Grimshaw Coat of Arms and Crest

Originally Recorded in Heralds’ Visitations in 1567, 1613 and 1664-65

Image from Manuscript 1468, Folio 72 of Harleian Manuscripts (see also the homepage of this website)

The coat of arms of the earliest recorded Grimshaw family line at Clayton-le-Moors is dominated by a griffin, a mythological creature that is half lion and half eagle. The crest consists of two lions heads arranged back to back. This coat of arms was recorded during Heralds’ visitations (see companion webpage) in 1567 (Flower), 1613 (St George), and 1664 65 (Dugdale). Additional versions have been granted by the College of Arms since the visitations.

The right to use a coat of arms and crest is granted by the College of Arms in London. No living Grimshaw apparently has the right to use the arms of the earliest family. Background information on the right to use arms is provided in the final section of this webpage.


Webpage Credit

Grimshaw Coat of Arms Descriptions in Widely Used References

Grimshaw Arms in the Records of the Heralds’ Visitations

Pollard’s Confirmation of the Coat of Arms

Hilary Tulloch’s Inquiry to the College of Arms

Ewing Grimshaw’s Coat of Arms

Captain John Grimshaw of the 5th Royal Lancashire Militia (and Hutton Lodge)

Grimshaw of High Bank, Lancashire

Alleged Connection between the Grimshaw Arms and a Large Snake Killed by a Grimshaw

Background Information on the Right to Arms


Webpage Credit

Hilary Tulloch deserves much of the credit for this webpage. Not only did she make available the results of her inquiry to the York Herald (of the College of Arms) on the status of Grimshaw arms (included below), but she also provided an image of the arms of her father, Ewing Grimshaw. She also provided essential guidance, including references, on how English heraldry “works,” thus helping this American webpage author to avoid mistakes of ignorance! Any lingering ignorance of the complex area of English heraldry, as reflected on this webpage, is strictly the responsibility of the webpage author.

Grimshaw Coat of Arms Descriptions in Widely Used References

Burkes General Armory1, one of the most widely used references on English armory, provides the following description of the earliest Grimshaw coat of arms (p. 430):

“Ar. a griffin segreant sa. beaked and legged or. Crest – Two lions heads, erased, collared, and endorsed, ppr.”

The abbreviations in this description are defined as follows:

Ar. =

Argent, the metallic tincture silver. (Could also be Armed; all birds which have talons and bills that aid them to seize and rend their prey, are in blazon said to be armed when those weapons differ in tincture from their bodies.)

griffin =

An imaginary animal, the upper half that of an eagle, and the lower half that of a lion.

sergeant =

Applied to a griffin when erect, with wings endorsed.

sa. =

— the tincture black (Could also be salient
— the posture of an animal leaping on its prey.)

or. =

The tincture of gold or yellow.

erased =

Forcibly torn from the body, a head, limb, or other object erased, has its severed parts jagged like the teeth of a saw.

endorsed =

addorsed — Placed back to back.

ppr. =

proper — Applied to every animal, vegetable, etc., when borne of their natural color.

Fairbairn2, another commonly used reference, provides the following very similar descriptions of the Grimshaw coat of arms and crest (p. 218):

Grimshaw, Lanc., a griffin, segreant, sa., beaked and membered, or. Pl. 67, cr. 13.

Grimshaw, Eng., two lions heads, erased, (collared,) and addorsed, ppr. Pl. 28, cr. 10

The indicated diagrams in Fairbairn for the griffin (Plate 67) and lions’ heads (Plate 28) are shown below.

In somewhat plain English, the arms might be described as follows (credits to Hilary Tulloch for this interpretation):

A background of argent (silver), the principal device being a griffin segreant (upright, with wings back-to-back) of the color sable (black), beaked and legged with or (metallic gold tincture).”

Griffin and lions’ heads of Grimshaw coat of arms and crest as depicted in Fairburn2. Plate 67, Image 13 and Plate 28, Image 10.

A later edition of Fairbairn (1993) provides the following on Grimshaws in the index:

Sharon Taylor’s Rendition

A rendition of the combined coat of arms and crest published by Taylor3 does a good job of illustrating the griffin and lions’ heads together. The figure below was traced from Taylor’s rendition.

