The Bear and Ragged Staff, Warwickshire

PUBLISHED: 11:07 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 16:09 20 February 2013

Steven Falk, senior keeper, natural history at Warwickshire Museum with the bear

Steven Falk, senior keeper, natural history at Warwickshire Museum with the bear

The Bear and Ragged Staff appear all over the county, in pub names, on road signs, as statues in towns and parks . . .and there's even a real one (stuffed) in Warwickshire Museum.

The Bear and Ragged Staff appear all over the county, in pub names, on road signs, as statues in towns and parks . . .and there's even a real one (stuffed) in Warwickshire Museum.

The county emblem had been linked to the earls of Warwick since the 14th century. Medieval legends have it that the Earl of Warwick at the time of King Arthur was called Arthgal, which was thought to have come from the Welsh word 'artos' or bear. The ragged staff came from a legend about another Earl of Warwick Morvidus, who polished off a giant using the broken branch of a tree. In truth the bear was a heraldic symbol of courage, but the old stories are entertaining anyway.

At first the bear and the staff were used as two separate emblems and were gradually used together from the late 1300s. The earliest known use of the bear and ragged staff together was by Thomas Beauchamp (who died in 1369 and is buried in St Mary's Church in Warwick). He owned a bed covering embroidered with a golden bear and a silver staff.

Much later a Beauchamp descendent, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, used the bear and ragged staff frequently. The recently-restored Elizabethan gardens at Kenilworth castle, which Robert Dudley originally had built for Queen Elizabeth I, has several carved bears and ragged staff. The Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick, also founded by Robert Dudley, bears the emblem in numerous places.

Although originally a crest used by the aristocracy, over the years the bear and ragged staff has come to be used by many organisations in the county. The bear and ragged staff is used as the emblem of the Warwickshire Constabulary, the First Warwickshire Militia and Warwickshire County Council.

Did you know? There is no restriction on using the bear and ragged staff so long as the colours used are not those used by the Earls of Warwick or the County Council.



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