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 The Midgley Arms and Crests

The Arms of  Midgley of  Midgley are:

Midgley of Midgley "Sable two bars gemell or on a chief of the second three caltraps of the first1"
No crest is mentioned, as given by Thoresby2. The motto may be: '"Resurgam"- I shall rise again*

* Note 1  that a  motto is not granted with the Achievement of Arms and can be changed at any time. Mottoes may have been medieval battle cries.
* Note 2 The choice of bars-gemel or barrulets (gemelli-twins) is interesting and significant, being derived from the need to strengthen the frames of the early shields.
* Note 3 The presence of the bars and the caltrops on the shield is meant to be  respectively a symbol of the strengthening of the earliest shields and the spiked bosses thereon.The first bull-hide shields were thus reinforced and studded with metal.

It is possible that the Arms or similar were awarded originally to:
1. Sir William de Miggeley of New Hall, Midgley near Wakefield in the 1300's.(Edward III) or his predecessors.
It was during this time that the caltrap made a resurgence with the change in battle tactics from combat by knights on horseback to offence with the longbow and defence with pits and the caltrap.The simplicity of the arms indicates that it could well have been used in the 1200's or 1300's when chivalric knighthood was paramount.
Edward III had  heraldry systematised. The heralds adjudicated on claims to Arms and rival claims were settled by the King with his Constable and Marshal at a Court of Chivalry.
However, at present there is no direct evidence that this was William's Arms, it is quite possible that there were other arms granted to William during this time. He seems to be quite separate to the Midgley families of  the more western parts of the shire, but studies show he may be a descendant of a Norman-French progenitor.

2. A Midgley of Midgley near Halifax in the 1500's. At this time there was a resurgence of the use of heraldic arms with subsequent "Visitations" by the Royal College of Arms, following the closure of the monasteries, e.g. Glover, in his Visitation of Yorkshire in 1594.
Henry VIII admired a full shield and this produced a flurry of "copy-catting' by the landed gentry of the time. However the earlier arms of  titled knights were kept simple, probably because of the real need to be recognised in battle. By the time of Henry VIII, knights fighting on horseback were virtually obsolete.
A later addition of adding an 'heraldic Persian tyger'38 crest sitting upright to the Midgley arms may Affronty helm indicate the service of a descendant of the original grantee, as a man-tyger pursuivant in the early 1500's and possible state service at Calais:
Tyger Pursuviant  [see glossary below] was a title for the supporters of  Lord Hastings, who from 1471 was the Lieutenant-General of Calais.  Following Edward III's victories at Crecy (1364) and Calais (1367), Edward III established  an "English Wool Marketing Board" at Calais, it encouraged ship building and sea-faring in England.  Calais was held for 200 years when in Queen Mary's reign (1558) it was lost to France. However at this time it was a  financial windfall not a loss as Calais was expensive to maintain, however it was a crushing blow to national pride. The title of Tyger Pursuivant is first recorded (and in fact is the only record) in 1477 when a letter was sent by Bedingfield from Calais to Paxton in Norfolk4.

"The heraldic tyger was a particularly popular charge at the beginning of the 1500's. It originated with the bestiary where it was placed correctly between lion and leopard. The bestiary writers stated that the tyger was exceedingly fierce and swift and that the only way to escape it was to throw down mirrors or looking-glasses. The tyger was then distracted by its own image, believing itself to be one of the cubs, curiously the bestiaries do not mention the stripes; but these were Persian tigers which were rather less pronounced in their striping than their Bengal counterparts, so the tiger came into heraldry as a cat-like creature albeit unstriped. Developments at this stage enhanced its ferocity by making its face more wolf-like, adding serrated ears and a horn or tusk to the end of its nose. The heraldic tyger in its fully evolved form is essentially a creation of heraldry, and bears little resemblance to the tiger of the bestiaries. The former has since been introduced into heraldry in its own right"4.
The heraldic tyger is described as possessing a mane of tufts as well as a hooked talon at the nose8.