Rendition of Grimshaw coat of arms and crest derived from Taylor3, showing griffin and lions’s heads together. (Bold line emphasis and color added by webpage author. Also, griffin is actually black, but is shown lighter for added clarity.)

Grimshaw Arms in the Records of the Heralds’ Visitations

During medieval times, the King dispatched his representatives (Heralds) to various parts of England to grant heraldic rights and to verify the validity of armorial bearings (coats of arms and crests) being used by various families. In many cases, family lineages were also recorded; these records therefore now comprise a valuable source of family history information. The Grimshaw arms and lineages were recorded in Heralds’ visitations in 1567, 1613 and 1664-65 and are described, as presented in the Harleian manuscripts, on a companion webpage. Shown below is a rendition of the Grimshaw arms that was recorded during the 1567 Heraldic Visitation (this image is also shown on the homepage of this website).

Diagram of Grimshaw Arms in the Visitation Book “Made in A.D. 1567 by William Flower Norroy.”

Pollard’s Confirmation of the Coat of Arms

Pollard4 (p. 25) provides additional detail on the Grimshaw arms as follows:

Adam de Grimshaw, living in 1314, married Cecily de Clayton, sole heiress of Clayton-le-Moors. The Grimshaws had as their arms, a griffin segreant (wings back to back) on a silver shield. They had their pedigree and arms sanctioned in the 1613 Visitation of the Heralds.

Hilary Tulloch’s Inquiry to the College of Arms

Hilary Tulloch requested a search of the official records of the College of Arms for Arms and Pedigrees recorded for Grimshaw. York Herald sent a report dated 3 Jun 1998 which included the following:

Arms and Pedigrees of Grimshaw

1. The Visitations:

Indices of the Heralds Visitations. These records cover the period between 1530 and 1689 and were compiled by the Heralds as they visited each county checking that the Arms being used were correct and also recording pedigrees. They also checked the unlawful assumption and display of Arms and the unlawful use of the titles of “Esquire” and “Gentleman”. There were the following references to the family of Grimshaw (spelled variously):-


C 5/68b: A Visitation of Lancashire in 1613 and made by Richard St. George (Norroy King of Arms) and Henry St. George (Bluemantle Pursuivant) records a five-generation pedigree headed by, “THOMAS GRYMSHAW of Grymshaw in Comm Lanc: Esqr” and his wife, the daughter and co-heiress of Sir John Harrington of Hornby. The Pedigree ends with the four sons (JOHN GRYMSHAW, son and heir, aged 20 in 1613; RICHARD GRYMSHAW; THOMAS GRYMSHAW; and NICHOLAS GRYMSHAW) and six daughters of “NICHOLAS CATTERALL [GRYMSHAW] of Caterall esq now living 1613″ and his wife, “Ellyn da: of Rushforth of Riddlesdon in com. Lanc:” There is a further but separate generation which records the marriage between “ADAMUS GRIMSHAW tempo Ed. 3″ and his wife “filia & haeres Henrici Clayton de Clayton in Com Lancaster” (King Edward III reigned between 1327 and 1377). There is no tricked depiction (i.e. a pen and ink sketch of armorial bearings in which abbreviations or letters are substituted for the tinctures) recorded.


C 37/154b. A Visitation of Lancashire in 1664 made by William Dugdale (Norroy King of Arms) recorded a sixteen-generation pedigree of “Grymshaw of Clayton on the Moores” on 13th March of that year in the Blakeburne Hundred. The pedigree is headed by: “WALTER GRYMESHAWE“. The fifth generation records the Adam Grymshaw who married Cecilia Clayton recorded in C 5/68b above. The pedigree ends with the only daughter recorded of “RICHARD GRYMSHAW of Clayton in the Moores in Com: Lanc: Esqr ” the son and heire (aged 36 in 1664) and married to Anne, the daughter of ? Tempest. RICHARD GRYMSHAW was himself, the eldest son of the JOHN GRYMSHAW who ends the five-generation pedigree recorded in C 5/68b above and who subsequently married Anne Colthurst. He died on 8 March 1662.There is a tricked depiction of Arms, the blazons of which I would read as Argent a Griffin segreant Sable armed, beaked and crowned Or. These, of course, would have been the Arms of those members of the family who actually signed the pedigree in 1664 and although they may well have been borne by earlier generations (as far back, if not further back than the 14th Century) this information is not included in our official records even though it might appear in modern printed volumes.


