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Company Arms

The College of Arms was founded in 1484 and has since then created and maintained official registers of coats of arms and pedigrees. The heralds who make up the College are members of the Royal Household and act under Crown Authority. Central activities include: the granting of new coats of arms; the registration of family trees; genealogical and heraldic research; advising central and local government, corporate bodies, and private individuals on all aspects of heraldry.

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

The College of Arms:

At the core of the College is a vast manuscript archive of heraldic and genealogical material which has been gathered and preserved over the centuries.


The College of Arms holds in its collection five manuscripts relating to the armorial bearings of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. These documents have been photographed and are reproduced below by Permission of the Kings, Heralds and Pursuivants of Arms. Grateful thanks are passed to Mr Peter O'Donoghue (York Herald) and Dr Lynsey Darby (Archivist) at the College of Arms, for their kind assistance in this matter and to Company member Matthew Schellhorn for much of the following commentary on these manuscripts:

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

College of Arms

MS 2 C. 24 p. 213

A certificate of the Arms and Crest of the Company, accompanied by a pen and ink drawing, was issued during the heralds’ visitation of London in 1634, by Sir Henry St George, Richmond Herald. 

It states that the Arms and Crest had been granted to the Company by Letters Patent of Sir William Camden, Clarenceux King of Arms, dated 15 October 1604. 

The tinctures, or heraldic colours, are shown by means of tricking – a traditional method of colouring the various elements using a simple code. Under this system the armorial bearings may be blazoned as follows: Azure a Swan with wings expanded Argent within a double tressure flory counter-flory Or on a chief Gules a

pale between two Lions passant gardant Or thereon a Rose Gules barbed and seeded Vert And for the Crest with a wreath Or and Azure: A Lyre Or.

This heraldic description is taken from J.Bromley and H.Child, The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London (London: Frederick Warne 1961), pp.178-80 and can be roughly translated as:

A silver (Argent) swan with wings outstretched on a blue (Azure) background within two golden (Or) borders with floral decoration alternately the right way up and then upside down (double tressure flory counter-flory). The band running across the top of the shield (the Chief) is red (Gules) with two golden lions walking with one paw raised and looking at the viewer (passant gardant). A central golden vertical stripe (a pale, Or) contains a red rose with green leaves and green central seeds (barbed and seeded Vert). The Crest above the shield is a golden Lyre on a gold and blue wreath.

The Musicians' Company Archive Project
The Musicians' Company Archive Project

However, there is an incorrect assumption in this translation in that the painting produced by The College of Arms in 1889 (shown above), certified by the York Herald, Sir Alfred Scott-Gatty (left), clearly shows the central seeds as gold rather than green. The heraldic definition for this then becomes "...a Rose Gules barbed Vert and seeded Or" ie a red rose with green leaves and yellow seeds. It was in fact this heraldic description that was provided in the first and second Company Handbooks of 1902 and 1950 and that colour scheme does indeed form the basis of the Company Banner (Click Here) and the Master's Jewel.

As only green (Vert) is specifically mentioned for the Rose, this may have led Bromley and Child to conclude that in the absence of any mention of gold, the green referred to both the barbs AND the seeds of the rose. However, the College of Arms has confirmed that this conclusion cannot be drawn and in light of Scott-Gatty’s certification of the painting and other evidences including precedent, the description should be read as “barbed Vert and seeded Or”.

William Camden (1551–1623) was one of England’s most respected antiquaries and the author of the highly successful topographical and historical survey, Britannia, first published in 1586. In 1593, he was appointed Headmaster of Westminster School, and from 1597 until his death he was Clarenceaux King of Arms. His tomb is in Westminster Abbey, just across from Chaucer’s in what is now known as Poets’ Corner; the grave of his friend and executor, the composer William Heather (c. 1563–1627), is nearby.


A semi-diplomatic transcription of the words in the above image: 


The Armes and Crest of the Corporacion of the
liberall science of Musick and of the Company of Musitians
of the Citty of London granted unto the Master Wardens
and the rest of the Cominaltie of the said Corporacion
that then were and there successors forever by William
Camden Clarenceux King of Armes by Pattent
under his hand and seale bering date 15 October 1604
in the 2 yeare of King James and now again approved and
entred in the visitation of London made 1634 [at the time]

by Sir Henry Stgeorge Richmond and at this time was Philip Pikeman
Master William Clarke and Peter Janvrin wardens.
[signed] Michell Pimm Clarke

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

College of Arms

Camden’s Grants 1 f. 4r

A sketch of the Company’s Arms and Crest, dated October 1604, is found in a manuscript giving coats of Arms granted by Sir William Camden (image left). 

