Sigginstown Castle

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Our Flag/Banner Project

In early 2018 we wanted to create a flag that would show the history of the castle and be visible from the top of the tower.

We started researching various styles of flag, and Liz actually read, cover to cover, the large tome by Arthur Fox-Davies, The Art of Heraldry that has been collecting dust in the bookshelf for over 20 years! In our research we learned (or relearned) a few basic things

  • Arms are 1) sign of gentility and rank, 2) integral part of warfare, 3) means of decoration
  • "Herald" is from the Anglo-saxon : "here" (army) + "wald" (strength)
  • Use of arms is linked to claim of being a Gentle vs commoner. There was a practice of adding arms for a wife if also a gentle.
  • Heraldry was often used in warfare to indicate which unit one was in - there was no standing army until the mid 16th century, so banners, flags and livery were very important to distinguish friend vs. foe!
  • As Ireland was part of Britain, also Irish Heraldry was under the Ulster King of Arms. Nowadays the Office of the Chief Herald is part of the Genealogy and Heraldry division of the National Library of Ireland
  • At a minimum there must be a shield of arms, and ancient designs were often very simple.  There are other elements that can be added: a helmet, crest, mantle and supporters, depending on rank and inheritance. There can also be a motto.
  • There are 7 heraldic tinctures or colors which are named in French: Gold or Yellow "Or", silver or White "Argent", Red "Gules", Blue "Azure", Black (or sometimes brown) "Sable", and less often Green "Vert" and Purple "Purpure". Other less often colors also were occasionally used: murray and tenne (variants of orange).  On colors, heraldry dictates that the metals (white/silver and yellow/gold) must be on other colors and vice versa (colors on metals). Rules do not allow for example, a blue on a red, or a white on a yellow

Siggins Heraldry

We began to research motifs that might be part of the three principal families who owned Sigginstown Castle.  None are exactly easy to pin down.  We could find no heraldry directly associated with the name "Siggins" or spelling variants.  However, we do find references to Lord or Monsieur of various "Sigginstown" variants.  This started us on a journey to visit other places with the same name! (see more about this on the Siggins Family page)

The double eagle is the more strongly referenced charge associated with Sigeston in Yorkshire: 

Argent, an eagle displayed double headed sable armed gules

Rolls of Edw II mention Monsire de Sigeston, and the Edw III has John de Sigeston with red eagle

Yorkshire Archeological Journal Vol 16: Monsire de Sigeston -Rolles of arms of the reigns of Henry III and Edward III , and Alphabetical history of coats of arms belonging to families in Great Britain and Ireland  Alfred Morant editor, 1874 

Also a contender for Siggins heraldry charge was a helmet

We chose to use  the helmet mentioned in Glamorgan, South Wales for a single banner, as it also is being used as an emblem for The Norman Way, a route that part of Ireland's Ancient East, and goes right past our castle!

Quarterly, or and gules, four helmets azure and argent

Iolo manuscripts: Selection of Ancient Welsh Manuscripts Thomas Price, 1848 "Merchion Hir, son of Griffith, the son of Ithel, Lord of Sigginston and Landow who bore quarterly, or and gules, four helmets azure and argent.   Tresigin or Siginstown is in Glamorgan, South Wales (see more about this place - Siggins Family)

Jacobs Heraldry

For the Jacons Family, this was much easier due to the excellent research by Kenneth Jacobs.  We know that William Jacobs was given the castle and lands in Tacumshane after Cromwell.  The Jacobs family is well documented as is the heraldry. Ken nicely sent me some photos and promised maybe to visit one day!

Argent, a chevron gules between three wolfs heads erased

This is a more elaborate coat of arms, and shows the Helmet, Mantle, Crest and Motto sent to me by Nick Jacobs, along with excerpts from a family history book on the Jacobs.

Helmets on top of the shield were displayed and  positioned according to rank. an Esquire was of steel and in profile, a Knight or Baronet was open and facing front (affronte), a Peer was of silver, with a grille in profile, a Royal was in gold, with grill and affront. Jacobs was entitled to the Baronet helmet facing front and open from an earlier grant. This helmet also shows a mantle, which was originally attached to a functional helmet to protect the back of the neck. In heraldry it now adds flourish and is artistic preference. 

Crest - the great bulk of lesser landed gentry bore arms, but made no pretension to a crest (on top of a helmet ). In the latter part of Queen Elizabeth I and Stuart days, the granting of crests to ancient arms was common. The earliest crest recorded was 1198. After Stuart times, often arms are shown with no helmet, mantle and crest. The Jacob crest is a wolf.