Pedigrees recorded between 1687 and the present day:

College of Arms Indexes of officially recorded pedigrees show the following reference to the name of Grimshaw (spelled variously):-


Norfolk 3/211: An extensive pedigree of Lumb incorporating two generations of Grimshaw headed by “WILLIAM GRIMSHAW of Halifax in the County of York Mercht. Died 12 Jan 1795 aged 45 years buried at Halifax”. He married Mary, fourth daughter of Richard Lumb (still living a widow in 1810).


Norfolk 37/99: A pedigree of Lomax incorporating two generations of Grimshaw headed by “JOHN GRIMSHAW of Sparth in Clayton le Moors co: Pal: Lancaster Died 14 1663″ and his wife, Jennet, daughter and heir of Robert Cunliffe. Their second daughter, Mary Anne (eventual coheir and in her issue, sole heir) married John Heywood and their daughter married Richard Lomax of Polsworth and Burnshaw, Lancashire. There is a cross-reference in this record to C37/154b (described above).


Surrey 21/168: A four-generation pedigree headed by “RICHARD ATKINSON-GRIMSHAW, formerly Richard Atkinson, Clerk in Holy Orders, Matriculated at Oxford as of St Johns College 14 March 1839 aged 17; Bachelor of Arts 1843; Master of Arts 1849; admitted at the Inner Temple 8 June 1842, vicar of Cockerham co: pal: Lancaster 1858-81 “. He changed his name by Royal Licence dated 21 July 1877 (reference L66/44) and married Anna Maria, the daughter of Charles Hughes Hallett. This pedigree ends with the son (CHARLES WILLIAM ATKINSON-GRIMSHAW) born 17 July 1910 at Florence (later H.M. Consul in Genoa, Italy, and Santos, Brazil) who married Beatrice daughter of Francesco de Balzo dei Duchi di Presenzano) of CHARLES RICHARD ATKINSON-GRIMSHAW (born 17 December 1877 and died 14 October 1933) and his wife Bianca Bitossi. There is a cross reference in this record to Grants 60/92 (described below).


Surrey 25/295: A three-generation pedigree headed by “JAMES NORMAN GRIMSHAW of Old Town Head West Bradford co: pal: Lancaster” and his wife, Dorothy Mary Grey. The pedigree ends with the son (JAMES NICHOLAS MICHAEL GRIMSHAW) of JOHN JEREMY NICHOLAS GRIMSHAW of Rinnington, Lancashire (born 23 September 1935) and his wife, Susan Anthea Yorke.


Grants recorded between 1530 and the present day:

Indices of Grants made by the English and Ulster Kings of Arms between 1530 and the present day contain the following references to Grimshaw (spelled variously) as follows:-



L66/44: This copy of a Royal Licence, dated 21 July 1877, records that Richard Atkinson was the nephew of Edmund Grimshaw, a Barrister of Lincolns Inn, Middlesex, and of Pierremont near Broadstairs, Isle of Thanet, Kent. Edmund Grimshaw, in his last Will and Testament, left his residual estate to Richard Atkinson on the condition that within one year of his death the latter should change his name and bear the Arms of Grimshaw (see Grants 60/92 below).


Grants 60/92: A Grant of quartered Armorial Bearings dated 9 February 1878 by Warrant under Royal Signet and Sign Manual and made to “RICHARD ATKINSON of St Johns College in the University of Oxford Clerk Master of Arts, Vicar of Cookerham, Lancashire”. He was authorised to change his name to Atkinson-Grimshaw and to take the Arms of Grimshaw quartered in the first Quarter with those of Atkinson. The Arms granted were to be born by him and his descendants and there is an exemplification of the quartered Arms and Crest, the blazons of which read as follows:-


(Quarterly 1st and 4th) “Per pale argent and sable a Gryphon segreant and in chief two quatrefoils all counter-changed” (Grimshaw)