The WCOM Arms are represented in the Bottom Left of the page with traditional tricking being used again to show the tinctures. A note in the front cover by a later herald says these grants and confirmations were written and tricked by Camden  himself.

The Arms of the following are also featured on the same page:


Top Left:

'Thomas Antrobus one of the 6 clarks [in Chancery]', granted September 1604. The birth date of Thomas Antrobus is not clear. The eldest son of William Antrobus of Little Knutsford in Cheshire, he entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1572. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Ralph Woodcock, Alderman of London, in 1577. In 1604, he was elected a Member of Parliament for Andover in the first parliament of King James I. He died in 1611 and was buried in St Martin, Ludgate.


Top Right:

'Sir Roger Jones Sheriff of London',  granted September 1604. He was Sheriff of the City of London under the Mayoralty in 1605–06 of Sir Thomas Lowe, who was later MP for the City of London in 1614 during the so-called Addled Parliament. Sir Thomas Lowe was succeed by Sir Leonard Holliday whose ancestor, Walter Holliday, was a long-serving royal minstrel during the 15th century (he was listed as a musician at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415) and a founder member of the minstrels’ guild that was the forerunner of the Worshipful Company of Musicians.


Bottom Right:

'Turner of Blechingly [Bletchingley] in Comitatus [in the County of] Surrey'. From this family descended John Turner (d. 1607), MP for Bletchingley in 1601. The Turners were a notable family who had settled in Ham during the fourteenth century, with a parliamentary link with Bletchingley dating back to the reign of Richard II.

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

College of Arms

Camden’s Grants 2 f. 4r

A copy of the above entry in a similar volume omits the sketch. The source appears to be a compilation (see image left) made later than the above, based on Camden’s Grants I. It gives Arms and Crests granted by Camden, but does not appear to be in the same hand as the above. The layout of the page is identical to the earlier volume but the Arms of the Musicians’ Company are omitted. In this source, the depiction of the Arms of Turner of Bletchingley bears the date November 1604.

A seventeenth-century compilation of grants of Arms includes a sketch of the shield only, with no date (see image right). This volume is another compilation of Camden's Grants. It was part of a collection owned by John Warburton (1682–1759), Somerset Herald from 1720, which on his death was sold at auction and bought for the College of Arms by Edward, Duke of Norfolk (the Earl Marshal). It was part of the EDN Collection, hence the reference, but has since been reallocated as part of the Old Grants Collection. Whether the manuscript was actually written by Warburton, or simply owned by him, is unknown.

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

College of Arms

EDN 55, f. 44v

The page (above right) includes the armorial bearings of others in the earlier sources, with the addition of:


Top Middle:

‘Sir Thomas Harris Sergeant at Law’, granted July 1604. His family was enriched by the acquisition of Cornworthy Priory in Devon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. His place of burial in Cornworthy Parish Church is marked by an armorial tester monument erected in 1611 by his widow, Elizabeth (who was eventually also included on the monument).

Top Right:

‘William Pitt of Stepleton [Steepleton Iwerne] in [the] County [of] Dorsett’, grant date unclear. In the nineteenth century the estate was let to Sir John Hadley D’Oyly, 6th Baronet (1754–1818), MP for Ipswich from 1790 to 1796, and it eventually passed to the Pitt-Rivers family.

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

College of Arms

MS N.G., p.65

A nineteenth-century (or possibly eighteenth-ventury) volume consists of entries for grants of Arms copied from earlier records; this includes a sketch of the Arms with the date 1604. This source is a compilation of arms granted by Sir William Dethick (c. 1542–1612), Camden, Sir Edward Bysshe (c.1610–1679), Sir Edward Walker (1611–1677) and Sir William Dugdale (1605–1686). The Company’s Arms are of course in the Camden section. The volume contains the bookplate of George Nayler, Garter King of Arms (1764–1831) but was possibly originally owned by John Anstis (1669–1744) of whose collection Nayler bought much when it came up for auction.

The Swan & Lyre


In heraldry, the charges (or symbols placed on a Shield or used in a Crest) are subjective and can represent almost anything that they are intended to represent. For example the inclusion of a Lion could represent a Royal association, or be an indicator of strength, leadership, or bravery.

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

Unfortunately, the five historical documents from the College of Arms presented above do not contain any information about why particular emblems were assigned to the Company's Arms by the heralds. So, while it is possible to construct many reasonable and indeed compelling explanations regarding the use of the Swan, Lyre, Lion and Rose, such theories are not proved by these documents.

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