Emblematically Speaking - AFC Darwen

Tue 26th September 2017 | Darwen
By Stewart Taylor

Darwen FC

This week we revert to a traditional town coat of arms, only very slightly modified, which is used to represent a football club which can trace its roots as far back as 1870.

Although the current club was formed in 2009 under the name of AFC Darwen, the original Darwen FC, having played in the Football League in the last decade of the 19th century, were active from 1870 until 2003.

The devices which come together on the town coat of arms, granted on August 7th 1878, are representative of the industrial nature of the town.

The arms depict three cotton bolls (seed capsules) and the River Darwen which runs through the town. The cotton represents the cotton industry in which the town grew and prospered during the Industrial Revolution and the three bolls represent the three main areas of Darwen - Over Darwen, Lower Darwen and Hoddlesden.

At the helm of the coat of arms is a barred helmet representing nobility, and above it the torse in the town colours of blue and gold.

In heraldry, a torse is a twisted roll of fabric laid about the top of the helmet and the base of the crest. It has the dual purpose of masking the join between helm and crest, and holding the mantling in place.

At the crest, a man stands shouldering a pick-axe, which refers to the town's motto and also represents the mining industry that was present to the east of the town at that time.

The motto Absque Labore Nihil (Latin) translates as "Nothing without labour" and reinforces the industrial heritage of the town.

Come think about it, another translation could readily be that “You achieve nothing without working for it” which fits well with any sporting ethos, including football.

Although it may not hit the news all that often, towns are quite wedded to their coats of arms and, as such, the citizens take great pride in them. Just how much outrage any corruption, perceived on otherwise, of a town coat of arms can be readily understood from an incident from a few years ago.

Darwen Civic Society were “up in arms” – so to speak - when they found blunders in replicas of the town’s coat of arms. Crests displayed across the town, including at Darwen Market and Whitehall Park, were said to be the wrong colour and design.

The Civic Society said “The original crest has a wavy azure between three sprigs of cotton tree. It also has demi-miner holding a pick over his shoulder and a shuttle fesse-wise. Between the arms and the crest are the closed helm and slashed cloak.

"On the Whitehall Park gates, there are red cotton buds instead of white, the miner and his pick-axe are missing, and at the sides there are green leaves instead of gold and blue feathers. The crest on the market gates is different again”.

A representative of the Society went on to say “These are glaring errors. It seems that whoever has done it hasn’t known what they are doing. We will want this changing. It is very important for the history and heritage of the town to get things like this correct. The society will be speaking to the council about it.”

On a slightly lighter note, but still showing great respect for the town coat of arms, it was reported that the families of two former Darwen Spitfire pilots were to be given a badge of the town coat of arms at a special ceremony.

The ceremony, held in the town centre, commemorated the services of Trevor Sidney ‘Wimpy’ Wade and William Melville Lamberton, who both flew the plane in the Second World War. Each of the family members of the pilots who attended was given a lapel badge of the Darwen coat of arms as a mark of respect.

And the slight modification, referred to above at the start of this description, is the addition of the words “AFC DARWEN” on the wavy azure in the centre of the shield.

Our thanks to Mike Vizzard of Darwen for his assistance in the writing of this article.

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