At last, we’ve got our arms back!

The Mayor of Morpeth Coun Phil Taylor (right) joined by Coun Ken Brown with the Morpeth Coat of Arms with Morpeth Clock Tower in the background.
The Mayor of Morpeth Coun Phil Taylor (right) joined by Coun Ken Brown with the Morpeth Coat of Arms with Morpeth Clock Tower in the background.

A CENTURIES-OLD Morpeth emblem has finally been returned to its rightful home.

The Morpeth Coat of Arms, which was first used in its current form in 1552, has been returned to the town by order of the Queen after a 37-year absence.

It was taken away in 1974 following the restructure of local government when it was combined with other badges to form a new design for Castle Morpeth Council.

But since the demise of the authority in 2009 campaigners have been calling for the armorial bearings to be restored and Morpeth Town Council has spent two years working with the College of Arms to bring it about.

In November, the Queen approved of the request at a meeting of the Privy Council at Buckingham Palace.

And after months of careful crafting, the official parchment has been handed over.

It features the Coat of Arms, made of 24 carat gold, and details the design of the emblem, described as 10 argent and gules and a tower triple on a border of azure with eight martlets.

Morpeth Mayor Phil Taylor said: “I’m very pleased to see it return.”

Former Mayor Ken Brown, who led the campaign, said: “When we took over the Mayoralty that was one of the first things on our shopping list.

“It has taken a long time to come through, but I’m delighted it has finally arrived. It will be a brand for the community and the town council.”

The design of the armorial bearings dates back to 1166 when Roger de Merlay used a seal depicting four merle birds (blackbirds).

In 1255, Roger de Merlay III took a formal Coat of Arms of three gold merles on a blue background and later incorporated silver and red stripes, with eight birds.

In 1552, a castle was added in the centre when the Arms were officially granted to Morpeth by King Edward VI, making it the second oldest Coat of Arms in the country granted to a civic borough. It was re-confirmed by Charles II in 1662.

Now the town council is planning to fly a flag from the Town Hall or Clock Tower and is keen for the emblem to be used as the Morpeth brand.

However, policies will be set to ensure it is not misused.

Local historian and Morpeth Antiquarian Kim Bibby-Wilson, who prompted the campaign to bring back the Coat of Arms, is delighted to see it returned.

She said: “I’m very pleased this has happened. It is fitting that we have got the original Coat of Arms back when next year is the 350th anniversary of King Charles II re-granting the Coat of Arms to the town.

“We are hoping to make something of that at next year’s Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering.

“There are strict criteria about the use of Coats of Arms so organisations will have to check they are not going against that, but if the town council is keen that it should be used that is very encouraging because we want to see community use of the Coat of Arms as our symbol, as it has been for so long.”