J. Horsfall Turner in his Coats of Arms of the Nobility and Gentry of Yorkshire (1911) provides us with a number of known Midgley heraldic arms:

*Gules a fess between six garbs or. found on the ceiling of Halifax Parish Church. [See below]

*Quarterly 1, 4, argent on a fess azure between three crescents gules, 3 mullets Or.

  2nd quarter - Azure a chevron Or between three hinds argent.

  3rd quarter - Gules 3 bears heads erased argent.  [Turner p. 225.]

In 1816 the arms painted on the ceiling of the parish church chancel were repaired and re-arranged so that they do not now (1911) correspond to Watson's list.. Numbers 27 and 28 and many others were left out. The east window of the chancel in the the time of Horsfall held 44 paintings with four across at the base. [Turner p. 224.]

On the ceiling of the Halifax church is the following, said to have belonged to a Midgley, viz.: Gules William Midgley 's Arms from Halifax Church roof and Southowram. a fess between six garbs Or.
There are references to this last mentioned Coat. These Arms on the church roof are mentioned in "The heraldry of the Halifax Parish Church" p.52, No. 27 with the addition of the crest - an eagles head Or; also by Watson, p. 361, No. 20 as belonging to Midgley. Watson was a curate at Halifax  from 1750-1754#. It is possible the  head of an heraldic tyger has been mistaken as that of an eagle's head. Three garbs on a blue background were the arms of Ranulf the Earl of Chester who held parts of the North & East Ridings.

In a bedroom at Ashday Hall, Southowram, among other carved stone shields is one having a fesse between six garbs. This denotes the marriage of Mary, daughter of William Midgley, Gentleman, of Halifax,  with Thomas Holdsworth of Ashday. She died on 25th October, 1710. This is unlikely to be a genuine coat of arms as it is probably unrecorded in H.M. College of Arms, London. Evidence points to these arms being used by 'William Midgley, gent.of Hallifax'9 a lawyer of Halifax (1651-1702) as his daughter* 'Mary's arms are impaled by Holdsworth in the Holdsworth Chapel, Halifax parish church:- On a large monument of stone fixed to the south wall of the Holdsworth Chapel, between the third and fourth windows from the east. Arms. - Argent, on a stump of a tree raguled and eradicated in bend a crow perched near the top (proper) - Holdsworth; impaling, Gules, a fess between six garbs, or - Midgley. Thomas Holdswortth of Ashday {otherwise Ashdale) in Southowram Died the 20 Day of April 1735 in ye 56 year of his Age'.10 It seems likely that William Midgley the Halifax lawyer wished to emulate but differentiate his claimed heraldic status with that of another branch of Midgley, William Midgley the curate of Sowerby who was also lord of Thornton near Bradford. That Mary's husband Thomas Holdsworth had his own arms and those of Mary's in a bedroom at Ashday Hall, indicates that these were accepted  by the Holdsworths as genuine.

* By Frances Murgatroyd, daughter of John Murgatroyd of East Riddlesden  and The Hollins. Luddenden.


Curates Arms There is a second Midgley Coat of Arms in Halifax Parish Church cut on a blue stone within a raised border, painted over, and fixed to the north wall of the Rokeby Chapel. This lies beneath the second window from the west where are found the arms in memory of Mary Midgley, who died 7th November 1704, (aged eight) daughter of William Midgley, M.A., curate of Sowerby, who died  on 10th May, 1706, and according to Watson, William being late of Headley near Thornton, Bradford. William the Curate is also described as "Mr. William Midgley the minister at Sowerby who died on the 7th May 1706 aged about 30 of the "palsie" [paralysis]7
The arms in the Rokeby chapel are crudely carved and appear to be three bars, and in chief three mullets (five pointed stars) with crest-an heraldic tiger, sejant. There are no colours evident. This coat also appears not to have been recognised.

