The Penistone Coat of Arms

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In 1974, Penistone Urban District Council (PUDC) was abolished and Penistone was granted 'Successor Parish' status, as set out in the Local Government Act 1972. This enabled certain charter rights to remain local, such as a town mayor with civic responsibilities and the use of any coat of arms (See the Barnsley Archive item on Penistone UDC), although that was not taken advantage of at the time. Penistone Town Council (PTC) was formed in 1974 and continues to this day. PTC proudly uses the Penistone coat of arms on official documents. Penistone organisations may also use the Penistone coat of arms, and are encouraged to so do.

A local person said: "If we can have our own Mayor, why can't we use our own Coat-of-Arms on our local signage?" Well, in theory at least, perhaps we could. In conversation with Cllr Ken Richardson, the Barnsley Mayor of 2014, he said that it was a good idea and Penistone Town Council could petition Barnsley Council for new signs to include our own coat of arms. Our litter bins could then be labelled with 'Keep Penistone Tidy!'

1. The Background
The local solicitor and eminent historian, John Ness Dransfield, described the Clarel Coat of Arms in his great 1906 book, 'A History of Penistone' (Penistone Library) as belonging to Penistone's absentee Lord of the Manor, Mr Thomas Clarel, who drowned in the River Don on 1st May 1442 (inquest of November that year). The Clarel line ended around that time and is no more. This paragraph is taken from that great book:

Arms of Penistone

Thomas Clarel had given land on Kirk Flatts (by Penistone Church) for the purpose of building a school. At that time, teaching had been taking place in Penistone Church. Schools were built and demolished at least twice on the land before the Grammar School moved out of town to Weirfield in the early 1900s. In recognition of Thomas Clarel's great benevolent gift to the people of Penistone, his coat of arms was adopted by the school and featured on the school uniform and PGS documents until recent times. Now in the 21st century, Penistone Grammar School buildings were again demolished and rebuilt anew. Upon re-opening in May 2011 its management discarded the old tradition and school motto and invented a new design with one martlet. The school motto changed to 'Never Stop Flying'.

2. Description
The coat-of-arms is a simple affair with six footless martlets on a red background. A martlet is a footless heraldic bird, something like a swift, with a few tufts of feather in place of feet (see Wikipedia). It was thought that swifts didn't land and had no need of feet. The 3-2-1 formation was used on PGS badges until the 1960s, when the 2-2-2 style was (re-)adopted, which might have been more like the original design. Later use by PGS has kept a few martlets on school emblems but not the full design.

3. Local Use
The coat of arms has for a long time been connected with Penistone Grammar School and the local council but, perhaps less known, it has also been used by several eminent Penistone associations. In recent times, Penistone Historic Archives have also given the Penistone coat of arms a prominent position in their banner and documents.

Leading examples:
Penistone Local History and Archive Group, Penistone Young Farmers (on their 50-years commemorative plate in 1994), Pengeston Lodge (Penistone Freemasons) Penistone Footpath Runners and Penistone Agricultural Society (but less so these days). A Penistone coat-of-arms can be found on the proscenium arch of the Paramount but is now obscured by curtains. It is also carved on the Town Council chairman's tall chair in the Council Chamber and a similar chair in Penistone church.

Penistone Coat of Arms.Clarel ShieldMasonicPen Agricultural Society
PGS logoPFR logoPCFCpenistone Young Farmers

4. A Sense of Identity
Our area is constantly under threat of over-development of housing on its green spaces, without a corresponding improvement in shops, surgeries, schools and other infrastructure. With a corresponding lack of imagination on the part of our Borough masters in Barnsley (the local Council having little effect), our town is being developed in an unattractive way which fails to improve the character of the area. Our friendly rivals of Stocksbridge and Holmfirth are more 'happening' places than Penistone.

A personal opinion is that it would be beneficial to improve the 'Penistone Brand' and 'Sense of Identity'. One simple idea is the general and free adoption of a Penistone emblem of one sort or another (without copyright issues) as a common theme in events and publicity. The obvious choice is the Clarel coat of Arms, which was generally adopted over a century ago by the local establishment and serious-minded organisations, such as the Masonic Lodge. In fact, the local council has agreed on this point and have passed a unanimous resolution to adopt it in September 2014. However, its implementation has been absolutely minimal.

