Featherstone One Name Study

Featherstone and variant genealogical records from around the world

Notes on Featherstone and Parkinson Blazons
Copyright Richard Parkinson March 2012
Used by Permission

Originally during the early Middle Ages arms or blazons were assumed by noblemen and used by prescriptive right. In the later 1400’s in England and Scotland arms began to be regulated by Royal decree. In England heraldry is regulated by the College of Arms established by King Richard III. In Scotland arms were and are still regulated by the Lord Lyon King of Arms a Judge of high standing. In England although law and precedent still exist governing the use of heraldry an effective system of enforcement no longer operates. The Court of Chivalry which regulates these matters still exists in principle but last sat in 1954 to determine a case between the Manchester City Corporation and the Palace of Varieties Ltd. The Palace theatre had used he arms of Manchester City Council on its seal and inside the theatre implying that it was linked to the City's Council.

The most recent case [of the Court of Chivalry] was Manchester Corporation v Manchester Palace of Varieties (1954), when a theatre was successfully sued for illegal display of the arms belonging to the corporation. From the website of the College of Arms.

The Palace of Varieties lost the case and was obliged to remove the arms they had ‘usurped’. The Court of Chivalry is unlikely to sit again in England. In Scotland the situation is quite different heraldry is regulated by the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, which is a standing civil and criminal court with its own Procurator Fiscal [Public Prosecutor]. Anyone who is not already a ‘Chief of Name and Arms’ should not consider using any arms without registering or ‘matriculating’ them with the Lord Lyon. Failure to do so would leave one open to court action and very strict penalties. The good news for the Scots however is that whereas in England it is very expensive to register arms in Scotland it is relatively cheap [less than 1000 pounds in most cases].

In England during the 16th and 17th centuries the Heralds of the College of Arms traveled the country in a series of ‘Visitations’ in order to establish who was using arms and whether they were entitled to do so. New arms were granted to deserving Gentlemen and existing legitimate arms used since time immemorial by ‘prescriptive right’ were confirmed if proofs of descent could be provided.

Heraldic Visitations were tours of inspection undertaken by Kings of Arms in England, Wales and Ireland in order to regulate and register the coats of arms of nobility and gentry and boroughs, and to record pedigrees. They took place from 1530 to 1688.

Arms are the personal property of the person to whom they were originally granted [as an incorporeal hereditament], or owned by the person who originally assumed them by prescriptive right during the Early Middle Ages and to whom they have been confirmed. Arms could and indeed can only be used by ‘Gentlemen’ or ‘Generosi’ men who had attained the ‘Port of a Gentleman’. Please note I use the term man and Gentleman advisedly and in no pejorative sense in regard to women. The Law of Arms is ancient and anachronistic, and for the time being it remains unashamedly patriarchal in character. Women can in some specific circumstances bear arms in their own right but descent of arms passes through the male line exclusively by the rules of strict Norman/French primogeniture. Interestingly some heraldic authorities including Spain now allow arms to be inherited through the female line. In Scotland inheritance of the status of ‘Chief of name and arms’ is on the basis of strict male primogeniture and regulated by Lord Lyon, whereas a few Clan Chieftaincies have recently been transmitted through the female line following the old Gaelic Tanistry Laws [not regulated by Lord Lyon]. This has led to the separation of the Clan Chieftaincy from the Chief of name and arms for the first time ever in a few cases; leading to disputes in the Lyon Court between The Clan Chief and The Chief of name and arms.  

A Gentleman was a man who could show that he lived genteelly off the rents from his lands and did not have to work in a manual trade or a menial position; furthermore it was necessary to demonstrate that his forbears had held this status since time immemorial [for practical purposes a man who can show that his family have had independent means for at least three generations is considered sufficient]. Alternately a Gentleman was also a man descended in direct lineage from an ancient Knightly or Baronial family, an officer holding a Kings Commission at the rank of Captain or higher, a clergyman in ‘Holy Orders’, and some others.

To use the arms of another man is known as ‘usurpation of arms’ it was a serious civil offence [indeed it still would be, though it is no longer enforced]. Usurpation of arms was punishable by very heavy fines amounting to tens of thousands of pounds in modern money [2012] and a spell in the public stocks. Town criers would be employed to ‘disavow’ the usurper proclaiming him to be a base born knave and no gentleman at all in towns and villages for miles around.

