Woodforde heraldry

The Woodford coat of arms at Ashby Folville church
The Woodford coat of arms at Ashby Folville church

The Woodford arms as described in the family's cartulary - of three leopard's heads emerging dramatically from the centre of three fleur-de-lis - are those that have remained associated with various branches of the family until almost the present day.

They were certainly being used by the Revd Alexander John Woodforde of Locking, Somerset, on correspondence in the early years cof the 20th century. 

Four variants of the arms are known, two being described as `Woodford Ancient' families of Ashby Folville in Leicestershire and of Leicester respectively, a further one being associated with the Woodford family of Carleby in Lincolnshire and one relating to Woodforde of Ansford in Somerset.

The same arms are to be seen in many churches in North-Northamptonshire where members of the family served as clergy.

Modern representation of Woodford arms
Modern representation of Woodford arms

These arms all bear the distinctive leopards' heads and fleur-de-lis as described in the cartulary:

And of the armys that longe to the sayd manor.
That is to wytee he bereth sabull the felde and
Three fleaures de lice sylv (er) returnd into
Three lybberd heedys of goules.

John Woodford of Brentingby bore no arms before his journey to Melton Mowbray prior to 1316 and his subsequent purchase of the manor of Brentingby.

It is important to emphasise that the arms were purchased along with the manor and have associations with the arms of Neville of Stoke of Nottinghamshire - the fleur-de-lis - and the arms of Canteloupe - loupe, lepus, leopard.

Nichols notes a deed dated 6 Edward II (1312) on which the seal of John Neville at Brentingby is described as 'in an escrutcheon, three fleurs-de-lis circumscribed'.  He further records a deed dated 1215 relating to William de Canteloupe's interests at Brentingby on which the seal is 'three fleurs-de-lis circumscribed'.

The Woodford arms quartered with those of Folville, Brabazon and a fourth unknown arms (Guildhall mss)
The Woodford arms quartered with those of Folville, Brabazon and a fourth unknown arms (Guildhall mss)

The variants of the arms are:

  • Woodford of County Leics:  Sable, three leopards' heads or. Jessant as many fleures-de-lis gules.
  • Woodford of Ashby Folville: Sable, three leopards' heads gules, jessant-de-lis argent.
  • Woodford of Carleby, Co.Lincs: Sable, three leopards' heads reversed, jessant-de-lis, argent.
  • Woodford of Ansford: Sable, three leopards' heads reversed gules. Jessant-de-lis, argent.

The Woodford Cartulary states that:

And in this same coat armour was this same John of Woodford with King edward at the getting of Caleys And at the taking of the king of France at the battle of Poyters.'

Nichols, very clumsily, reprints the above extract and adds

'this John, having attended king Henry III at the taking of Calais and the battle of Poictiers.'

The inn sign of the Carington Arms, Ashby Folville
The inn sign of the Carington Arms, Ashby Folville