In fact, various emblems have appeared locally from time to time which might be adapted but I have reservations about including sheep. One of Penistone's legacies is a coarse type of cloth called a 'penistone' from a breed of sheep of the same name. That is fine but there is a problem with sheep from the common 'Woolly-back' insult for country dwellers from townies. Also, like ducks and rabbits, a sheep is not what you might call a 'serious' symbol for a serious purpose. It lacks dignity.

A new symbol was created in 2016 for Penistone's Neighbourhood Development Plan which is neat and tidy, with a representation of the viaduct, church, something industrial, a sheep and a wind turbine. Not everyone might like the sheep and wind turbine but it is a start. The council's own emblem includes a dairy cow.

5. 'In Penistone' - not - 'In Barnsley'
It does nothing to help our sense of identity when BMBC officialdom and other politicians insists that our district is 'In Barnsley' rather than in the borough of Barnsley. It is demeaning to anywhere which has its own sense of identity. Insulting and offensive. As a parallel, Thurlstone is one parish of Penistone Town Council, but no-one says that 'Thurlstone is in Penistone' even if it is an essential part of our township.

It is true that, from an administrative point of view, we are in the Barnsley Borough and that Barnsley MB Council calls the shots, but that was not always so. Before 1974, we came under the old West Riding County Council (WRCC), based in Wakefield. Nobody said that we were be 'In Wakefield.'

Barnsley's Alien Coat of Arms
As Barnsley Council enjoys ruling over our local affairs (and ignores our Town Council), it is reasonable to be completely irreverent to them (and Jack blows a raspberry while typing). BMBC's Latin motto of 'Spectemur Agendo' means: 'Judge Us by Our Actions'. Now, I call that downright reckless as we could take them at their word and where would they be then? Barnsley Council - watching can often be a rewarding and sometimes hilarious game, in a 'dark humour' sort of way.

Barnsley BrandThe Penistone district is generally acknowledged by all (except politicians) as being "Barnsley's Cash Cow" and one of the major funding streams for BMBC, (Council Tax, house-build back-handers, Section 106 Funds, etc.) but always reluctant to spend any in our district. If they do, they make a song and dance about it. It doesn't really need me to strip them of any remaining dignity as they are quite capable of doing that for themselves. However, I'm on a roll so, why not? I am judging them by their actions as they themselves suggest.

The following is my unofficial interpretation of the Barnsley coat of arms to perhaps educate you in an inappropriate manner. The Barnsley coat of arms design represents long-lost industries of glass-making and mining in their area, with minimal relevance to our own, urban district eight miles away. Historically, our own local industries were farming, steel-making, clay products, nail-making, flour and fulling mills, textiles, beer and vinegar brewing, railway coaches, blacking, umbrellas, detonators and industrial testing. Some local people would also have worked in Barnsley's mines and other industries but our district is outside the coalfield and we never made glass.

The BMBC emblem sports a camp and blousey character on its left wearing flared 1970s trousers and carrying the traditional Barnsley 'yard of ale'. This no doubt signifies wild and drunken nights out in Barnsley's pubs and clubs. The other side has a serious-looking miner, laying down his tools ready to go on strike. Again. This shows the two worlds of night and the day. The central griffon takes a particular dislike to the reveller by sticking out its tongue. Unless it's a come-on, you never know with dragons. The crossed pick-axes reflect upon BMBC's political sympathies with echoes of the hammer and sickle, yet who but a true gentleman would know what the set-square represents. This covers the social strata.

The opposites of Rich and Poor are well symbolised. Doorknobs refer to council estates (because posh people have handles) whilst the cigar tubes denote the great affluence relished by over-paid council bosses, with the usual back-handers, over-generous allowances, 'expenses' and perks. The griffon is standing on a piece of old rope, which is very aptly symbolic of profligate council decisions (remember the 'Tuscan Village' and light halo projects which never materialised).

The roulette wheel did not appear until the local government re-organisation in 1974 when Barnsley conquered the outlying places like Penistone and appropriated our property and invented new finance streams. This gave them more money to experiment with. So, that covers profligacy, although a bucket might have worked better here. On several levels.

An official explanation of the Barnsley coat of arms read somewhat differently, although an occasional use of commas might have made it easier to follow. It has a Grassy Mount to the dexter and a Pile of Coal to the sinister all proper. Or so they say. I'm no expert but my version is better. The roulette wheel is properly called an 'Escarbuncle', of the same etymology (and aptness) as 'carbuncle'.

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