(Quarterly 2nd and 3rd) “Ermine on a fesse gules between four pheons two and two azure a Lion passant between two Crosses patée Or” (Atkinson)


On a wreath (Argent and Sable) “A demi Gryphon sable semé of mullets of six points argent holding between the claws an escocheon Or charged with a quatrefoil sable” (Grimshaw)

On a wreath (Argent and Gules) “A rock proper thereon a pheon azure surmounted by a cross patée” (Atkinson)



3.2Grants 124/309: A Grant of Armorial Bearings dated 9th March 1962 and made to “EWING HENRY WRIGLEY GRIMSHAW of The Trellis House in the Parish of Copford in the County of Essex, Esquire ” CBE, DSO, Major General, General Officer commanding 44th (Home Counties) Division/District, Lieutenant and Deputy Constable of Dover Castle, Kent, The Arms granted were to be born by him and his descendants and there is an exemplification of the Arms, Crest and Motto, the blazons of which read as follows:


“Per fess Azure and Argent a Griffin segreant Sable armed bearded crowned with a Saxon Crown and holding in the dexter forefoot a Grenade Or fired proper “Crest:

On a Wreath (Argent and Azure) “A Griffin as in the Arms standing within the Battlements of a Castle proper”



Additional information on the records of the Heralds’ Visitations (Section 1 above) is given in a companion webpage on the Harleian Manuscripts. Thanks again go to Hilary for making this information available.

Ewing Grimshaw’s Coat of Arms

According to Hilary Tulloch, the only Grimshaw arms that are still current (i.e., approved by the College of Arms) is that of her father, Ewing Grimshaw (see Section 3.2 in table above.) Hilary has graciously provided the following image as a representative of (not the official rendition) Ewing Grimshaw’s arms.

Figure 4. Representative image (not the College-of-Arms approved version) of Ewing Grimshaw’s Arms

Captain John Grimshaw of the 5th Royal Lancashire Militia (and Hutton Lodge)

John Grimshaw, descendant of Nicholas and Anne Grimshaw (of Oakenshaw) in the Pendle Forest Line, was Captain in the 5th Royal Lancashire Militia and J.P for Westmorlund6. His coat of arms is included in Foster7 and is shown below on this webpage. John and his wife, Mary Jane Hutton, are shown in the 9th generation of the Pendle Forest descendant chart.

Captain John Grimshaw’s coat of arms and crest are included in Fosters2 Pedigrees of County Families of England and in Fairbairn, p 244 of 1993 edition: “Grimshaw, Captain John, of Hutton Lodge, Kirkby Stephen, J.P., D.L., a griffin segreant as., beaked and membered or, ducally crowned of the last. Candide et constanter.” The Latin is for “fair and firmly”.

Grimshaw of High Bank, Lancashire

Bob Facer has provided the following Grimshaw coat of arms, which can be identified from Fairbairn (1993, above): “Grimshaw of High Bank, Lancs., a demi-griffin, sa. Tenax proposito, vinco, 64.2″. The Latin is for “Being tenacious of purpose, I conquer”, indicating that the banner in the image below is missing the vinco portion.

The “Grimshaw of High Bank” is most likely the one described on a companionwebpage on the Audenshaw Line of Grimshaws as follows:

John Grimshaw, fifth generation descendant of the Audenshaw Grimshaw family line, has the following entry (p. 508) in Burke’s8 “Genealogical Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry”. Note that John was at the time a magistrate for Lancaster and Chester.

Alleged Connection between the Grimshaw Arms and a Large Snake Killed by a Grimshaw

Charles Owen5, in an early (1742) quasi-scientific book on snakes and other serpents, made reference to a large serpent that dwelled in Ooze Castle Wood, about a mile form the Grimshaw location in Eccleshill, and was killed by a chap named Grimshaw. The relevant pages of Owen’s book are shown on a companion webpage.