Unlike Scottish younger sons who must register their arms with the Lord Lyon before using them, English Gentlemen who can definitively prove direct male descent from an ‘Armigerous’ ancestor [Armiger = man entitled to arms] may use a properly differenced coat of arms without registering it at the College of Arms. Such a man was an Armiger [not an Esquire which is somewhat different]. A Gentleman descended in direct line from an ancient Medieval Knightly House may called by the French style ‘A gentleman of name and arms’ [Gentilhomme de nom & d'armes].  Some Gentlemen who claimed descent from an ‘Armigerous’ ancestor during a ‘Visitation’, but who could not prove their descent were instead granted a new and entirely different coat of arms. This is what happened to the Parkinson’s of Carleton in Craven County York who though claiming a link with the Parkinson’s of Fairsnape could not prove it and were granted a new set of arms instead.

Parkinson of Carleton in Craven County York
Argent, a fesse between three greyhounds courant sable

The first son of an ‘Armiger’ could bear the ‘un-differenced arms’ identical to those of his father and was therefore the ‘Chief of Name and Arms’ but his younger brothers would have to difference their arms to indicate the fact that they were younger sons. The French style ‘Chief of name and arms’ is used in Scottish legal documents to denominate Scottish Clan Chiefs but applies equally to the heads of armorial gentry and noble families in England and France. The younger son of a younger son would add a second difference; and his younger sons would add yet another difference and so forth. After a while this differencing becomes impractical as it destroys the consistency of the shield. At this point most Gentlemen requested a new grant of arms sometimes a variation on the old one or at other times a completely new and different one.  Difference marks known as cadency marks were strictly regulated. In the early days during the Middle Ages chevrons, bends, borders engrailing and changing colours were all often used to mark cadency. The Scottish system of cadency still uses differences of this kind.

Chevron       Bend       Border     Engrailed
During the later Middle Ages a French cadency system was adopted in England. This system has long been contentious because unlike the Scottish system the exact relationship of an Armiger to the Chief of name and arms is not always clear. For instance uncles and nephews can end up using the same arms under this system, which is a technical breach of heraldic law. For this and other reasons the English cadency system has been quietly dropped in recent times in some circles. This has led to the widespread misconception that arms are ‘family arms’ belonging to the whole family collectively rather than being the property of a single individual which is the legal position. Correctly differenced arms act to some extent as a simplified pictorial representation of a family tree showing the familial relationship between an Armiger and his or her Chief of name and arms.

The French system of cadency as used in England and paradoxically long abandoned in France

The Evolution of various Featherstone, Fetherstonhaugh & Parkinson Arms

Attriburted arms of Elias Feathersone
Arms:. Gules three ostrich feathers argent

Ralph Featherstone of Featherstone
Line died out during the Middle Ages

Thomas Fetherstonhaugh I
2nd Son
Arms:. Gules a chevron between three
ostrich feathers argent

Thomas Fetherstonhaugh II

Thomas Fetherstonhaugh III
His son Thomas IV died
Witthout issue

Alexander Fetherstonhaugh
2nd Son
Arms:. Gules a chevron charged wth three crescents
sable between three ostrich feathers argent

Perkin Fetherstonhaugh
3rd son
Attributed Arms:. Gules a chevron charged  with three mullets
sable  between three
ostrich feathers argent

Alexander Fetherstonhaugh II
The main Fetherstonhaugh line
Continues beearing the un-Differenced arms of
Fetherstonhaugh after the
Death of Thomas

John Le Perkynson I
John Le Perkyson II

Alexander Perkinson
of Luttrington

Thomas Perkinson
of Whessoe
Arms:. Gules a chevron
charged with three
pellets sable between
three ostrich feathers argent

Robert Perkinson
Ralph Perkinson I

It is clear from the above that during the Heraldic Visitation of the County Palatine of Lancaster in 1613 Richard St George Norroy King of Arms confirmed Robert Parkinson’s right to bear the attributed arms of Perkin Featherstone recognizing a long held ‘prescriptive’ right. He would not, indeed he legally could not do this unless he was absolutely certain that the said Robert Parkinson was the legal heir of Perkin Featherstone. Furthermore he could not do so unless Robert Parkinson had provided documentary evidence to prove his case. It is absolutely and strictly forbidden for any Herald to grant arms belonging to one man to another man. It must be remembered that arms do not belong to families, but are the property of an individual and heritable only by strict primogeniture unless a Royal License is obtained.

