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Civic heraldry of the United Kingdom
Incorporated into : 1974 Stratford-on-Avon
Or, a chevron azure between three leopard's faces gules.
The arms were recorded at the Visitations of 1619 and 1682, and officially certified on June 4, 1958.
Stratford-upon-Avon has been a borough since the early Middle Ages, by prescription and by grant of burgage tenure by the Bishop of Worcester, lord of the manor in 1196, and by Charter since 1553. In the Middle Ages Stratford seemed to have used for arms, Argent, a fesse vairy gules and or, between three leopards' faces sable. These arms were in medieval glass in the parish church and in the Gild Chapel.
The Charter of 1553 gave to Bailiff and Burgesses various privileges, among which was the right to a Common Seal. The first Common Seal, known from 1553, has on it a shield charged with a chevron between three leopards' faces. The same shield is on the Charter Mace and on the Mayor's Privy Seal, the latter a gift in 1593 from Richard Quyney, Bailiff from 1592-3 and 1601-2.
The chevron symbolises the River Avon and the three red leopard heads are taken from the Royal Coat of Arms. In the oldest arms the bar (fess) may have been the local bridge over the Avon.
Since 1553 the arms have not changed in composition, but various colour schemes have been used during the centuries.
The arms as used on a JaJa postcard +/- 1905 (wrong colours)
The arms in the Coffee Hag albums +/- 1925
The arms on a Thomson and Porteous cigarette card, 1905
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Literature : Biggs, 1971; Collins, 1955