Mottoes in England were not hereditary nor subject of a grant, and not usually included in letters patent. They were purely for individual pleasure and not common until the 18th century.  In Ireland they were usually in a patent, and if they we recorded it was expected to be used. The Jacob motto is "Tantum in Superbos" and we have included it on our banner.

Wilson Heraldry

Michael Wilson married Mary? Jacob in the late 18th century, but we don't know where he came from.

There is a Wilson coat of arms that exactly matches that of the Jacobs above - we think it may have resulted from the marriage of Michael and Mary. But we wanted a different charge to show the Wilson period on our banner. 

So we chose the wolf rampant, from the Donegal Wilsons Sable, a Wolf rampant or, in chief three estoiles of the last, but this is also shown as the arms of the Robert Wilson, Bishop of Ferns in 1629-1643.  Another choice for the Wilsons might be one from Scarr or Sledagh and descended from Nicholas or Christin Wilson: Argent, on a chevron between three mullets gules, as many pallets or. 

Most of the Wilsons share the same motto: Semper Vigilans (Always Vigilant)

We may find out that Michael had a different lineage and we will have to create a different banner!

Jones Heraldry

And then there is us - the Jones Contingent...

Since we are part of a medieval re-enactiment group called the S.C.A., we can register our heraldry for use in our events - this is all completely made up for our own enjoyment, but we do follow the rules of heraldry, have a Laurel King of Arms and register our various devices.  

Liz has used this name since 1991 but registered in 2005: Damiana Illaria Delle Onde. 

Badge - argent, in fess two coneys salient sable within an orle (laurel wreath)

No arms ever registered - could not make up my mind!. Earlier used Azure, three swans sable, with 3 six-pointed  stars.  Damiana's motto: Semper Occupatus (Always Busy!)

In 1991 Gordon registered his name Gryffydd Belwyn and Device: Azure, a chevron gules fimbriated  (outlined in yellow) and in base a bell or.  Gruffydd's Motto: Semper Vellosus (Always Fuzzy!) His Badge: (fieldless) a mole rampant barry or and gules

For our last section we chose a hare leaping over gorse. This is because there are very large hares in the area, and we were enchanted by our neighbor David's story of the dancing frost hares. Liz's badge in our medieval group, the S.C.A has rabbits. We chose gorse because the tower wickering has been identified as gorse, and it was also used for many purposes during local history including fuel and feed for animals. It is a viciously spiky plant with yellow blossoms that smell like coconut. Gorse is also called "broom" or "furze",  and was the badge of the royal Plantagenet family including Henry II of England, under whose rule the original Anglo-Norman invasion occurred. (gorse is called "planta gens" in latin). We think it nicely complements Gordons motto of Semper Vellosus (Always Fuzzy). So this is a plant with several meanings for us. (Actually you don't see the gorse on the actual linen flag, because Liz didn't get around to putting it on there yet!)

Some other Wexford Family Heraldry we considered:

Wexford Codd: Per chevron azure and or in chief two and in base three roundels counterchanged all the five being in saltire . What the heck does does this actually look like?..

Sinnott: Argent three swans close sable ducally gorged or, Their motto is a pun: "Sine Macula" or "Without Sin in Latin or "Sin Not" in English!

The Town of Wexford coat of arms:  Argent a ship sable furnished /mounted artillery banners and pennons displayed all on fire. We chose to use the motto to represent Wexford: Per aquam et ignem (through water and fire). We could find no reference to heraldry for the Barony of Forth.

Deciding what to do...

We collected various web photos of extant medieval flags and banners as inspiration, and asked a few knowledgable friends to help. We decided that we would not create a flag, which is the name, emblem, device or trademark of company or individual occupying the building - this is because we wanted to represent several motifs, periods and people who had lived at the castle. We did create a few simple single flags with the main charge of each family.

Instead, we chose to create a Standard - a long tapering flag used in battle. We have seen many versions of these in history and in our medieval re-enactment and saw it as a venue to display the story of the castle over time. Often they had many charges on them plus mottoes on transverse bands, dividing the standard into compartments.  These were not seen outside Tudor period except for funerals, as a standing army was created during Henry VIIi time and diminished need for personal badges and heraldry in war. We like the idea of a long swirling standard at the top of the tower, and the layout gave us a chance to incorporate a lot of elements

So the elements on our standard are:

  • The Harp of Ireland (represented since 1542)
  • The Motto of Wexford Town (Per aquam et ignem - through water and fire)
  • The Imperial Eagle - representing Siggins
  • The Motto of the Jacobs  (Tantum in Supremos - Only the Proud)
  • The Wolf and Chevron of the Jacobs
  • The Motto of the Wilsons (Semper Vigilant - Always Vigilant)
  • The Wolf Rampant of the Wilsons
  • The Motto of Gordon (Semper Vellosus - Always Fuzzy)
  • The Hare (and missing Gorse) of Sigginstown Castle today

Construction: Making and flying the actual flag

We wanted the flag to look as period as possible, and decided to do it in heavy white linen. It is bound with a cotton tape, and has two heavy duty brass grommets with heavy canvas on the left.

