WOLCOTT AND WALCOT COATS-OF-ARMS
Revised July 2017
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Tomb of Samuel Wolcott
A genealogy connecting Henry Wolcott, the immigrant, to the Shropshire Walcots was put together by H. G. Somerby in the 1850s, using the facts known at that time. The family's use of the Walcot arms encouraged him to produce a genealogy connecting the two families. This linking was described by Rev. Samuel Wolcott, author of the first Wolcott genealogy, as "conjectural". The Walcot coat-of-arms has been used by the Society of Descendants of Henry Wolcott for the past 100 years as its official emblem. Research done in England in the 1980s found no evidence to support any blood relationship. Recent DNA studies confirm that the Shropshire Walcots and the Somerset Wolcotts are two seperate families.
Although coats of arms had been used in England for a long time, the customs governing their use had been pretty loose until King Henry V issued the first law regulating coats-of-arms in England in 1417. It was then proclaimed that no one could assume arms unless he held them by right of inheritance or by the donation of some person who had the power to give them "except for those who with us carried them at the battle of Agincourt." Under English law, a coat-of-arms is the property of the individual to who it is given, and descends in the male line to the eldest son. Verification of the right to use the arms is within the jurisdiction of the College of Arms, the official authority for authorizing English coats-of-arms. The College of Arms can also authorize the use of a variation of the coat-of-arms by a descendant other than in the eldest male line, as long as some part of the arms has been changed.
The College of Arms has recorded the following coats-of-arms for Walcote, Walcot, and Wolcott:
1. Walcote of Walcott, Norfolk. This family derived their surname from the village of Walcott, Norfolk. Sir Walter de Walcote c. 1290-1355, and his son, Sir Walter de Walcote, c.1330-1366, lords of Walcott and Gunton, used these arms: azure, an escutcheon between martlets in orle, argent; on a blue background, a silver shield surrounded by a circle of martlets. The arms are recorded in the Norfolk and Suffolk Roll of Arms, c.1400.
2. Walcote of Walcote, Leicestershire. This family derived their surname from the village of Walcote near Luttersworth, Leicestershire. The Surry Roll of Arms, c.1397, gives the arms of "Sir John de Walcote. Arg. on a cross patonce azure 5 fleur-de-lis or"; a silver shield with a blue cross, charged with five gold fleur-de-lis. Patonce crosses have each arm of the cross terminating in 3 points. Sir John Walcot was knighted in France in 1380, before the Battle of Troyes. These arms also appear in the 1623 Visitation of Shropshire: "Joh'es Walcot de Walcot in com. Salop miles. anno 6 R.2; on a cross patonce azure 5 fleur-de-lis or". Sir John who held these arms, however, was not related to the Walcot family of Shropshire. The date, 1383, was probably when the arms were first recorded by the heralds.
These arms "on a cross five fleur de lis" were on a window of the church at Smithsby, Derbyshire, a village on the border of Leicestershire. It is quartered with Shepey, Comyn, and Walleis for William Shepey of Smisby who married about 1430 Alice, daughter of Sir John Walcot and his wife, Elizabeth Walleis heiress of the manor of Smisby, The 1619 Heralds' Visitation of Leicester has a pedigree of the heirs of Alice's sister and coheiress, Margaret Walcot, who married John Danvers. This Visitation gives the Danvers coat-of-arms quartered with that of Walleis and Walcot, "Argent on a cross formee azure 5 fleur de lis or".
3. Walcot of Walcot, Shropshire. The 1623 Heralds' Visitation of Shropshire records "John Walcot of Walcot, anno 3 Henry V (1415), arms, argent a chevron between three chess rooks ermines"; on a silver shield, three chess rooks divided by a chevron ermined. Under King Henry V, who reigned 1413-1422, John Walcot of Walcott, Shropshire, married Matilda, daughter of Sir Richard Cornwall, Baron Burford, whose nephew, Sir John Cornwall, was married to the king's aunt. John Walcot was then granted a coat of arms, "a chevron between 3 chess rooks sable", which has since been used by the Shropshire Walcots. A volume of heraldry for the gentry of Shropshire and Worchestershire, dated 1676, gives these arms, "Walcott: Argent, a cheveron betwene 3 chessrooks erm. Som give on a fess sable, 3 escalops or." The latter arms are said to have been used by John Walcott, Mayor of London.
An old story that the arms were granted because John Walcot beat King Henry V at a game of chess seems unlikely. It seems more likely that they were chosen because the Walcot estates were adjascent to the town of Bishop's Castle, Shropshire. A chess rook was traditionally shaped like a castle.
4. Wolcott als. Woolcott of Devon. John Wollacott of High Bickington, Devon, registered a coat-of-arms and a family pedigree during the 1620 Herald's Visitation of Devonshire: "on a shield divided vertically blue and red, a silver cross flory with 5 black martlets, with a gold "chief" with a fleur-de-lis between two red rings; the crest a silver griffin's head with drops of blood, holding in it's beak a fleur-de-lis with three gold coins. A cross flory has the arms of the cross divided into three points. Martlets are heraldic birds, always shown without feet. Two early treatises on arms, one written in 1394 by John de Bado Aurea, and the other written in 1466 by Nicholas Upton, state that the martlet, when used on arms, indicated that the first bearer of them had acquired nobility by his own exertions or by the patronage of a Lord or King, since the martlet is shown without feet indicating that he had lacked foundations of his own to begin with. The griffin is a mythological beast, half lion and half eagle.
On this manuscript there is a marginal note referring to another manuscript of the Tudor period or earlier (prior to 1547), which gave these arms for John Wolcott of Exeter. Another marginal note states that John Wolcot of Chudleigh and his son, John, did commonly bear the arms of Skerret (Or a chief indented sable). This John Wolcott of Chudley died at Exeter in 1549, and was the father of John Wolcott who lived at Exeter most of his life. The 1620 Visitation states that John Wolcott of Chagford, father of John Wolcott of Chudleigh, "for his good service in the warres had an addition given to his armies, on a chief or a lis entre two annulets". In order to receive an augmentation, the recipient must already have been an acknowledged bearer of a coat-of-arms. The fleur-de-lis on the augmentation of honor probably indicates that it was received for service in the Hundred Years War with France.
Joseph Holland's Roll of Arms, dated about 1579, gives these arms for "Walcot of Exeter". Hooker's Mss. 5827, written about 1580 and thought to have been copied from an earlier list, gives a variation of these arms for Wolcott, with the chief containing "a rose between two fleur-de-lis proper". Brooke's Mss. 28834, dated about 1587, gives the same arms as Holland for Wolcote. Burke's General Armory gives additional arms for the Woolcott family of Morston like that of the College of Arms, but with the shield silver, and for Walcot of Oxford like the College of Arms, but with the cross "patonce", perhaps differences for younger sons. These last two coats were used by descendants of John of Chagford's second son, Richard, brother of John Wolcott of Chudleigh. The descendants of Maximillian Wolcott of Knole House, Devon, also Richard's descendants, recorded with the Heralds' office similar arms with the cross of gold. Two other variations are known, one for Woolcot with a chief charged with a cross between two fleur-de-lis, and one for Woolcott with the shield red and a chief with a fleur-de-lis between two red crosses" formee", which may also be arms differenced for those not in the eldest male line.
The1620 Herald's Visitation of Devon also records the Leicestershire Walcote arms with five fleur-de-lis on a cross patonce. Both arms were followed by the word, "quere", indicated that there was a question about the arms.
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