Owen indicates a connection between the Grimshaw griffin on the coat of arms and the tale of the serpent killing, but the nature of the relationship is anything but clear. The Grimshaw who killed the snake was the proprietor of Clayton Hall, so the event occurred after about 1350, when the Grimshaws moved from Eccleshill to Clayton-le-Moors. Other evidence suggests that the Grimshaws were using a griffin as some type of symbol (probably a coat of arms) well before that date. Additional analysis of Owen’s (apparently mistaken) connection of the snake-killing incident and the Grimshaw griffin is given on the companion webpage.

Background Information on the Right to Arms

The (British) Society of Genealogists has prepared a number of helpful leaflets on genealogical research in England. Among them is Leaflet No. 15, “The Right to Arms”, which is presented below as background information. It comes from their website at the following address:

Surprisingly few people who use a coat of arms and crest today have any actual right to do so. Armorial bearings do not appertain to all persons of a given surname but belong to and identify members of one particular family. Coats of arms and crests are a form of property and may rightfully be used only by the male-line descendants of the individual to whom they were first granted or allowed. Such grants were and are made by the appropriate heraldic authority acting under the sovereign. These authorities are: (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) the College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4BT, and (for Scotland) the Lyon Office, New Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YT. In the Republic of Eire, the relevant official is the Chief Herald of Ireland, Genealogical Office, 2 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, Eire. In order to discover whether an inherited right to arms exists, it is necessary to trace ones male-line ancestry back as far as possible and then to examine the official records of the heraldic authority concerned.

Unfortunately, over the centuries, many families have simply assumed arms and crests belonging to other families of the same name, usually without authority and without demonstrating any relationship between the families. It follows that mere usage of a coat of arms, even over a long period, does not necessarily indicate a descent from the family for whom it was first recorded. Indeed, more often than not, there is no such connection. Even in the days when a tax was levied on the use of armorial bearings, those paying the tax by no means always had an established right to arms.

The erroneous and widespread practice of adopting the arms of a family of the same surname (extracted in most cases from one of the printed armorials listing the arms of families alphabetically) is much to be deplored. It detracts from the basic purpose of coats of arms and crests, which is to provide hereditary symbols by which particular families may be identified.

Grants of new arms have been made to worthy applicants, on payment of fees, since the fifteenth century. The practice continues to this day, and in addition grants of honorary arms are occasionally made to foreign citizens of British male-line descent. There is no complete printed list of families granted arms in England prior to 1687 but an index of many surviving grants from that early period will be found in Grantees of Arms (Harleian Society, vol. 66, 1915). For the period 1687-1898 the great majority of persons to whom grants of arms were made are listed in Grantees of Arms II (Harleian Society, vols. 67 & 68, 1916-17). These do not describe the arms granted. Records of original grants are kept at the College of Arms, though the reason for a particular grant and the rationale behind a design of arms are not normally recorded.

The majority of families using arms in the period 1530-1687 established their heraldic rights at the Visitations made by heralds from the College of Arms who toured the country at intervals for that purpose. The office copies of pedigrees recorded at Visitations are at the College of Arms. Many of them have been printed, often from unofficial (and sometimes inaccurate) copies in the Harleian Manuscripts preserved at the British Library. References to printed pedigrees of Visitation families will be found in G W Marshall, The Genealogists Guide (1903), J B Whitmore, A Genealogical Guide (1953), and G B Barrow, The Genealogists Guide (1977). All three works need to be consulted. In the years since 1687, many pedigrees have been officially registered at the College of Arms, sometimes in order to establish a right to arms by descent and sometimes for purely genealogical interest.

The best known published armorial is Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory (last edition 1884), which lists families in alphabetical order and describes the arms they used. It is unofficial, incomplete and often inaccurate; though a useful general guide it should be used with the greatest care. A W Morants additions and corrections to Burkes list are to be found, edited and augmented by C R Humphery-Smith, in General Armory Two (1973). It may also be instructive to consult earlier works such as William Berry, Encyclopaedia Heraldica (4 vols. 1828-40), and the armory in Joseph Edmondson, A Complete Body of Heraldry (1780), vol. 2. Many families with an established right to arms in the period 1890-1929 are detailed in the various editions of A C Fox-Davies, Armorial Families (last edition 1929).

