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Middlesbrough's coat of arms

Heraldry began with knights, who needed a way to identify themselves when they wore helmets which covered their faces. They created 'arms' from different combinations of animals, shapes, and colours, which were painted on their armour and flags. At the time, knights spoke Norman French, so the words used in heraldry are from that language.

Coats of arms can also be granted to places and organisations, not just people, so the town of Middlesbrough also has its own coat of arms.

Middlesbrough's coat of arms

Middlesbrough's coat of arms


The Middlesbrough coat of arms consists of five separate parts. Each part has a specific colour, which cannot be changed. The colours of the coat of arms for Middlesbrough are recorded in the Grant of Arms.

There are five colours in traditional heraldry - red (Gules), blue (Azure), green (Vert), black (Sable), and purple (Purpure). Heraldry also uses two 'metals' - gold (Or), which is shown as yellow, and silver (Argent), which is shown as white. Designs (animals, people, or objects like ships) used on coats of arms do not have to be shown in their real colours - for example, the lions on Middlesbrough's coat of arms are blue. Where something is shown in its natural colour, this is called 'proper'.

Parts of the coat of arms

Working from the bottom upwards, Middlesbrough's coat of arms is made up of:

1. The motto - The motto sits at the bottom of the coat of arms. It is 'Erimus', which means 'we shall be'.

2. The shield - The shield sits in the centre of the coat of arms. The 'chief' (which is the band across the top of the shield) is black. On the chief are two gold ships with silver sails. Between the ships is a six-pointed wavy star (estoile) in gold. The lower part of the shield is silver. On it is a blue rampant (rearing up) lion with red tongue and claws.

3. The helmet - The helmet sits at the top of the coat of arms, on top of the shield. It is silver, and has two additional parts:

4. The mantling - The mantling hangs from the top of the helmet. It is coloured blue and silver. A mantling was a piece of fabric hanging from the top of a knight's helmet to protect the back of their neck from the sun. In time it developed into a garment like a nightshirt, which covered most of the armour. It protected the knight from the heat of the sun, and the armour from rain and rusting. The garment became slashed in battle, so in heraldry it is always shown as cut up, but in a stylised way.

5. The crest - The crest is fastened at the top of the helmet, on top of the mantling. It consists of a gold 'mural crown' (a crown made of stone blocks to represent city walls or towers), with a walking (passant) lion on top. This lion is also blue with a red tongue and claws. Its right front paw rests on a gold anchor.

This coat of arms is very similar to those designed in the late 19th century when Sir Hugh Bell (Baronet) became mayor, which were officially granted in 1911. The crest is slightly different, and the Captain Cook estoile replaces one of the original ships.

Explanations of the designs

Lions and motto

The blue lion is from the shield of the de Brus family (it can be seen on the de Brus cenotaph in Guisborough parish church). After the Conquest, the family was given many lordships in this area. Their motto was 'Fuimus', meaning 'we have been'. In the spirit of growth and progress, Middlesbrough chose 'Erimus', meaning 'we shall be'.

Ships and anchor

The ships and the anchor represent ship-building and maritime trade.

Star (estoile)

The star is to commemorate Captain James Cook, who was born at Marton, which is within the Middlesbrough boundary. Captain Cook's arms, granted several years after his death, show a globe of the world between two pole stars. The College of Arms gave special consent for part of those arms to be included in Middlesbrough's arms, because of Cook's strong links to the town.

Mural crown

The mural crown is often granted to areas, even if they do not have walls or a castle.

Official blazon

A blazon is the formal description of a coat of arms, using the correct heraldic language. For Middlesbrough's coat of arms, it is:

Arms: Argent a Lion rampant Azure on a Chief Sable an Estoile between two Ships Or sails Argent.
Crest: Upon a Mural Crown Or a Lion passant Azure supporting with the dexter fore paw an Anchor Gold; Mantled Azure doubled Argent.