A garb or Wheatsheaf used asan heraldic device by the Earls of Chester THE EARLS OF CHESTER

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The Arms of the Earls of Chester:-
Gules, three garbs azure
Gules three garbs argent.
Argent three garbs gules
Argent three garbs gules, eight gules cross crosslet fitchy.
Azure, three garbs Or. [late 1400's illustrated]
and variations thereof.

Garbs [wheatsheaves] are common to the Earls of Chester and the Comyn family of Scotland. It is likely that the Comyns' married into the earl of Chester's line as an attempt to unify England and Scotland. The Comyns [later Cummins] probably took their name from Cummin the herb, which is believed to be represented as garbs of cummin as their heraldic device.
The Earls of Chester were in constant conflict with the Welsh particularly the Griffiths [from Griffin]. The Earl of Chester was attended by the Constable of Chester.

The following list of the earls of Chester is transcribed from entries given in The Book of Sutes or Ordinaries, by William Smith, Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, completed in 1599:-

The Earls of Chester from John Speed's map.1. Ranulf Comes [Count] Palatine Cestria [Chester]  
2. Sr. Raff [Ralf] Chester de Com. [i.e. earl] Huntingdon.
3. Sr. Roger Comin [Comyn]
4. Sr. Fr" Comin de Hibernia
5. Sir Thomas Comin, de com. Lincoln.
6. Johes dus Comin de Badinagh [Baddenoch] in Scotia.Competitor. Regni Scotin E.I.
7. Sr Gilb. Segrave de Calnedon in com. Narn.
8. Johes Scotus. Comes Cestria [Also Earl of Huntingdon]
9. Toff de Essex.
10. Sr. Alexander Broughan  Aughton de com. Lanc.
11. Sr. de Nantyng.
12. Sr. de Brouse.
13. Preston de com. Lincoln.
13. Strokill
14. Strokill. Strigule.
15. Sr.T. Peverell.
16. ?Nanton
17. Rotier de com. Cestria.
18. Beneffe [Bishop] Crossed croziers in Coat of Arms.
19. Hugh Keveliock comes Cestrix [Arms: Azure, six garbs Or]
20. Sr. de Brkfied. Briket
21. Nuneaton
22. Clement.
23. Sr. T. Kemp de Okes intigh in Kent.
24. Brirkett de com. Cestria
25. Dade of Norfolke. [written in a different hand]

Arms of an Earl of Chester.


                                         North Gate Chester City 1600's

                   Main Gate to Chester Castle in 1894 (no longer extant) Built ca. 1292

Gherbod the Fleming was created 1st earl of Chester by William the Conqueror. Some4 have him married to Matilda as her first marriage. Matilda then married secondly, William the Conqueror. Their daughter Gundreda is believed by some to be the Gundreda who married William de Warrene. Others have De Warrene married to Matilda who was deemed to be Gherbod's sister.

                                   Gerbod====1st==== Matilda====2nd====William I King of England

                                                  Gundreda=====William Earl of Warrene
                                                                       |       d. 24 June 1088
                                                           William De Placetis

Hugh Lupus d' Avranches 1st earl of Chester 2nd creation. Earl from ~1077 to 1101

Richard d' Avranches son of Hugh, 2nd earl of Chester. Earl from 1101 to1120 

Ranulf III  le Meschines, 3rd earl of Chester. Earl from 1120, d. 1123
Married Lucy Malet. Their Son Ranulph IV was the second earl Chester.


 < Arms of  Ranulf  le Meschin 3rd earl of Chester 1120. These arms are on the Queen's Park footbridge which spans the River Dee (1883). However the tinctures are incorrect.





