The Penistone Coat of Arms

Penistone Pictorial banner

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. It also uses the coat of arms as a heading on certain official documents. Penistone's local organisations may also make use of the Penistone coat of arms, and are encouraged to so do.

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 Wierfield 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 its feet (see Wikipedia). It was thought that swifts didn't land and had no feet. The 3-2-1 formation was used for a time on PGS badges until the 1960s, when the 2-2-2 style was (re-)adopted, which might have been more like the original 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 of its use are by: 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 on a similar tall 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 officialdom in distant Barnsley say that Penistone is 'In Barnsley'. 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 the case. Before 1974, we came under the old West Riding County Council (WRCC), based in Wakefield, but we were never said to be 'In Wakefield' so let's not undermine our identity with the absurd notion that we are 'In Barnsley'. Let us leave that to politicians who know no better, not ordinary people who don't need telling who they are.

It is just a wiggly line on a map which is redrawn from time to time. It does not change who we are or where we are. Let us fight it at every turn and correct anyone foolish enough to utter those loathsome words. Bring back the stocks and declare UDI.

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