The flag is painted on both sides with acrylic paint. Oil or egg tempera would have been more period but there is a limit to what Liz could handle! The flag was painted in the US, and in a  Turkey hotel room before arriving in Ireland. Because it is painted on both sides, the colors would bleed through a bit and had to be touched up with off-white paint.

The Tower is not yet finished and we wanted to fly the flag on something, but we could not put up a proper flag pole. So after some research, Liz selected a "heavy duty" fiber glass telescoping pole, that is typically used at the beach.  Hah!  This pole was no match for Wexford Wind 60 feet up!

Friend Mick help us wedge some stones at the top of the tower and we erected the pole through an opening in the watchtower. We raised the flag on a day with 18 mph winds.  Neighbors were able to see the flag - good! We were quite excited at this historic moment - the flag had not probably flown there in 200 years! The next morning, we came by to be told the flag had been rescued by our neighbor, David, after the pole snapped in half!

So the flag only flies for limited times and on much sturdier poles (like scaffolding). We know that modern flags are now usually made of Nylon, polyester or duratex for really large size. We are glad to have used linen for our project, but see how quickly the wind can wear it down.

Extant Flags and Banners of interest

Extant Flags and Banners of interest:

To the left is Oliver Cromwell's funeral 1658 escutcheon at the Museum of London, with a very interesting story of preparing for a large state funeral, and how the flag was stolen off a hearse by a Westminster schoolboy!

19th Century Standard of Ireland: This old flag was up for auction just before our project. We loved the stylized harp with the strings going the wrong way.

The Maid of Ghent Banner 1481-82 by Agnes van den Bossche, a female banner painter

The  16th century Ceremonial Standard of the Douglas of Cavars Family, National Museums of Scotland. Dimensions are 1.2m high x 4 m long.

We used this s

Some additional interesting trivia about heraldry

Two Furs were originally used in heraldry: ermine (white with black spots) and vair - squirrel furs for cloak lining indicated by blue and white upside down "U" connected up and down into a wavy line.  This represented the variance in color when furs were lined up in alternating patters. Interestingly, it is suggested that Cinderella's slipper was made of fur, and written as verre or vaire, but mistranslated as "glass". Makes more sense, but the glass slippers are now entrenched in the story!

A snarky quote from Fox-Davies (1904): "the present Garter King of Arms would rather perish on the scaffold than grant a decently simple coat!" the more colors a shield has, the less the coat of arms is esteemed.

"Stains"- created by old heralds for preposterous system of abatements: "one of those pleasant little insanities which have done so much to the detriment of heraldry", says Fox-Davies. This was the entire reversal of escutcheon - a ceremony of degradation following attainder of high treason. Erased from college of arms at execution, said to have been painted reversed on paper (sounds like upside-down crosses in films), fastened to his breast. Arms were void unless attainder was reversed. No example of abatement has been found according to Fox-Davies, however since Edward Siggins was attainted for high treason after Cromwell and his lands were forfeited with many others in Ireland, it does beg the question of how all these arms were dealt with by the College of Arms - or were they allowed to still use them?

A "Visitation" from the King of Arms would occur to correct transgressions of lineage or use of arms that one was not entitled to.  These were documented with various drawings of heraldry and notes. Much like a visit from a tax auditor in modern times!

The study of flags is called Vexillology!


The Art of Heraldry, an Encyclopedia of Armory, by Arthur Fox-Davies Heraldry: 1904 

Alphabetical history of coats of arms belonging to families in Great Britain and Ireland  Alfred Morant editor.. 1874

Flagging Ireland - Irish Guide to Flag Design, Stan Vanytin - editor 

Medieval Painted Flags, a Study by Rebecca Robinson 

Blog by Will McLean, aka Galleon

Compleat Anachronist issue 153, 2011 Painted Flags of the Late Middle Ages by Shannon Miller

The General Armory of England, Scotland Ireland and Wales, Sir Bernard Burke 1884

The Standard Project: Banners Flags, Pennants and Standards by Haley Boehm (written after our project, but a good compilation)

(American) Rare flags