Southborough’s rich history and the trades on which it was founded are contained within its coat of arms. Until recently, a rather faded coat of arms had resided above the entrance to the Council Offices. Now, as we await the construction of the Town’s community Hub, the centre of Southborough no longer displays its official emblem representing our town.
In the Southborough Society archives, there is an excellent explanation of our Town Coat of Arms which is perhaps not widely known. It appears in the Patchwork magazine, published in 1988, compiled by local people to raise funds for Age Concern. The article was written by J.M. Kirkness, Chairman of The Southborough Society.
“To mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, the Southborough Urban District Council commissioned a coat of arms from the Portcullis (The Master of Sinclair) at the College of Arms, and this was granted in 1953. In 1962, the motto ‘Propria tuemur’ was adopted, which is freely translated as ‘We look after what is ours’.”
The writer explains the significance of the imagery on the shield in proper heraldic terminology, but we have decided to abandon that and describe the design in plainer language. If you would like to see the original text a copy of Patchwork can be found in Southborough Library.
The shield, as shown in the illustration, is largely coloured red and gold. The Oak tree, in fine leaf at the bottom point of the shield, represents the former Bounds Oak, mentioned in the Domesday Book, growing on the Great Bounds estate. This was the site of the well-known Elizabethan mansion, demolished in the 1950s. The two sprigs of Broom, flanking the Oak, are a reference to High Brooms, once an open grassy area, known for the Broom bushes which grew there.
The ‘Torteau’ is the heraldic term for the small red circular shape featured towards the top of the shield. Sometimes it represents a loaf of bread, but here it is clearly refers to the cricket-ball making industry, important to Southborough, for more than a century.
To right and left of the circle are placed two rectangles, (Billets), in acknowledgement of the brick-making industry which, together with the gasworks, led to the growth of High Brooms. By 1885 there were two hundred employees working in the brickworks.
The black Ram’s Head, sitting on top of the helmet, suggests the reputed association of Southborough with weaving, although apparently there is no documentary evidence to support this. However, The Weavers restaurant, situated in a Tudor farm house (c.1570) was said to have been occupied by French Huguenots who were weavers. Since weaving was once a well-established industry throughout the Weald it may not be too fanciful to imagine a Huguenot family finding Southborough a congenial place to settle.