Manchester City Council’s coat of arms were granted to the borough of Manchester in 1842. The arms were described thusly:
Arms : Gules three Bendlets enhanced Or a Chief Argent thereon on Waves of the Sea a Ship under sail proper.
Crest : On a Wreath of the Colours a Terrestrial Globe semee of Bees volant all proper.
Supporters : On the dexter side a Heraldic Antelope Argent attired collared and chain reflexed over the back Or and on the sinister side a Lion guardant Or murally crowned Gules each charged on the shoulder with a Rose of the last.
Motto : Concilio et Labore
At the time, the industrial revolution was in full swing and the bee is an ancient symbol of industry, appearing on a number of coat of arms over the years – it is in fact the most common insect to appear on coat of arms. Their placement on a globe highlighted Manchester’s global links at the time. “Semee” translates as sprinkled or strewn, “volant” is french for flying and “all proper” means with in flight with wings aspread.
So far, I’ve been unable to discover the exact reason why seven are depicted. My presumption is that they represent the seven continents, but as the number seven has a number of symbolic features, I might well be incorrect. In recent years, a single bee has been depicted on the globe.
Other design elements include references to Lancashire, primarily the red rose and antelope and lion, which are taken from the coat of arms of King Henry IV. The main shield is taken from the coat of arms of the Grelley family, who were medieval lords of the manor of Manchester. The three stripes are symbolic of the holy trinity. The boat just above them represents trade links with the world, and the motto underneath, Concilio et Labore can be translated as “By wisdom and effort” and comes from Chapter 37, Sentence 16 of the Book of Ecclesiasticus.
The coat of arms can be found adorning exterior and interior of buildings across the city centre, either in full, or broken into elements as displays of civic pride. I’ve included a few images below, but recommend having a look at the Map to see the extent of its use.
Bees also feature on a number of other coats of arms that are linked to the city. I’ll be writing about those in other entries.