The band’s badge is based upon the Gravesend arms granted in December 1635, which replaced arms granted in 1619 and were themselves replaced in 1975. Although the badge is no longer worn on jacket pockets, a simplified version is still used on the band’s music stand banners (see aside).
Gravesend’s 1619 arms are described as “Vert, a boat with 1 mast Or, sail furled proper, rowed by 5 rowers hooded and cloaked, with oars and anchor, Sable, steered by a porcupine, Azure, chained and quilled of the third.” The Crest is a “Boat Or with one mast lying at anchor in the river. On the hills beyond a Porcupine Sable.”
After Gravesend’s third royal charter dated 23rd June 1635, James Duke of Lennox, Earl of March and Dudley was appointed to be the first High Steward of Gravesend. The town took a new coat of arms similar to the Duke’s by way of respect and grateful acknowledgement of many favours done for the Corporation of Gravesend and Milton by his grace. The bull and tower were taken from the oldest seal of the town, the border was taken from the arms of the Duke.
These are the arms on which the band badge is based. The heraldic description of the arms is “Argent a tower Gules charged with a Buffalo’s-head Sable issuing out of a ducal Coronet Or, all within a Bordure Azure charged with five Fleur de Lis, and as many oval Buckles alternately of the fourth.
The description of the town crest granted at the same time is “In a ducal Coronet Or a Buffalo’s-head Sable armed Or Fire issuing from his mouth proper.”
As with all heraldry the descriptions are partly written in Norman French, and have no punctuation, so a more understandable description is “On a silver background there is a red tower on which a black bulls head sits in a golden ducal coronet. This is surrounded by an azure blue border that has five fleur de lis and five oval buckles alternating, each of which is coloured the same as the fourth colour mentioned i.e. gold.
As no orientation is given for the bull it faces dexter (to its right) by default (so looks to the left as far as the viewer is concerned), and as per the English tradition is armed and langed Or (has gold weapons – horns and tongue). The crest is a black bulls head sitting in a gold ducal coronet. The bull has gold horns, and is breathing fire which is naturally coloured (gold outside, red inside!).
The motto ‘Decus et Tutamen’ appeared on King Charles’s Crown piece. It can be translated in many ways, ‘Glory and Defence’, ‘Honor and Security’, ‘Shield and Protection’, ‘An ornament and a safeguard’. The translations towards the start of the list are probably the more meaningful ones in Gravesend’s case.
Colours used in heraldry are Gules (Red), Azure (Bright Sky Blue), Vert (Emerald Green), Purpure (Royal Purple), Sable (Black). There are also two metals: Or (Gold/Yellow) and Argent (Silver/White). Some charges may be described as proper (in their natural colours), and certain furs are allowed e.g. Ermine.
The field is the background and is always the first metal/colour listed. A charge is something that appears over the field, or over another charge. There are many good internet sites relating to heraldry if you want to know more.
Rules for heraldry say that colours should only appear on metals, and vice versa, except for small details and where the charge is proper. This would have originally been to help with visibility of charges. The Gravesend coat of arms breaks this rule as the black bull appears on the red tower> However the bull could be considered to be proper (naturally black) rather than sable, as this would be allowed.
The arms as depicted above further break the rules because:
- there are black lines around most charges (to help the metals/colours stand out more), and used to indicate stones and portcullis in the tower (to make the badge look nicer!
- a Ducal coronet has eight strawberry leaves spaced evenly around its circumference, (the one above only has four).
The band does not use the motto, but has used a scroll containing the word Gravesend or the bands name, as can be seen in the photographs below.
The 1635 arms are still visible in places around town. Here are some examples of interpretations of Gravesend’s Arms:
In 1974 as part of local government reorganisation the Borough of Gravesend was merged with other local parishes (Cobham, Higham, Luddesdown, Meopham and Shorne) and the Northfleet Urban District to become Gravesham (a name dating back to at least Anglo Saxon times, and appearing in the Domesday Book ). New arms were granted 15th July 1975 which include elements from the previous arms (Bull, Tower and Buckles), and ones prior to that (porcupine), along with symbols to incorporate the additional parishes.
Details of the arms of Gravesham can be found on the Towncentric site, as can other historical information about the area.