We occasionally get asked about  the Willingale Coat of Arms/Family Crest.

Historically, armorial bearings were first used by feudal lords and knights in the mid-12th century on battlefields as a way to identify allied from enemy soldiers, later arms were adopted by other social classes such as the clergy and later still by peasants and commoners.

It’s a common misbelief that families have the right to such a crest or Coat of Arms, however Coats of Arms are actually awarded to individuals and not families, although they can pass through the male line, usually with small amendments to differentiate each owner.

In the UK the College of Arms regulates Coats of Arms and proof of direct descendancy is required for the legal right to bear an ancestor’s coat of arms.

Some years ago I photographed a Willingale Coat of Arms and the most recent enquiry, prompted me to do some digging in an attempt to prove or disprove its authenticity.

We have traced our family tree back to the 1500s but have found no record of anyone using a Coat of Arms. Initially I looked at some German Coats of Arms for names like Winterthur and Villinger as some sources state Willingale is an anglicised version of these. These arms look nothing like the Arms I photographed at Lopping Hall.

I then turned to some of the early spellings of Willingale and found that a commercial ‘History’ of the Willingale name gave a description of the Willingale Coat of Arms but stated ‘The arms depicted here have been quartered with Willing and Gale’ These arms matched the photograph, but the description seems to indicate there has never been a ‘Willingale’ Coat of Arms, and to get round this problem someone decided to merge the Arms of two completely different names to create the ‘Willingale Coat of Arms’. A quick Google confirmed these Arms contained elements of both a Willing and Gale Arms.

I think from this we can conclude the Willingale Crest I photographed has no link to anyone with the Willingale family name.