Garstang's lion seal

 
 
 
Lion around....but is he looking the 'right' way?
Dateline May 12 2013
On several occasions in the past local debate has taken place on the town's lion 'logo' which appears in many places throughout Garstang. In particular there is a puzzle over why the lion is looking in one direction on some and another direction on others.
We hope to produced a more detailed article in the near future on this topic, which has also featured in the Garstang Courier in the past.
See below for article from August 2009 which sets the scene for the debate.
 
 
 
Garstang’s historic lion logo appears to have been clarified by no less a body than the College of Arms, London.
The Courier recently sparked the debate over which way the lion on the town’s 17th century seal should be looking after eagle-eyed reader Brian Dickinson pointed out the lion mural on St Thomas’s church wall looks left, while all the other designs of the lion seal around the town look right.
But which he asked - and we also asked - is correct?
Garstang historian Paul Smith believes the ‘right’ look is right, while others, including former St Thomas’s’s vicar Canon Ron Greenall think the church’s version is correct.
This week the church’s current vicar, Rev Michael Gisbourne, weighed into the debate following a visit to the Shire Hall at Lancaster, home to the largest selection of heraldic shields in Britain.
Mr Gisbourne said: “I carefully looked at what must have been nigh on a thousand shields and noted that in a virtually all, animals faced the left.
“In fact the only shields where animals, especially lions, faced the right, were those where there were two animals which faced each other.”
He added: “It strikes me that the simplest way to solve the mystery is to get the original stamp and to look at the resulting print after have been stamped on to a piece of paper.”
However, what could be the definitive explanation may have been obtained by retired army colonel John Bird of Bilsborrow, who wrote to the College of Arms in London, seeking their expert opinion.
Officer in Waiting at the college, Timothy Duke, replied to Col Bird pointing a fact on which the whole debate could
 
hinge. He says that seals/crests such as Garstang’s lion seal are not bound by the conventions of heraldry.
He writes: “Animate charges in heraldry usually face the dexter (the observer's left), because this was the dominant side of the knight, who held his sword in his right hand. “
He continues: “However, this may not help to explain the position of the lion in the seal of Garstang, because the seal is not an officially recognised coat of arms or crest. It is a civic symbol, not bound by the conventions of heraldry.
“The only relevant reference I can find occurs in a late 19th century publication, W H St Hope The Corporation Plate and Insignia of Office of the chief towns of England and Wales (2 vols, London, 1895).
“The entry reads "The only ensign appears to be the corporate seal, a plain round one bearing a lion passant to the sinister with the surrounding words: VILLA DE GARSTANG.1680". I feel that the town should continue to use the original design.”
As reported in The Courier earlier this month the lion seal dates back to the 17th century. It was passed down to Garstang Town Trust which has the custody of the design, though is now widely used by various organisations in the town, including the town council.
The latest use of the lion seal appears as the centrepiece of the new Garstang town square in a mosaic design by Lancashire mosaic artist Maggy Haworth. Like the majority of the Garstang lions, Maggy’s creation faces left.
Note: if the College of Arms’ explanation is correct, as appears likely the lion in St Thomas’s is facing the ‘wrong’ way.
Note: If you can contribute to the debate, please contact Garstang Historical Society.