Ranulph IV de Gernones,  4th earl of Chester (De Gernon/German)
born 1100 died 1163, married Maud. Their son was Hugh De Keveliock, 3rd earl Chester in 1128.  Ranulph was poisoned by William Peverel III, the grandson of Wiliam I's illegitimate son by the same name in 1153. The Peverel family had their seat at Peveril Castle, Castleton, Derbyshire. As a result of this attempted murder, the Peveril's lost their lands and were forced into exile on the continent. It is noteworthy that William Smith gives Ranulph the title of Count [Earl] of Huntington.
The earl of Chester's blazon is given as Or. lion rampant gules at this time

Hugh II de Keveliock  5th earl of Chester.
born 1147 died Cyveliog, Merionthshire, Wales. Made earl of Chester in 1153 died by 1181. Here we see an indication in Hugh's death, of the involvement in the subjugation of the Welsh. The Arms of Hugh are distinguished from all other Earls of Chester by having six garbs rather than three. During Hugh's tenure, in 1157, Henry II received the homage of the young Malcolm IV, king of Scots, in Chester before invading north Wales. Previously Henry had met with Malcolm at Peveril Castle Derbyshire.

Ranulf III de Blondeville earl of Chester, Lincoln & Leicester.
Born in 1172. Ranulf had four sisters one of whom was Countess Hawise [Hawys] who married Robert De Quincy [Quency], Robert's father was Saher, earl of Winchester. On the death of her father, Hawise passed the earldom to Margaret De Quincy her daughter, who married firstly [23rd November 1232], John De Lacy [Lascy] who apparently gained the earldom of Chester through Margaret in 1181. John de Laci was really a De Lizours having taken  his great grandmother's name as had his father Roger 'Helle' de Laci. John de Laci was titled "Comtes Chestre" the French equivalent of an earl when in fact he is often referred to as  the Constable of Chester Castle under Ranulf de Blondeville and later John Ceann mhor le Scot de Huntingdon, this was an hereditary title descended through  his father Roger 'Helle' de Laci.
Either Ranulf le Meschine or Ranulf Blondeville is referred to in William Langland's The Vision of Piers Plowman. In this it states "I know the rymes of Robin Hood and Ranulf Erle of Chestre". Probably the most famous earl of Chester due to his exploits at Damietta, the Battle of Lincoln and and during the civil wars. 

In 1181 Ranulf was made earl of Chester and by 1188 he entered an arranged marriage brokered that year by Prince John Lackland to Constance Duchess of Brittany, the mother of Prince Arthur heir to the English throne. In the same year he was knighted.  Ranulf divorced Constance [she left him for her true love Guy de Thouars] in 1198 after a marriage of 10 years. There was no issue. Ranulf Brittany through his wife, and the earldom of Richmond.  In 1205 he received almost the whole of the honour of Richmond from King John.  He held Leeds manor, West Yorkshire as well as Chartley Castle, Staffordshire. Upon his death in 1232, Ranulf was the last in his line as an earl of Chester, his earldom of Lincoln passed to his fourth sister Hawise who immediately passed it to her son-in-law, John II de Laci of Pontefract. John II de Laci had been subinfeudated to Ranulf [and later John Ceann mhor] for Halton in Cheshire as were previous De Lacis to the Meschines earls of Chester.
Ranulf was replaced as the earl of Chester by John Ceann mhor, Le Scot, son of David Earl of Huntingdon.

The earldom of Chester passed to the Scottish House of Dunkeld in John Ceann mhor, le Scot de Huntingdon who was earl from 1232 to 1237.
Margaret and John de Laci had a son Edmund. Following John de Lacy's death Margaret married Walter Marshall, earl of Pembroke. This second marriage produced no issue. Margaret was titled Countess of Lincoln [through de Lacy] and Pembroke [through Marshall].

John Le Scot, earl of Chester and Huntingdon.
Also recorded as John Ceann mhor, Jean Le Scot, John Le Scott, John Scott.
An earl of Chester from 1232, who was attended by the Constable of Chester, John II de Laci of Pontefract and Halton.
John Le Scot was the second son of  David earl of Huntingdon [b. 1144 d. 1219] and Matilda [Maud] Keveliock of Chester [b. 1117] whose father Hugh de Kevelioch [d. 1181] had been an earl of Chester. David earl of Huntingdon was a brother to Malcolm IV & William I, respectively Kings of Scotland. The granting of the earldom of Chester to one of earl David Ceann mhor's sons was probably an attempt to reduce conflict on the Northern Marches of England. 