However, Crossley9 in his Monumental and other inscriptions in Halifax parish church clearly states that these arms on the blue stone are '(Sable), two bars gemelles (or), on a chief (of the second) three calthrops (of the first).' This appears to be a matter of identification, and if the latter is correct it follows the general pattern of the use of caltraps in the Midgley arms. It is possible that William the curate distained the use of war-like symbolism and had the caltraps designed as stars as has been noticed with the Midgley arms of Rochdale (Quaker cotton mill owners) whereby the caltraps were replaced by what appear to be waterwheels. The caltraps are continued by William the curate's son, John Midgley of Scholesmoor (d. 1730).

It is interesting to note en passant, the Greenwood family Arms in connection with the marriages

Arms of Greenwood family



of Holmes Midgley and  J. Jaques respectively to agnates Martha and Rebecca Greenwood1, viz: Arms- Sable, a chevron ermine between three saltiers couped argent Crest- a tiger sejant, Or.
As Early as about 1274 Mabell Midgley, daughter of John Midgley of Midgley was married to Ralph Greenwood, he had previously been married to Edith Midleton daughter of Sir William Midleton Kt. of Stockeld.
See also Greenwood Genealogies

"The choice of a caltrap or chevaltrap as an integral feature of approved Midgley achievements would seem to indicate that they had some experience of its use in the fighting so prevalent in northern parts in earlier times. The caltrap was a four-spiked iron ball, one point of which, when placed on the ground was always erect It was anciently used in war to wound the horses' feet and disorganise the cavalry charges, for instance at the battle of Arbela in 331 B.C. Darius the Persian had caltraps placed on the flanks of his troops, to no avail to Alexander's manoeuvers. Then at Bannockburn in 1314 the English knights were bogged down by pits and caltraps. This sort of metal devil-thorn which was primarily designed to rip open the horses hooves, could be equally dangerous to the fighting infantrymen. In the course of one counter attack at the siege of Orleans on Friday 6th may 1429, the steel spine of a caltrap pierced the foot of Joan of Arc, Jean la Pucelle and Joan had to be helped off the scene. After the second battle of St. Albans in 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, Andrew Trollope when he was about to be knighted by Queen Margaret, jokingly showed his foot that had stumbled over a caltrap"1.

A Coat of Arms and Crest was granted by The Kings Arms on 29th June 1709 in the Reign of Queen Anne to:
                     1. Robert Midgley of Leeds                                   )
                     2. Samuel Midgley of Alwoodley                           ) and their descendants viz: Arms- Sable two bars gemel Or and on a chief of the second, three caltraps of the first. 
                     3. Jonathan Midgley of Breary (New Bramhope)   ) - This is probably the same person as Jonathan Midgley of Beverley

These three recipients were contemporary and appear in a pedigree given in Thoresby's Ducatis Leodensis See http://midgleywebpages.com/westyorks.html

Arms common to Midgley of Leeds, Alwoodley & Breary.

Crest- on a wreath of the colours an heraldic tyger sejant Or armed and crined sable holding in his dexter paw a caltrap of the last.

Arms of Sir Thomas Midgley

In  the 1780's  Sir Thomas Midgley [of Breary?] was granted a Coat of Arms and Crest3. Viz:
Arms- upper half gold with three caltrops abreast  lower half black dissected by a wide and narrow gold bar horizontally.
Crest-Tiger sitting facing left with a caltrap in the right paw extended tongue protruding mantle black and gold. Motto: Porrigo Cedi Captum, "Reach out to give and take"

According to Burke's General Armory these Arms are common to the following:
  i) Midgeley (Midgeley of Clayton).  See Clayton The Crest  is two keys in saltaire Az. wards down1, 8.Arms of Midgley of Clayton.

Compare this with the similarity of crossed keys, wards down [hence the term 'downwards'] on the arms of William Midgley of Rochdale  which may be a more correct interpretation. The Rochdale arms appear to incorporate spinning wheels of cotton.

ii) Midgley (Scholesmoor, Bradford). The crest is a heraldic tiger sejant, holding a caltrap between the paws1, 8.
  iii) Midgley (Rochdale)2.The crest is a heraldic tyger sejant resting dexter on a caltrap. 

