WOLCOTT AND WALCOT COATS-OF-ARMS
Revised May 2011
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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 was 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 three coats-of-arms for Walcot or Walcott, and one for Wolcott. The oldest, an escutcheon with martlets in orle, was used by the Walcotts of Walcott, Norfolk, about 1300. The second, a cross with fleur-de-lis, dating back to 1383 or earlier, was used by Sir John Walcot of Shropshire. Another one, a chevron and chess rooks, was granted in 1415 to John Walcot of Shropshire. A fourth coat-of-arms, used by the Wolcott family of Devon in the 15th century, was a cross with martlets.
1. Papworth's Ordinary of Briish Armorials, published in 1874, carries the coat of arms for Walcote of Norfolk. This Walcott 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.
2. The Surry Roll of Arms of 1383 gives the arms of Wolcot of Shropshire as: "Arg. on a cross patonce azure 5 fleur-de-lis or", that is, 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. John Walcot of Shropshire was knighted in France in 1380, before the Battle of Troyes. Sir John Walcot was sent to the Tower in 1390, a lodging usually reserved for political prisoners. This was the period when the House of Lancaster was challenging the House of York for the English throne. John must have been a Lancaster supporter. In the same year, he was moved to Marshalsea Prison where he remained for 3 more years. These arms also appear on the Willement Roll of Arms, 1392-7, and in the 1623 Visitation of Shropshire.
Similar arms "on a cross five fleur de lis" were on a window of the church at Smithsby, Derbyshire, quartered with Shepey, Comyn, and Walleis for William Shepey of Smithsby who married about 1430 Alice, daughter of Sir John Walcot and his wife, Elizabeth Walleis heiress of the manor of Smithsby. The 1619 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. The 1623 Visitation of Shropshire records the above arms for Walcot of Shropshire, as well as another with chess rooks divided by a chevron, given to John Walcot in 1415. In 1399 Henry, Duke of Lancaster, deposed King Richard II and assumed the crown as Henry IV. Under Henry's son, King Henry V, who reigned 1413-1422, John Walcot 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". This coat of arms has been used by the Shropshire Walcots for 500 years. It seems likely that the new arms was granted because John Walcott was not a direct descendant of Sir John Walcot, whose two daughters used them. 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 were said to have been used by John Walcott, Mayor of London.
An old story that the new coat of 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.
John Wollacott of High Bickington, Devon, registered this coat-of-arms and a family pedigree during the 1620 Herald's Visitation of Devonshire. 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.
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. Burke also gives another variation for Wollcot of Exeter, having a blue field with a cross patonce. 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.
There were two sets of arms recorded for the Devon Wolcotts on the1620 Herald's Visitation of Devon, the Wolcott arms with five martlets on a cross flory, and the first Shropshire Walcot 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. The Wolcott arms may have been a modification of the earlier Shropshire Walcot arms.
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