The earldom of Huntington was  held for a time by John Le Scot but as tensions and conflicts arose with the Scots, the earldom of Huntingdon, on John's death in 1237, was held in the crown until granted to John de Clinton [Fiennes] for services rendered in the wars with Scotland during Edward I's reign.
Thus the earldoms of Chester and Huntingdon were lost by the Scots on the death of John Le Scot. It is suspected John Le Scot was poisoned by his wife, Helen Lllewellyn, daughter of "Llewellyn the Great" of North Wales.

John had an older brother, Robert Le Scot, who some believe to be the dispossessed title holder of the earldom of 'Huntington' upon which Anthony Munday based his "Robin Hood" plays and forever connected the Robin Hood ballads with the earldom of Huntingdon. Note, there are a number of locations titled Huntingdon or Huntingdon, one is actually a place North of the city of York, the lands of which were owned largely by David I of Scotland who was John Le Scot's great grandfather. Others are at Huntington in Scotland, Huntington in Herefordshire and of course Huntingdon in today's Cambridgeshire.
See Loxley and Huntington

3rd creation: 

Prince Edward later King Edward I. lord of Chester but not titled earl.

4th creation: 

Simon de Montfort lost the title after his rebellion against Henry III.

5th creation:

Edward of Caernarvon, later Edward II, made earl of Chester and Prince of Wales.  d. 1327.


                                                                                                  The Fortress of the earls of Chester

                                                                         Chester Castle with map overlay

Key: 1. The Flag Tower  2. Half Moon Tower  3. Outer Bailey  4. Outer Ditch  5. Castle or Outer Gateway  6. The Great Hall later the County or Shire Hall. 7. Inner Gateway  8. Julius Agricola's Tower  9. Handbridge 10. Inner Bailey formerly The Parade. 11. Justicar's Apartments.


Midgley of Cheshire 

During the second half of the 1300's Prince Edward 'The Black Prince' (Prince of Wales, 1343) held the lordship of Macclesfield in East Cheshire. Apart from the parish of Macclesfield this also included the manor forest of Macclesfield and six surrounding demesne pastures including vaccaries or cattle studs. One of these cattle studs was the Midgley vaccary. The site of this vaccary can be located today by Midgley Farm and Midgley Hill in the Dane Valley, north east of Dane Bridge.


                                                                                                        Midgley Farm and Hill, East Cheshire.


                                                                    Source: P.H.W. Booth, The financial administration of the lordship and county of Chester 1272-1377. 1981.


William Midgley's Arms are found on Halifax Church roof, Ashday Hall at The Arms of Midgley from a window at Bolling Hall, Bradford. Southowram2 and in a leadlight window at Bolling Hall, Bradford3.
The latter recently came to light when Derek Midgley snapped the photograph at right.
As with the earls of Chester Arms, has six garbs Or. but also incorporates a fess Or. and gules background, such that its blazon would read: gules a fess between six garbs Or. See Midgley Arms and Crests

Gules three garbs Or. John Franklin Midgley had evidence2 that this Coat of Arms was not allowed by the College of Arms. If the arms were not allowed it may have been that it was too similar to that of the earls of Chester. It would appear that a member of the Midgley family at Ashday Hall at Southowram may have married into the Bolling family. Derek points out that some of the Coats of Arms were in Bolling Hall in 1645 and that some smaller panes of glass, as with this example, are of various dates, some were found in the Hall and some came from Bierley Hall. The origin of this Coat could bear further investigation.

See Midgley of Bradford & Bolling Hall.



East Cheshire


Sources/ References:
1. Woodcock, Thomas & Robinson John, The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, O.U.P., 1988.
2. Midgley John Franklin, Midgleyana, Mills Litho, Capetown, 1968.
3. E-mail communication from Derek Midgley
Watson, John. The History and Antiquities of Halifax. 1775.
5. Booth, P.H.W. The financial administration of the lordship and county of Chester 1272-1377. 1981, pp. 93-94, 96, 115. 

6. Laughton, Jane. Life in a Late Medieval City: Chester 1275-1520. Oxbow Books, 2008.

7. Ormerod, George. The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester vol II, 1819.

8. WikiChester - a comprehensive look at all things Chester.


Copyright © Tim Midgley June 2002. Links revised August 2023.