The first Coat of Arms was a confirmation by Clarencieux, King at Arms, in approximately 1563. It dates back to a seal of the late 1300s and so predates the setting up of the College of Heralds in 1484 and also the order of King Henry V in 1417, which forbade the bearing of arms without authority from the Crown.
It was in 1948 that a written description of the Arm was confirmed by the College of Arms; clarifying the many variations in the colouring of the Blazon, authorising the Crest and incorporating a mermaid which had been used without authority for about 200 years.
The wavy bars (black and gold) typified water and the dolphin "the king of the sea", just as the lion represents "king of the beasts". The dolphin reminds us of past and present customs i.e. maritime activity.
The three scallop shells are more mysterious: they take us 2,000 miles away, and 600 years ago, to medieval Spain and the shrine of Saint James of Compostela.
In medieval England religion was a key aspect of life. One way to help to save ones' soul was to go on a visit to an important Christian site - to go on pilgrimage. The three most important pilgrim centres in Europe were Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain: believed to be the burial place of St James, apostle of Jesus Christ. The symbol of St James, and of pilgrims to his shrine, is the scallop shell which reminds us that St James is the Patron Saint of the Parish Church, Old Town of Poole. On the Poole Coat of Arms it may be an allusion to William Longspee, Lord of the Manor, who was a gallant knight and crusader who gave Poole its first Charter in 1248.
Poole was one of the places from which people could take ship for the long and dangerous journey across the Bay of Biscay to the port of Corunna and so on to Santiago de Compostela. Among the licenses granted to ships' captains by the King several name Harry Paye of Poole and his ship the Mary. Harry Paye features prominently in the Spanish accounts but as a notorious pirate who ravaged their coast. A force of Spanish galleys burnt Poole in 1405 in revenge for his attacks.
And why are the scallops black? Pilgrims, like tourists, value souvenirs and especially prized were the works of the Spanish azabacheria the craftsmen who carved scallop shells from azabache: jet.
The pellet (or ogress) in the mermaid's left hand may represent a cannon ball and in the right a cable and anchor which calls to mind Poole's maritime past.
The present Coat of Arms now has two supporters. This addition was granted by the College of Arms in 1976 and described in Heraldic terms as follows: "on the Dexter a lion holding a sword erect proper and on the Sinister a dragon supporting an oar argent upon a compartment per pale a grassy mound proper and water barry wavy azure and argent". (Dexter means right, Sinister left; the custom of Heraldry is to speak out from the page and thus the Sinister supporter appears not on the left, but on the right, as one looks at the Coat of Arms). The supporters added to the Arms was a gift to the town by Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, the then Rt Hon Oscar Murton OBE TD JP MP, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, to commemorate his period of service as a Councillor and MP for Poole from 1964.
The motto: "Ad Morem Villae De Poole" means "According to the Custom of the Town of Poole".
Page last updated: 17 January 2019