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Adventures in Family History

The Codrington Arms

Farmer BullshotThere are several different coats of arms used by the Codrington family, two of which were granted to John Codrington of Gloucestershire in the 15th century. Can these arms help us to identify the origins of the Codrington family?

Codrington of SodburyAccording to most sources these are the first known arms used by the Codrington family.

of silver a fesse sable between three lions passant gules.

An enhanced version of these arms are used by the senior branch of the Codrington family – those descended from John Codrington, Standard-bearer for Henry V at Agincourt.

The original arms continue to be used by the junior branch of the family who descended from Thomas, the brother of John, indicating that these arms were in use by the Codrington family before Agincourt.

According to RHC these are similar to those granted to Sir John de la Hoese of Berkshire, in the reign of Edward III, so is it possible that the Codrington family itself descended from a member of this family who took the Codrington surname?

Confirmation of Arms

Codrington of CodringtonRHC was confused by the requests for the confirmation of arms by John Codrington in 1441 and the additional grant in 1445, but it is the first of these that is used by the senior branch of the family to this day.

of silver a veece [fesse] of Sable Batale counter batale Frett with Gowles [gules], between three Lyons passants of the same.

The second grant of arms, which has no similarities to the first, have never been used, other than quartered with the first.

of Synoble iii Roses of goules in a Bende of Silver; A Right Hand of the Bende in the left Quarter.

I doubt that John I would have applied for – but then never used – a second grant of arms, but it is possible. One suggestion is that it was to show his support for the house of Lancaster, but there is no hint of this in the wording of the grant.

Of sinople, sinopre, synoble

(a) A red ocher used in making a vermilion coloring material; also, the color vermilion, red;
(b) her[aldry]. The tincture vert, green [the change in meaning from red to green prob. does not antedate the 15th cent. in England] page

The colour synoble in this case probably references a green (vert) background.

Second Grant of Arms

Codrington of WapleyThe description associated with the second grant also seems much less formal than the first, which clearly identifies a military relationship with the King.

“… John Codrington hath been armed in the present armes in the service of our Sovereign Lord King Henry the Fifth in Battle Watch and Ward, under the said our Sovereign Lord’s Banner …”

The second grant is to John Codrington, gentleman of the shire of Gloucester.

“… for the good service he has done, and shall do to our Sovereign Lord, and the worship of Knighthood  … “

The hand represents sincerity and justice, perhaps suggesting that the owner was involved in the law rather than a military hero and I am not entirely convinced that this is a second grant to the same John.

john codrington arms x 2

Both grants are to John Codrington, gentleman.

The hand is also said to represent John’s commitment of service to the king alone  – possibly as his right hand – but perhaps on pain of having his hand removed.

Robert Codrington Esq.

IMG_1055-1 (WIDTH-1000)The only place I have seen the second arms used is on a copper engraving from 1709  by Johannes Kip of the Didmarton estate in Gloucestershire.

Didmarton the Seat of Robert Codrington Esq.

As this is nearly 300 years after the original grant it cannot be said for certain if the design is correct, although it does show that the second grant was associated with the family, or, at least, that is what the artist believed at the time.

Robert Codrington – at the time of the engraving – was the husband of Agnes Samwell and John Codrington I was his 4x great grandfather. The Didmarton manor house was passed to the Codrington family by the marriage of his great-grandfather Simon who married Agnes Seacole in 1571.

didmarton tintedThe engraving was originally printed in Britannia Illustrata, or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain published in 1724, and was not commissioned by the family.

The book was not published until several years after the death of Robert in 1717 and the Manor was sold by 1750.

A tinted version of the same image adds colours to the coats of arms showing the green [synoble] on the second arms.

The motto on the engraving “IMMERSABILIS EST VERA VIRTUS” translates [approximately] as “True power is unsinkable” and is also identified in the The General Armoury [see later].

Another John

So if the second grant of arms was not to John Codrington of Wapley then who was it for?

