Emblematically Speaking - Vauxhall Motors

Tue 9th October 2018 | Vauxhall Motors
By Stewart Taylor

Vauxhall Motors FC

In previous articles in the last series, we looked at the origins of football clubs.

Many were derived as works teams from organisations both large and small across the country, and the name of Vauxhall Motors tells you all you need to know in this context.

But the purpose of these short articles is to look at the emblems of member clubs and here there is quite a story to tell.

The Vauxhall Motors plant at Ellesmere Port was built in 1962. A works football team was quickly formed and the date of formation (1963) is clear to see on the blue edge to the roundel. Not surprisingly, the company adopted the Vauxhall badge as their emblem.

Our study this week takes us back to the formation of the Vauxhall Motor Company and, hence, even further back into the world of classic heraldry.

There is a tendency in large companies for incoming bosses to try to leave their legacy on the company they have become involved in. Often this takes the shape of a re-branding exercise which, frequently, will involve a change of logo.

To change a company logo is a time consuming and expensive business but we all have to move with the times – don’t we!

In 1857, Alexander Wilson set up as a manufacturer of marine diesel engines in Vauxhall Iron Works on Wandsworth Road in London. He incorporated the “Fulk’s griffin” into his company badge.

By the end of the 19th century, the company name had changed to the Vauxhall Iron Works Company. Car manufacture started in 1903. The company was very successful and needed more space than was available so the operation moved to Luton in 1905.

Why Luton? is an interesting question, but we’ll get back to that. In 1925 the company was acquired by General Motors and continued to grow to the extent that more capacity was needed. The plant at Ellesmere Port was opened, initially to supply parts to Luton but within a couple of years was assembling cars.

So much for the history of the car company and now for the history of the badge. In the paragraphs above there are a couple of extremely relevant references.

These being “Fulk’s griffin” and “Luton”. An understanding of the connection between these two references will give us the story of the Vauxhall Motors FC emblem.

First of all, the griffin. Scholars of heraldry will know that the griffin is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and often wings of an eagle.

As the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of the birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. Griffins are normally known for guarding treasure. In antiquity it was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine.

And then, Fulk. The griffin emblem is derived from the coat of arms of Faulke de Breaute. By marriage, he gained the rights to an area near London, south of the Thames.

The name of the house he built, Fulk's Hall, became corrupted over time to “Vauxhall”. Vauxhall Iron Works adopted this emblem from the coat of arms to emphasise its links to the local area.

And finally, Luton. Faulke de Breaute was a mercenary soldier who was granted the Manor of Luton for services to King John in the thirteenth century so when Vauxhall Iron Works moved to Luton in 1905, the griffin emblem returned to its ancestral home.

Perhaps this latter bit explains why Luton was chosen as the location for the company in 1905 but, probably, more practical considerations were at play.

As suggested, the emblem has undergone some minor stylistic changes - rebranding is perhaps too strong a word here - over the years, but the essence of it is unchanged for over 100 years and a fitting emblem to the origins of Vauxhall Motors FC.

With thanks to Alan Bartlam of Vauxhall Motors FC for his contribution to this article.

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