                                                                        .Arms of Midgley of Rochadale

South African Arms Another more recent achievement is one patented in South Africa by John Franklin Midgley Viz:
Arms-sable two bars gemel Or on a chief of the first between 6 caltrops of the second  Ar. placed 3, 2, 1.
Crest- Demi (Bengal) tiger proper holding caltrap in each paw.

John F. Midgley in Midgleyana says that he was not in a position to state how many Midgley lines may be armigerous, so it is possible that we may find other grants or variations.

1. Watson John Rev., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax,1775.
2. Thoresby, Topography,  p.21.
3. David and Milnethorpe Midgley's pedigree, Tasmania. (copy of Midgleyana kindly donated)
4. Bedingfield Henry and Gwynn-Jones Peter, Heraldry, Bison Books, 1993.
5. Midgley John Franklin, Midgleyana, Cape Town, 1968.
6. Pedigees of the County Families of Yorkshire:Vol I West Riding; Joseph Foster: London, 1874.
7. Dickenson's Register-burials.
8. Fairburn James, Fairburn's Crests of the Families of Great Britain & Ireland, New Orchard Editions, 1986.

9. Crossley, E.W. The monumental and other inscriptions in Halifax parish church. (1909). p. 16.

10. Ibid.,  p. 17.

Other references which could prove useful:
West Riding Churches and Monuments, Roger Dodsworth and Visitation of Yorkshire 1665-1666, William Dugdale (giving  heraldic manuscripts from both the 1500's and 1600's) - both held at the Yorkshire Archaeological Society.

# Note: John Watson [1724-1783] Historian and antiquary. Born in Prestbury, Cheshire, he attended Brasenose College, Oxford, and later became curate at Halifax 1750-1754, and incumbent at Ripponden 1754-1766. In 1759, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London. He published several pamphlets and books, including his History and Antiquities of The Parish of Halifax in Yorkshire in 1775, and Memoirs of the Earls of Warren and Surrey in 1776.

            John Watson Curate of Halifax, 1750-1754.


Achievement-The shield together with the mantling and crest.
Ar (argent)- silver metal background colour.
Armigerous- a person  who is entitled to wear Arms is an Armiger (why not Armidger?!), a squire who carried the armour of a medieval knight. Latin: armour bearer,1500's Latin: a Squire. The Squire was a landed person who owed allegiance to, and attended a knight on military campaigns.
Armory- another name for heraldry.
Az (azure )- blue tincture backgrond colour meant to represent water.
Bars-horizontal bars, diminutive of a fess probably reminders of reinforcement at the back of the shield.
- a four spined device used to lame horses.
Coat of Arms- originally a surcoat worn over the armour with heraldic designs thereon. Cheval- a horse (hence chivalry, cavalry) Chevron- a "V" shape. Chief- The upper one third of the shield Couped- when a beast or monsters head is cut off cleanly in a straight line OR applies to ordinaries
Crined- when the hair, claws, teeth, horns of a beast or man are different from the body colour.

Dexter- the right side of a shield as seen by the holder.
Ermine- background pattern, black tails on white.
Fess/fesse-central  horizontal strip about one-third the height of the shield.
Garbs- sheaves of wheat.
Gemels (gemells)- twinned horizontal bars usually borne in pairs.
Gules-red  background colour.
Mullets- five pointed stars. Very early ones are pierced in the centre and are identical to the spurs on the owners effigy on tombs, brass plates etc.
Pursuivant- a state or royal messenger, the third highest heraldic officer (Fr. poursiure-to pursue)
Sable- black colour of an animal coat.
Saltier/saltaire/saltire- crossed diagonally.
Sejant-  animal sitting upright.



The College of Arms. Lord William Hastings
Heraldry of some Yorkshire Families Yorkshire Aristocracy
Enhancing the Caltrap How to make a crest and shield

Copyright © Tim Midgley 2000, revised  3rd April 2020.