The formal description or blazoning of a coat of arms proceeds along certain well defined lines, and an unknown coat of arms on a signet ring or monument, for example, may be identified by using an ordinary, which indexes arms by design and gives the names of families to whom they have been attributed. The best known of these is J W Papworth, Ordinary of British Armorials (1874), but a knowledge of heraldic terminology is needed to consult it, and it is not in any case a complete index of British coats of arms. Many crests may be similarly identified from the series of plates in James Fairbairn, Book of Crests (4th edition, 2 vols. 1905). A more extensive collection of manuscript volumes at the College of Arms, known as Garters Ordinaries, enables the heralds to check whether any coat of arms or crest is to be found in their official records. The Dictionary of British Arms – Medieval Ordinary (Vol.1 1992, Vol.2 1996) edited by T Woodcock et al. are the first volumes of a project to revise Papworths Ordinary by concentrating on pre-visitation arms recorded prior to 1530, and with the addition of sources and name index; thus acting as a combined ordinary and armorial.

Mottoes are often associated with heraldic devices and may provide a useful clue in the identification of arms. However, there is no monopoly on the use of a particular motto, and the same motto may therefore be used by many different families. Numerous mottoes are listed and identified (and foreign ones translated) in C N Elvin, A Handbook of Mottoes (1860, revised edition 1971). Indexes of mottoes also appear in the Burke and Fairbairn volumes mentioned above.

The regulation of Scottish heraldry differs considerably from the system in England, and all persons using arms are required to register or matriculate their right to arms in the Court of Lord Lyon King of Arms. No Visitations were made in Scotland, and the records of grants and matriculations of arms commence only in 1672. The shields of arms (but not the crests) are all listed for the period 1672-1973 in Sir James Balfour Paul, An Ordinary of Arms contained in the Public Register of all Arms and Bearings in Scotland (2 vols. 1903 and 1977). The wrongful assumption of arms in Scotland is punishable by fine and imprisonment.

An Ulster King of Arms was first appointed in 1552, and records of grants in Ireland exist from that date. Heraldic jurisdiction over Northern Ireland was transferred to the College of Arms in 1943, the office of Ulster King of Arms being joined to that of Norroy King of Arms. In the Republic of Ireland, an official Genealogical Office was established in Dublin, with the Chief Herald of Ireland at its head, and his authority is the primary one in Eire. Photocopies of the old records of Ulster King of Arms are deposited in the College of Arms, the originals being retained by the Chief Herald.

Those of Scottish and Irish origin living abroad should apply to the appropriate office for information about grants and registrations. In Edinburgh and Dublin the records are open for public inspection, and personal searches can be made.

In England, the College of Arms is unsupported from public funds and access to its records (described in A R Wagner, The Records and Collections of the College of Arms, 1952) is therefore limited. However, the heralds do undertake searches in the records on payment of professional fees, and if an enquirer wishes to consult a particular manuscript appropriate arrangements can be made. Enquiries should be addressed in the first instance to any individual herald or to the Officer in Waiting, College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4BT. The College of Arms is open for enquiries between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.


1Burke, Sir Bernard, 1884, The General Armory of England, Scotland and Wales: London, Harrison (Books), 1185 p.

2Fairbairn, James, 1986, Fairbairns Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland: Poole, England, New Orchard Editions, 599 p.

3Taylor, Sharon, 1982, The Amazing Story of the Grimshaws in America: Halberts, Inc., 63 p.+

4Pollard, Louie, 1978, Great Harwood Gleanings: Lancashire County Library and Leisure Committee, unk p.

5Owen, Charles, 1742, An Essay Towards a Natural History of Serpents in Two Parts: London, Printed for the Author, Sold by John Gray, at the Cross-Keys in the Poultry, near Cheapside, 240 p.

6Burke, Sir Bernard, and Ashworth P. Burke, 1914, Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain: London, Harrison & Sons, p. 832

7Foster, Joseph, 1873, Pedigrees of the County Families of England, vol. 1 – Lancashire: London, Head, Hole & Co., unk. p.

8Burke, John Bernard, 1847,  Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: London, Henry Colburn, 4th ed.

Webpage History

Webpage posted July 2000, Updated November 2000. Updated March 2010 with addition of coats of arms for “High Bank Grimshaw” from Bob Facer and John Grimshaw.