Many times in this series of articles we have seen how local, often noble, families have shaped the history of a town or district.
Frequently this has been due to land holdings by these families which were gifted by kings and other royals a good few centuries ago for their support in times of conflict.
A quick look through some of the aspects of, particularly Medieval, history, will tell you that it is more than handy to have picked the winner in any conflict.
One such ancient and noble family is the Gerard (sometime Gerrard) family of Bryn in Lancashire and surrounding districts. It is the influence of this family in what is now Ashton-in-Makerfield which informs our story this week.
Regular readers might be beginning to think that we have been here before and, of course, they would be correct in that much of the influence of the Gerard family on the district was covered in our article about the emblem of Ashton Athletic FC. That there are many similarities between the emblems of the two Ashton clubs comes as no surprise.
We can deal with the similarities later but let us take up the story of the development of the Ashton Town FC emblem.
Ashton Town began life as Makerfield Mill FC, the works team for the mill of the same name in the town, and originally played at a ground in Windsor Road in Ashton-in-Makerfield.
However, in 1962, while playing in the Warrington and District Amateur League, the club were renamed Ashton Town and moved home matches to a public park pitch at Whithill Street Recreation Ground in Bryn. Then in 1964, the club purchased their current home ground at Edge Green Street, which had previously hosted Stubshaw Cross Rovers.
From the start of the club’s formation, the emblem was a traditional embroidered affair containing the initials MMFC, which can be seen on the player’s shirts in a number of team photos from the time.
During the early 1960s, the current Ashton Town Life President Billy Pomfrett and Vice-President Jimmy Cahill were players at the club, and both of them have confirmed that around the time of the move to the present ground at Edge Green Street, the club committee decided to adopt a new emblem based on the town crest of Ashton-in-Makerfield, with the addition of a football on top of the hand that sits at the top of the shield.
The emblem remained largely unchanged from that point up until 2013, the club’s 60th anniversary. To commemorate the event, Chairman Mark Hayes instigated another change to the emblem, with the addition of an outer circle around the existing emblem, containing the club name and the words “Onwards and Upwards”.
So we see an emblem developing to what we have today, but not losing the identity of the town. We can see that by reference to the devices in the Ashton Town FC emblem which are common to both the town crest and the emblem of Ashton Athletic FC.
An open hand. This device represents faith, humanity and justice. Overall, the symbolism of the hand here is as a representation of a baronet which fits well with Baron Gerard despite the device not forming part of the Gerard Coat of Arms.
A lion rampant depicted as standing on one leg. The lion is recognised as “the king of the beasts” and, as such, represents courage, nobility, and strength. Perfectly good attributes for Baron Gerard but, again, the lion is not found on the Gerard Coat of Arms.
A cross in the colours of the Coat of Arms of the Gerard family.
In conclusion we see yet again the strong links between a football club and the town that club represents although we might have expected to find more direct references to the Gerard family in the symbolism.
Throughout this series of articles we have attempted to find links between what might at first appear to be rather disparate references some of which go back many centuries.
With this in mind we have an opportunity to find a link between the current Chairman of Ashton Town FC, a pub in nearby St Helens and the ancient and noble Gerard family who have influenced the development of the area over many centuries.
To that end, isn’t it just gloriously ironic that the current licensee of the Gerard Arms pub in St Helens is none other than the current Ashton Town FC Chairman Mark Hayes – honestly, you just couldn’t make it up!
Thanks to League Media Officer Ian Templeman for sourcing some of the information used in this article.