There is a record for another John of Coderyngton, student and attorney to the king, in 1337, and a descendant of his could have requested the arms, perhaps to distinguish his family from that of John Codrington of Agincourt.

The arms could also show their support for the Lancastrian dynasty who the family may have been serving as attorneys for several generations.

In a record for the court of common pleas in 1421 is one John Codrington, gentleman of Clyfe Gloucestershire. In this case Clyfe is Bishop’s Cleeve near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, which is later connected to Humphrey – the eldest son of John Codrington of Wapley – just to confuse things further.

In this record John Codrington of Clyfe, along with several other gentlemen, is standing as surety for the defendant, John Malle, a butcher of Northleach so he is likely to have some standing in the area.

Court of Common Pleas, CP 40/641, rot. 363
Term: Easter 1421
John Codryngton. Gentleman of ‘Clyfe’ Gloucestershire, England. Surety for defendant.

There is also a license dated 1423 for John Codrington of Tewkesbury to export wheat through Bristol. page

license for John Codrington 1423

Could John Codrington have lived in Tewkesbury after Agincourt but before inheriting the properties at Codrington and Wapley from his father, or is this a different John?

See John Codrington II for more information about this subject.

A Different View

Another document “Grantees of arms named in docquets and patents to the end of the seventeenth centurypage identifies the two grants as being to the same John Codrington.

Possibly the author assumed this, but there may be more information in the actual grant to identify that both were the same person, that I have not seen.

In this document John Codrington is specifically identified as John Codrington of Codrington co. Glouc. and some of the dates differ slightly.

Codrington arms 1441 & 1445

The second grant is also clearly identified as an “alteration” to the first, and the first arms [with the embattlements] are identified as having been used during his service with Henry V.

In 1419 Henry V issued a proclamation forbidding all persons who had not borne arms at Agincourt to assume them, except by virtue of inheritance, or of a grant from the crown.

From this is does not seem clear to me why John would have needed to confirm his arms that were used by him in the service of the king?

And why was this done over  twenty years after the original proclamation?

BourchierArmsAs he was part of the retinue of Sir William Burchier then perhaps he did not wear his own arms – or at least not the enhanced version – and assumed them afterwards in which case he may have wanted to confirm the later design.

In his document “Memoirs” RHC quotes from the confirmation but does not identify John as being specifically of Codrington as mentioned above.

Neither does he mention that John was of Gloucester as mentioned above (and in the second grant), but it is clear from the description that this first grant is to John, who was in the military service of the king.

Perhaps the record above is a combination of the two grants, under the assumption that they were both for the same person and some details have been combined?

Every comment on the two grants that I have seen so far, seems to extract certain bits of information from both grants rather than just publishing them in full. This makes me wonder if some pieces that do not fit the scenario of both grants being for John Codrington of Wapley have been ignored.

That may well be my suspicious nature and, of course, both could well be for John Codrington, hero of Agincourt, but why he requested [or was given] the second grant of arms remains a mystery.

De la Hoese

de la Hoese coaRHC mentions the arms of Sir John de la Hoese (Hussey), of Berkshire, being similar to the original Codrington arms so maybe there is a family connection?

Argent, une fese Sable ent. iii lioncells Goulis

The differences between the arms are that the Codrington lions are passant [not rampant] and in the grant of 1441 the fesse has “battlements” top and bottom, also there is a fret pattern on the fesse.

Geoffrey is a name that appears in the de la Hoese (Huse, Hussey) family – so perhaps Geoffrey de Codrington was a member of this important family and took his name from where he lived?

The de la Hoese family held lands in Somerset after the Norman conquest – Hubert de Hoese was probably with William during the Conquest in 1066.

