– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Brackenbury heraldry

armsbrackenburyThe coincidence of two enquiries today about different aspects of Hannah Brackenbury’s legacy to Balliol prompted an update to our web page about her arms, which appear in confusing prominence in Balliol’s front quad.

These are the arms adopted by Miss   Hannah Brackenbury (1795–1873), daughter of James Brackenbury of Manchester. She   was a major benefactor of the college; Balliol’s Brackenbury Scholarship is still funded from her endowment, and the rebuilding of the south and east   ranges of Balliol’s front quad were largely funded by her. They are still   known as the Brackenbury buildings and bear her arms in several places over the   doors. Her reason for supporting the college was   a belief that she was descended from the founder’s family – a supposition not   provable by written evidence, but in which she was much encouraged by the then   Master, Benjamin Jowett. The image above shows her shield near Balliol’s front gate on Broad Street.

The blazon (formal heraldic description) is:

i. Argent three chevronals interlaced sable (Brackenbury)

ii. Sable a chevron or between three swords erect argent (this is said, doubtfully, to represent the Balliol family connection. It does not resemble heraldry that has ever been used by the college.)

iii. Argent three bars sables (Illesley)

iv. Argent a lion rampant sable (Denton)

v. Argent a chevron sable between three crosses crosslet gules (Wycliffe – one pedigree records that at some date in the reign of Henry VIII Agnes Wyclif married Antony Brackenbery of Denton)

vi. Or on a chevron sable three stags heads caboshed argent (Ellerton).

Sections ii-vi represent alliances of marriage over a long period. The blazon and notes above are taken from ‘Notes on the heraldry in Balliol College,’ collected by Leonard Hindmarsh, 1949 (Balliol College Archives, Hindmarsh Papers 5.) Hindmarsh concludes from various printed sources that this particular Brackenbury coat ‘goes back to about 1550, possibly much earlier.’

Hannah Brackenbury’s crest, which appears just above the shield shown, is: ‘On a wreath of the colours, in front of an oak-tree vert fructed proper, a  lion couchant sable. Motto: Oncques Sans Reculer Jamais.’ This is archaic French and means approximately ‘Never ever give up.’


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