The school has had a crest since the mid 19th Century, although the precise date of its incorporation into school "marketing" is unknown. Many are familiar with the two-shield under a crown image, but few know of its significance or origin.Various manifestations have appeared over the years, with changing colours, details and wording. This short summary will hopefully enlighten those who have an interest in the history of this familiar device.
The whole crest (or logo, as it might now be called) has four main components: Interlocking shields, a crown and banner displaying the Latin school name "Schola Regia Grammatica". The crown is rather self-explanatory, having been used to commemorate the Royal Charter that officially recognised and funded a Grammar School in Wycombe in 1562. The banner adds an identifying flourish and is sometimes withdrawn from printing altogether, when the wording will be unreadable in small print.
However, the shields in question have never been authorised by the Kings of Arms, either as armorial bearings for the School or granted as such to the Board of Governors. The fact that the shields are tilted together or "combined" gives a historical hint towards their mid 19th Century origin as this was a common trend of the time, when unofficial assumptions of arms was not infrequent for schools looking for some definition of character for "marketing" purposes.
Interestingly, the original details and near-perfect original colourings can be seen in the stained glass window in one of the old Main Block Chapel rooms.
Each of the shields are individual entities on record in the College of Arms and the notes below shine some light as to their origins.
"The Shield with the Swan"
We don't need to look very far to be able to discern that this shield is a geographical marker for the school. It is the arms of the Borough of Wycombe, consisting of a black background with a silver swan standing on a green mound, its wings folded, and a ducal coronet and chain, both gold, round the swan's neck. Technically, the school has kept the design but not the colourings.
It is interesting to note that this swan is often misrepresented in other local insignia as a swan with its wings spread out and no standing mount. This is the arms of Buckingham rather than the county, and a common error when the designer means to represent the county of Buckinghamshire rather than the town of Buckingham.
Sir Colin Cole KCB, KCVO, CD, wrote a letter to the school in 1996 explaining the history of this shield further. He wrote:
The Shield with the Swan: these arms which may be blazoned "sable (black), a Swan Argent (silver) gorged with a ducal coronet therefrom a chain reflexed over the back and ending in a ring gold" are obviously meant to be those of Chepping (or High) Wycombe. The green mound on which the swan should stand having been omitted in error.
They were ratified by William Harvey, Clarenceux King of Arms, in 1566, and being on the seal of "Wicombe" were entered at the Heraldic Visitation of Buckinghamshire in 1634, pertaining to the Mayor and Corporation of Wycombe as an ancient borough entitled to arms. They cannot therefore be regarded as belonging to the school.
"The Shield with the Chevron and Crosses Botony Fitchy"
Considering the first shield is something of a geographical marker for the school, it might be fair to consider the second to represent its foundation or founder, prior to the receipt of Royal Charter status in 1562. A certain Sir Edmund Peckham is known to be a founding figure of the school and his arms show distinct similarity to the current right-hand shield.
The arms of Sir Edmund Peckham are black with a golden chevron between three silver crosses "botony fitchy" (three points developing into buds like clover leaves with a pointed bottom end to the cross). B C Peatey wrote for the 1954 Wycombiensian that:
This shield has suffered more than the other, because no one knew its origin. It is very commonly seen as a light blue shield with a red chevron, plain crosses, shamrocks or even daggers replacing the botony fitchy crosses.
Indeed, Sir Colin Cole also has something to say about this shield and our "misuse" of colourings and its origin. His 1996 letter reads:
These are the arms of Piers (Peter) Peckham of the City of London and were testified, ratified and confirmed as his by Clarenceux King of Arms in 1494. Piers Peckham made his Will as Peter Peckham of Denham in 1501 and the Patent of Arms originally issued to him in 1494 by Clarenceux remains now in the College of Arms, the blazon being "sable, a chevron gold betweene three crosses botony fitchey silver".
Sir Edmund Peckham, "cofferer in the King's House", appears to have been of the same family, the like arms being on his monument in Denham, where he was buried, his Will having been proved in 1564. He had been knighted in 1542. The assumption of his arms by the school is no doubt explained by his being the school's "first founder".