The Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms

Incorrect arms on the brass in East Bergholt church

Argent a pale engrailed between 2 indorses sable

Argent a fess gules between 3 roundels sable

Argent, on a cross azure between four Cornish choughs sable five passion nails or, and for crest, a cubit arm proper, vested gules, cuff ermine, between two wings argent and grasping three passion nails or (Bysshe, 1664-8). According to Nichols (1795), these are the "arms of John D'Alefounder, sonne of Henry D'Alefounder, servant to Henry earl of Richmond in the battell of Bosworth. These arms were confirmed by Thomas Wriothesley, Garter Principal King of Arms anno 1503". There are some strange features of these arms: in heraldry, the Cornish chough usually indicates an association either with Cornwall or with Thomas à Becket - and hence the Church. I know of no connection with Cornwall. The crest and passion nails are also ecclesiastical: odd then that these arms should be awarded to one who excelled in some way in battle. I am only aware of one earlier connection with the church: William Alefounder was Rector of Birchamwell (now Beechamwell), Norfolk in 1374 (Blomefield, 1807).

An explanation can, however, be found for the incorrect arms with the brass in the nave of East Bergholt church. On a separate plate, not shown in the photograph, is engraved, quarterly 1st and 4th per pale in the sinister side a pale engrailed, 2nd and 3rd a chevron between three roundels. "C.P." (1936) suggests that a workman mistakenly engraved part of some arms intended for Stowlangtoft church in Suffolk: Wombwell with an escutcheon of pretense - quarterly 1st Belasyse, Earl Fauconberg, 2nd argent a pale engrailed between two indorses sable (Bellasis of Scotland), 3rd argent a fess gules between three roundels sable (various possibilities), 4th Brownlow - and changed the fess into a chevron. Maybe such a mistake went uncorrected because of the civil war.

The arms are also to be found, impaled with those for Robinson, on a hatchment in St Edmund's Church, Southwold, Suffolk (Reynolds & MacLachlan, 1990).

Passion nails - as used to nail Christ to the cross; in heraldry, of square cross-section and with pyramidal heads.

The heraldic Cornish chough is a bird much like a raven, except its beak and legs are gules; it should not really be emblazoned as sable but as proper.

Last updated 15th March 1998 by Peter Alefounder