battle of Edge Hill, 1642.
The charges are taken from the heraldry of the principle manorial families. The chevron is derived from the arms of the Shuckburgh family who have held that name and lived at Shuckburgh since the beginning of the 12th century. Sir Charles Shuckburgh was elected Chairman of the Southam Rural District Council in 1964. His grandson, Sir James Shuckburgh, is the 14th and current Baronet.
The scallop shells are from the arms of the Spencer and the Holbech families. The shell is also the emblem of St James to whom Southam’s Parish Church is dedicated. The Spencer family, of whom Diana, Princess of Wales, was a member, still owns land at Wormleighton although they have not lived there since Wormleighton Hall was destroyed during the Civil War. The Holbech family have lived locally since 1483 and acquired Farnborough Hall in 1683. The hall is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public but members of the Holbech family are still in residence.
The distinctive cross below the chevron comes from the arms of the Verneys, an ancient Warwickshire family who, in 1696, successfully claimed the barony of Willoughby de Broke that had fallen into abeyance in 1522. The 20th Lord Willoughby de Broke was Lord Lieutenant for Warwickshire at the time the arms were granted and lived in Kineton. He presented the Grant of Arms to the then Chairman of the Council, Cllr S J Way, at a service in St James Church on 18th March 1960 when the Rector was Reverend Murray. At this service, the Chairman was invested with his chain of office. Engraved on the chain are the names of the ten Chairmen of Southam Rural District Council, from its formation in 1894 to its disbandment exactly 80 years later in 1974.
Southam Town Council inherited the chain of office on its formation in 1974 and since then every Mayor has had their name engraved on it. The Deputy Mayor wears the badge that had been worn by previous Chairmen of Southam Rural District Council.
If you are interested in local history, and would like to support your local history group, please contact Southam Heritage Collection. You can visit our Facebook page and our website www.southamheritage.org or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org You can also telephone Bernard on 01926 613503 or Linda on 01926 814214 for more information.