Attributed Arms

The Law of Arms and the regulation of Arms in England underwent changed radically during the Later Middle Ages and particularly in the Tudor period. Regulation came under the authority of Royal Officers the Kings of Arms and the College of Arms. The Kings of Arms enforced strict regulations for the regulation and marshalling of arms. In many instances where the actual arms used by distant forbears had been forgotten Tudor Heralds would extrapolate retrospectively to re-create the arms they expected individuals in the past to have used, such arms are called ‘attributed arms’. Sometimes it is possible to trace old seals and documents to find out what arms individuals actually used in the early days of heraldry. What one often finds is that because the rules applied to heraldry in the early Middle Ages were applied much less strictly a Nobleman might adopt arms which did not adhere strictly to the later established rules; so attributed arms and the actual arms born by individuals in the early Middle Ages are often somewhat different.

The last documentary evidence of Perkin Featherstone of Fetherstonhaugh is in 1346 when as Captain of Lochmaben Castle his seal was appended to an agreement, indented, between Robert Doggle and Henry le Clerk, attorneys of the Earl of Northumberland, and Richard de Thirllewale, concerning the custody of Lochmaben Castle in Scotland.

Sir Perkin Fetherstone had been involved in the garrisoning of Loch Maben Castle during the Scottish wars.

Date 1346 May 9 Catalogue reference DL 25/97  Dept Records of the Duchy of Lancaster Series Duchy of Lancaster: Deeds, Series L Piece Agreement, indented, between Robert Doggle and Henry le Clerk, attorneys of the Earl of Northumberland, and Richard de Thirllewale, concerning the custody of Lochmaben Castle delivered to the said Richard for a year. Image contains part

Sir Peter de Fethirstanhalgh
Concerning Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire       
Seal design: shield of arms (six feathers in chevron with a bordure) (?hanging by a cord) with a five-petalled flower and three crosslets on each side, within an outline of four lancets and four lobes, Size: 23 mm, Shape: round, Colour: brown-red, Legend: |S'[..]TR|[...]FE|TH[.]RST|AN[.....], Personal       
On tongue       
Impression: fair. Condition: damage to design and legend.    

The seal of Sir Perkin Fethirstanhalch
Set down on 9th May 1356
at lochmaben Castle.

Six feathers in chevron with bordure

Gules on a bend argent between two
ostrich feathers of the same.

Below are extracts from a Calendar of documents relating to Scotland preserved in Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London (1881),  Public Record Office; Bain, Joseph, ed; Great Britain. General Register Office (Scotland), Edinburgh, H. M. General Register House. Pages 75, 76 and 555 .

Alexander Featherstone II like his Father Alexander and Uncle Perkin and other forbears was the Governor of Langley Castle and Steward of the Barony of Langley. Alexander II was the son of Alexander Fetherstonhaugh I the second son of Thomas Fetherstonhaugh II. Later this branch would succeed to the status of chief of name and arms on the death without heirs of Thomas Fetherstonhaugh IV.

20 July 1405 (Henry IV) Northallerton

Order to Alexander Fetherstanhalgh, keeper or governor of the castle of Langeley, to deliver the castle with its armament, artillery, victuals and other things to the king's knight Robert Umfraville for custody until further orders.
By order of K H IV.

The conclusion we may draw from the arms above is that during the early Middle Ages the Fetherstonhaughs used a combination of a red [gules] field with a possibly variable number of white [argent] feathers and differenced the arms for cadency in the old style using bends, chevrons and borders to distinguish different members of the family.

Some examples of differenced Fetherstonhaugh & Parkinson arms mostly from The General Armory, Sir Bernard Burke, Harrison of London 1884.