The early de la Hoese family history following 1066, is documented on-line under the Battle Abbey Roll. page

The Husseys came from a place a mile North of Rouen, which is now called ‘le Houssel.’ La Houssaie is still a common name in Normandy.”—Lower’s Sussex. They certainly date from the time of the Conquest in this country. Gautier Heuse is on the Dives Roll, and was either the same “Walterius Hosatus” who witnessed a charter of John Bishop of Bath in 1106, or his father. In Domesday, William Hosed or Hosatus held Charlcomb, in Somersetshire, of Bath Abbey, as well as other manors in the county: and the first lords of Bath-Eaton were of this family. They had afterwards estates in Wiltshire and in Sussex, where Harting appears to have been their principal residence; though “one of these lords built much at Shockerwicke, in Somersetshire, and the manor from thence was in succeeding times called the manor of Husei’s Court.”—Collinson’s Somerset.

There are a number of family names derived from the original family – Hussey being the main one. If other branches of the family had already Anglicised their names then Geoffrey [or one of his ancestors] may have done the same.

In 1296 one Nicolas de Hoese was summoned from Wiltshire to perform military service against the Scots.

In 1301 and again in 1304 he was summoned from Gloucester – again to fight the Scots – where he held lands worth £40 and more, showing that the family did own lands in Gloucestershire.

Half a Knight’s fee

Geoffrey Codrington [Galfridus de Coldrintone] held half a knight’s fee under Pagan de Mandubel, an old Norman family, at the time of Henry II (1154-1189) [1]

If he is the earliest recorded Codrington – and contemporary with Pagen (1123-1170) – then there are a lot of missing generations between him and Robert.

The descendants of Ibert Payne Mundabiel, [who may have been with William the Conquerer in 1066] were the Chaworth family of Shropshire.

chaworth coaHis daughter, Wilburga, married Patrick de Chaworth but their son, also Payne, took his maternal grandfather’s surname – probably to settle an inheritance – however the name changed back to Chaworth with Payne’s son Patrick.

In 1297 Maud de Chaworth married Henry, Earl of Lancaster. Her mother Isabel Beauchamp (1252-1306) had married Patrick de Chaworth – a descendant of Pagan Mundabiel – but, after he died in 1283, she remarried to Ralph de la Hoese.

If Geoffrey was from the de la Hoese family, and born earlier than suggested by RHC, then he may have been a brother to Ralph, and if he was the son of Ralph and Isabel Beauchamp he could have been born about 1300.

Possibly the family held land in Gloucestershire which he may have inherited, along with the name.

There is no specific evidence of a change of name from de la Hoese to Codryngton but it was not uncommon to Anglicise French names at this time – Hussey being the most common change from de la Hoese. If Geoffrey chose to change his name using the place where he lived then nothing much would have been thought of it.

However the dates attributed to Geoffrey as being contemporary with Henry II, indicate a much earlier ancestor using the Codringtone name than 1300, the date usually assigned to Geoffrey.

I am not sure, based on these dates, why it is assumed that Geoffrey was born about 1300.

[1] This reference to Galfridus de Codringtone comes from the Black Book of the Exchequer as referenced in “memoirs”.

speech50The similarity between the Codrington and de la Hoese arms, and the possible link between the families, is based on the assumption that the arms – with the simple, black fesse – were older than those used by John Codrington at Agincourt.

As these arms now appear not to have been used until the 16th century, and the junior branch is most likely descended from Thomas, the son of John – who used his father’s arms – then the link made by RHC is probably incorrect.

That is not to say that there isn’t a link between the families, but perhaps later than first thought.

There seems to have been a connection between the families several generations later in relation to property in Wiltshire:

Final concord from Easter into one month, 20 Henry VIII (May, 1529), between Bartholomew Husey and Christopher Codrynton, querents, and Edward Codrynton and Elizabeth his wife and William Southe, deforciants, of the manor of Swaloclyff. page

The Twynyho family are also mentioned in this article regarding the South family and the inheritance of properties in Wiltshire.

One of these properties, Swallowcliffe, ended up with the Codrington family for a while. page

Calne House

RHC, in his first publication on the Codrington family, lists the fourteen arms depicted in a stained glass window at Castle House, Calne, Wiltshire. page

These shields, which relate to marriages within the extended Codrington family, contain the arms of both the junior and the senior branches of the family but not the second arms granted to John Codrington in 1445.

