Bristol Seals, Arms and Logos (2)

Bristol's Seals, Arms and Logos (2)

The Motto

Although the text in John Evans' 1824 book "A Chronological Outline of the History of Bristol and the Stranger's Guide" gives the impression that the motto was introduced at the same time as the crest and supporters, the full text of the letter of patent by Robert Cooke Alias Clarencieux makes no mention of it. Mary Williams, the City Archivist, in her 1984 book, "Civic Treasures of Bristol", says that...

"It is not known when Bristol first began to incorporate the motto "Virtute et Industria" (by Virtue and Industry), but this was possibly in the early eighteenth century."

Bristol Arms Bristol Arms

Two slightly different version of Bristol's arms

Errors of Depiction

Alderman W. R. Barker J.P. (Justice of the Peace - a magistrate) made a study of the various forms of the arms and lamented on January 17th, 1908, as reported in "Proceedings of the Clifton Antiquarian Club for 1904 - 1908", the lack of conformity when reproducing the City of Bristol arms. He said "I might go so far as to say that every engraver and die-sinker, every printer and stationer, in dealing with our much-displayed city arms has put forward what has been most ready to hand, or what has appeared to make the prettiest picture, as the correct thing.

There are several common errors which can sometimes be seen. One is that instead of issuing from the castle's watergate the ship is sometimes seen passing in front of the castle, or in Alderman Barker's words "creeping round from behind the castle". Sometimes the unicorns are seen rampant (rearing on their hind legs) instead of sitting on their haunches or even one or both replaced by lions. Alderman Barker also decried the use of the city's arms being unofficially used by various organizations and businesses, especially when they made changes to the design.

Of course, some people are not happy with the addition of the crest and supporters at all. James Fawckner Nicholls and John Taylor in their 1881 book, "Bristol Past and Present" say...

I cannot conclude this paper without expressing my regret that such a crest should have been assigned by any king of arms to such a grand old coat as that which has for six centuries distinguished the city of Bristol. The unicorns, but for their unpicturesque attitude, might be accepted, though not in the least applicable to the city; but the crest is designed in the very worst style of heraldic composition.

They then illustrate the article with a version of the arms that Alderman Barker would not have liked at all as it shows the ship "creeping round from behind the castle"...

Bristol's arms

Bristol's arms
Image from "Bristol Past and Present" by James Fawckner Nicholls and John Taylor, published by J. W. Arrowsmith, 1881


As well as the seal and arms Bristol has a badge. Over the years many organizations and businesses have wanted to use all or portions of the arms as their logo or in advertising. The arms are properly reserved for the use of the city council but on 16th February, 1983, Bristol was granted the use of a badge for use by organizations other than the city council.

City of Bristol badge

City of Bristol badge
Image from "Civic Treasures of Bristol" by Mary E. Williams, published by City of Bristol, 1984

The badge symbolizes Bristol's maritime heritage and depicts the ship and castle surrounded by a rope. The fleur-de-lis represent the points of the compass and Bristol sailor's role in exploration.


Almost every department of the city council has its own logo as do organizations funded or sponsored by it. The main city council logo is a representation of the original seal of the city of Bristol...

Bristol city Council logo

Bristol City Council logo

There were other logos produced for special occasions or campaigns. One of the best was produced for the Bristol 600 celebrations in 1973 when Bristol celebrated it's 600th year of being a county in its own right...

Bristol 600 logo

Bristol 600 logo
Image from Bristol Evening Post, Bristol 600 souvenir program, 1973

This logo shows the supersonic airliner Concorde overflying a sailing ship. Concorde entered service in 1976 and was retired in 2003 - a remarkable length of time for a single type of civil aircraft.

This page created 10th November 2009, last modified 15th September 2011

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