Fetherstonhaugh of College Kirkoswald County Cumberland. The un-differenced arms and status of Chief of name and arms passed to the Kirkoswald branch of the Fetherstonhaugh family on the extinction of Featherstonhaugh of Featherstonhaugh. The arms passed in marriage to the Smallwood family. Timothy Smallwood the son of the heiress assumed the name and arms of Fetherstonhaugh by Royal Licence in 1797.

Fetherston of Hetherie Cleugh County Durham differenced by a single mullet indicating an unspecified younger son. Some versions of these arms include the Red Hand of Ulster indicating the status of Baronet of Ulster

Fetherston of Ardagh differenced by a single mullet indicating a third son. Some versions of these arms include the Red Hand of Ulster indicating the status of Baronet of Ulster.

Fetherston of Packwood House County Warwick with three annulets [rings] sable indicating descent from the fifth son of the original Fetherstonhaugh line.

John Parkinson of Longacre The Royal Apothecary and Herbarist Primarius Regis to King Charles I. Differenced by a martlet [bird] indicating a fourth son of Parkinson of Fairsnape. John was the first son of James Parkinson of Whalley the fourth son of Ralph Parkinson I of Fairsnape. The arms have been taken from John Parkinson’s famous work the Paradisi In Sole Paradisus Terrestris published in 1629, which was the earliest authoritative work on gardening written in the English Language

Fetherston of Hopton Court County Worcester granted to Alexander Stephenson Fetherstonhaugh by Royal License in the right of his Fetherstonhaugh mother. These arms contain three successive differences indicating the younger son of a younger son of a younger son of Fetherstonhaugh of Fetherstonhaugh. The differences in order would be the addition of a second chevron, the addition of a bordure and the engrailing ie addition of a wavy edge.

The arms of Robert Parkinson a former Mayor of Bolton who was born in Chipping in Bowland. This coat of arms is un-differenced and therefore technically illegal. However during the last century proper differencing seems to have increasingly fallen out of use.

The correctly differenced arms of the author Richard Parkinson of St Gael.

The differences being an annulet indicating a fifth son being William Parkinson [baptized circa 1540 died 1622, Mayor of Lancaster 1609-21] Burgess of Lancaster the fifth son of Ralph Parkinson II of Fairsnape & Elizabeth Holden of Chaigley, charged with the crescent of a second son being William Parkinson V  [baptized 1780 died 1864] of Maidens Bower Farm, Knowsley, County Lancaster the second son of Ezekial Parkinson of the Ryleys.

Arms:. Gules a chevron argent charged with three mullets sable between three ostrich feathers argent, an annulet sable charged with a crescent argent for difference.

CREST:.A cubit arm vested ermine, cuffed sable, the hand proper, holding an ostrich feather gules.

For a motto:. Paradisi in Sole.

Some extracts from the Heraldic Visitations pertaining to the Featherstone, Fetherston, Fetherstonhaugh and Parkinson families.

Below are some extracts from the Heraldic of the 15th and 16th centuries which show the recorded arms and pedigrees of armorial families of the related Featherstone, Fetherston, Fetherstonhaugh and Parkinson group of families.

Pedigrees recorded at the visitations of the county palatine of Durham made by William Flower, Norroy king-of-arms, in 1575, by Richard St. George, Norroy king-of-arms, in 1615, and by William Dugdale, Norroy king-of-arms, in 1666 (1887), London, Priv. print. for J. Foster

Pedigrees recorded at the heralds' visitations of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland : made by Richard St. George, Norry, king of arms in 1615, and by William Dugdale, Norry, king of arms in 1666 ([1891?]) London, Priv. print. for J. Foster

Pedigrees recorded at the visitation of Northumberland in 1615 (1878), Sir Richard Saint-George,1635; England. College of Arms; Sir Henry Saint-George, 1581-1644; 1839-1905,London, Priv. print. for the editor George Marshall by Mitchell and Hughes.

Pedigrees recorded at the visitation of the county palatine of Lancaster, made in the year 1613 (1871) Sir Richard Saint-George, Richard, d. 1635; College of Arms; Raines, Francis Robert, 1805-1878, Printed for the Chetham society, Manchester

Pedigree of Parkinson of Beaumondhill from the Victoria History of the County Palatine of Durham

Some pedigrees from the Heraldic Visitations