Castle House Calne Stained GlassIt is not know what the connection is between the property and the Codringtons. Possibly these were originally in the Bristol home of Robert Codrington [as mentioned in Memoirs] and relocated at some point by a member of the Ernle family, who lived in Calne and also married into the Codrington family.

RHC suggests another link with the manor house at Berwick Bassett and the Goddard family who married into the junior branch of the Codrington family.

The Castle House property was purchased by the local council at some point and left to ruin until recently renovated as flats and holiday accommodation. It is not known if the stained glass survives.

The illustration is from the History of Calne by A.E.W Marsh from 1903

speech50I have recently come across several cases where the junior branch of the family have used the arms of the senior branch, giving some weight to the idea that Thomas, the head of the junior branch, was the son – and not brother – of John of Agincourt.

In the 1623 visitation of Gloucestershire for the Clifford family, the senior arms are identified as belonging to Ambrose [shown as William] Codrington who married Margaret

William Codrington - Margaret Teste

There is a slight difference in this description in that the fesse, although embattled, has no fretting and several generations later it appears that the embattlement has also been removed.

The arms that I have used for the senior branch were shown – in the original document – to have been associated with Thomas Codrington in the 15th century who can only be the son of John Codrington.

Thomas Coderyngton 15th century arms

So perhaps it was several generations later that the arms were changed – or they just evolved – and Thomas was, indeed, the son of John Codrington of Agincourt.

In which case these may not be the original arms at all and are a variation [simplification] of those used by John Codrington and used by both branches of the family.

This brings into question any connection to the de la Hoese family, but there is nothing to say that these were not the original arms re-adopted several generations later.

Red Fesse

sir john codringtonMany images and miniatures of John Codrington show the original family arms with a red fesse, but I have not come across this in any written description – perhaps there is some reference I have not found yet?

It is possible that the version of the arms used by the junior branch may have been a modification of the original arms, with a black fesse replacing an earlier red one?

This may have been done where the original arms were associated too closely with another member of the family – in this case John, hero of Agincourt – even though he later changed the design as well.

IMG_20151025_161401-1 (WIDTH-1000)During the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 Captain Edward Codrington, of the Orion, used arms that had reversed colours to the arms usually used by the senior branch of the family.

Making a small but significant change, particularly with the colours, is common amongst members of the same family and this is often combined with an additional item on the shield “for difference” – in this case a goblet.

The lions are shown in black and the embattled fesse in red without any fretting.

codrington red fesseRHC says that the original arms, with the black fesse, are mentioned in Atkyns’ Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire published in 1712, and also shown in the stained glass at Calne – but it appears they were not actually used before the 16th century.

If we ignore the assumption that they were used before Agincourt  – based largely on Thomas being the brother of John, which is probably incorrect – then why could the fesse not have been red originally?

RHC also comments on alternative designs in his “memoirs” document of 1898, so clearly this is not just a recent idea.

The red fess and black lions, which by some mistake are in some cases given, are evidently wrong.

Possibly he is referring to the arms of Edward Codrington, as shown above, however I do not think these are supposed to represent the original arms or those of the senior branch.

Codrington - SamwellSeveral members of the Codrington family are buried in St. Lawrence’s church at Didmarton, where the family owned the manor, including the still-born sons and three daughters of John Codrington and his third wife Frances Guise.

At the top of the memorial plaque are the arms of the two families.

What is interesting is that underneath the black, embattled and fretted fesse of the Codrington arms is a red embattled fesse. This may simply be because it was easier to show the red fretting on the black fesse by painting the red underneath.

But it also seems that the fretting [basketwork] design is not actually showing as red and the base colour is showing through. Perhaps the red was a mistake that was over-painted, although the description of the fretting is definitely red (gules).

Another possibility is that the shield was simply re-painted [badly] at some point as had the memorial to Robert Codrington in Bristol Cathedral, although this paintwork does seem to be older.

