The ingenious variations of town's badge
The Morpeth badge is based on the heraldic shield of Roger de Merley III, 1239-66.
His shield was originally three gold merles (blackbirds) on a blue ground.
His paternal grandmother, however, Alice de Stutteville, came from a much grander family so in 1265 he adopted their shield of silver and red stripes, with the blue shield and blackbirds round the edge.
In 1552, Morpeth got its own coat of arms, based on Roger III’s shield. In this version, the Stutteville stripes are surrounded with the more usual heraldic bird of martlets, rather than merles, and there is a golden tower with three equal-sized turrets to represent Morpeth castle.
For practical purposes, silver and gold are usually rendered as white and yellow.
The ancient (pre-1836) corporation made little, if any, use of the badge, though its seal bore some resemblance to it.
The subsequent Morpeth Borough Council waited for almost 60 years before beginning to use the badge in various ways – in stone on buildings, in print on town guides, and in enamel on the mayoral chain and in the Lord Joicey plaque on the front of the Town Hall.
The Borough of Castle Morpeth was formed in 1974 from Morpeth Borough, Morpeth Rural District, and most of Castle Ward Rural District.
Castle Ward RDC had a coat of arms since 1962. It, too, has a castle with three turrets, but with a portcullis and the centre turret standing taller. Its crest – a wreathed helmet with a lion holding a sword – was incorporated into Castle Morpeth’s coat of arms, but with three stars on the lion’s shoulder instead of one, to represent the three parts of the borough.
Morpeth RDC didn’t have a coat of arms, but the supporters, two stags holding sprigs of oak, stand on a grassy mound above a stylised river with trout swimming in it, representing the rural landscapes of much of the new borough.
Coal mining, however, which was the characteristic feature of Morpeth Rural, got no recognition.
When Morpeth Parish Council was formed in 1984, Castle Morpeth was still in existence.
The town council, as it soon became, did not have a badge. But in 2011, following the demise of Castle Morpeth in 2009, it gained the right to use the old town badge.
As a result, it can now be seen in all sorts of situations – on litter bins, on a rather splendid door mat at the entrance to the Town Hall, and just recently I saw a council lorry with the town council’s badge on the side.
More than that, the two gentlemen with it, who were doing work at St James’s Community Centre, wore the badge on the backs of their jackets. They told me they are actually county council employees, but work in partnership with the town council.
The civic badge is widely used by sports clubs, often with ingenious variations.
Morpeth Cricket Club dates back to 1850. It first played on a field at Coopies Lane, until the Blyth and Tyne Railway was driven through it, after which it played at Grange House Field and the High Stanners. The club then, according to Alec Tweddle, became defunct for a while, but was revived in 1895.
It moved to the field near the railway station in 1903, and had tennis courts there soon after.
The club colours are green and gold so whereas the town badge has four colours – red, white, blue and gold – the club badge is cleverly adapted to contain just the two.
Morpeth Town FC was founded in 1894. It uses the town badge in its original form, and its victory in the FA Vase last season is why we have seen so much of it lately.
Morpeth Golf Club began in 1907 with a nine-hole course at the eastern end of Morpeth Common, where it is now.
Its first clubhouse was the Volunteers’ pavilion, which it rented, and its second, a former waiting room from Wallsend Tramways.
In 1922, following the Great War, an 18-hole course was laid out, and the club took over the Common Herd’s House, which, with additions and alterations, has been the clubhouse ever since.
Its badge, which you can see on the front of the clubhouse, is very like the original, though with six stripes instead of ten, and has crossed golf clubs behind the shield.
Morpeth Hockey Club’s first ground was at Pegswood Moor Farm. Play began in 1922. The members cut the grass with hay knives to make a pitch to play on, and changing rooms and match teas were provided at local hotels.
In 1938 it arranged to rent the Cricket Club’s field at Stobhill for the winter. The arrangement was renewed again after the War, and in 1947 it became the Hockey Section of Morpeth Cricket, Hockey and Tennis Club.
Its badge is the same as the town badge, but with extra stripes, and the words Morpeth Hockey Club arranged round it. The three clubs moved to Longhirst in 1994.
Morpeth Amateur Swimming Club, 1969, has the badge in skeleton form, allowing the background to show through, regardless of what colour it is.
Morpeth Rugby Club, founded in 1947 as the Old Edwardians, moved to Grange House Field in 1954.
Its badge is the authentic one, its team shirts incorporate the Stutteville red and white stripes, and its newsletter is called the Red and White Reporter.
And all this because Roger de Merley III’s grandma was a Stutteville.