Farmer BullshotI think a red fesse is a real possibility. In particular I believe that the red fretting, in the grant of 1441, could be a hint to the original colour underneath the black, embattled black one used by John Codrington at Agincourt.

The General Armoury

There are a number of records for the Codrington family in The General Armoury. page

One shows a completely different coat of arms altogether.

Gu. a cross lozengy Az. and Or.

coddingtonThese are shown elsewhere as the arms of the Codinton family [of Surrey] as well as Codrington, so probably another simple mistake.

The Coddington family originated in Coddington, Cheshire and are sometimes mistaken for members of the Codrington family.

There are also several versions of the “Coddington” arms – available to buy online – that actually show the Codrington arms instead! The problem is that once these things are on the internet they are difficult to correct or remove.

In some references to the battle of Agincourt John Codrington is shown as Codinton along with Symon Codington, who is probably not related.

Two of the descriptions are of interest:

Codrington (Wroughton Co. Wilts)

Ar. a fess embattled counter-embattled sa. fretty gu. between three lions pass. of the second.

Codrington (Bridgwater, Somerset)

Ar. a fess sa. betw. three lions pass. gu.

The first arms are those of the senior branch, and the second from the junior branch – those that moved out of Dodington when it was bought by Christopher Codrington III with the proceeds from his sugar plantations.

The interesting thing is that, although from separate branches, they both have the same motto:

Immersabillis est Vera Virtus and Vera Virtus Immersabilis.

Both translate [approximately] as True power is unsinkable.

It seems as if the arms used by the junior branch were changed several generations after John Codrington of Agincourt. Both his son Thomas and grandson Ambrose [William in the pedigree] continued to use the same arms that he was granted in 1441.

This puts the assumption, by RHC and others, that these were the earliest arms used by the Codrington family into some doubt, as well as the connection to the de la Hoese family.

It seems that the first recorded use of the simpler arms – without the embattled fesse – was Samuel, the son of Richard Codrington of Dodington, who married Elizabeth Stephens in the 16th century, as shown in the stained-glass window at Calne mentioned above.

This is much later than I was expecting, unless there are other records that put this date earlier.

The arms of the Codringtons of Codrington, Gloucester[shire] are shown as:

Ar, a fesse embattled sa. betw. three lions pass. gu.

Despite being directly descended from John Codrington A1 there is no fretting mentioned.

The arms of the Bethell-Codringtons – those descending from Christopher Codrington of Barbados and Antigua, and who bought Dodington from the junior branch – are the same, but with the fretting intact.


Sir John CodringtonMost illustrations and miniatures of Sir John Codrington show him carrying the Royal Standard of Henry V, but there is also a second standard associated with Henry V and Agincourt as shown in this figurine.

The design adorning the horse is based on the arms confirmed to John Codrington in 1441, and he could have used these at Agincourt, or at least assumed them while still in the service of the king.

Other models usually show the older arms and I think it more likely that these were used by John at Agincourt, but that soon afterwards they were modified to reflect his recent military service and important position as standard bearer.

The standard shown here usually includes the Bohun swan in honour of his mother, Mary de Bohun, but this version appears to show a different design – perhaps a griffin?

I do not know if either version was used during the campaign, but if so it opens the possibility that there were two standard-bearers at Agincourt – John Codrington and Sir William Harrington as discussed elsewhere. page


Sir Geoffrey Codrington

Geoffrey Ronald Codrington ArmsThese are the arms of Sir Geoffrey Ronald Codrington, a descendant of John of Agincourt and Christopher Codrington of Barbados and Antigua, and shows the arms confirmed to John Codrington in 1441.

Note that the helmet on the achievement above the shield is facing forward, indicating a knight rather then an esquire, as shown on the arms of John Codrington of Agincourt.

The motto translates as In the face of the enemy.

Sir Geoffrey Ronald Codrington KVCO DSO

Birth:  May 13, 1888, England
Death:  Jun. 18, 1973, England

Chris Sidney 2015


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