Irving – Simpson arms

Irving – Simpson arms. When I wrote my book, Port Carlisle, a history built on hope, I drew up a rough idea of the Irving-Simpson arms. That is, the coat of arms accorded to Peter Irving and his wife Jane, née Simpson.

It turns out I was slightly wrong!

Because thanks to this great website, I have found a photo of the arms as they actually were.

They are to be found in the stained glass of St Michael’s Church, at Bowness on Solway. Which has always been locked on the occasions I have visited down the years.

Who was Peter Irving?

Quite simply, he was the man who made Port Carlisle what it was in its heyday. While most of the men behind the canal (and later railway) were city business men, city manufacturers, he lived in the port and owned a number of the ships (about 40) that sailed from and to it. There is a chapter on him in my book.

At what point he was invited to choose arms, I don’t know. But the symbols he chose for his side, and the motto, were those of the Irvings of Bonshaw Tower.

Which brings us to:

Wrong branch of holly

When I was drawing my idea of the Irving – Simpson arms, it was from the verbal description:

Peter Irving of Port Carlisle (Bowness on Solway). Impaling Simpson (Bowness on Solway).

Three holly leaves and a bordure vert, an arm erect embowed armed holding two holly leaves. Motto: Nullis cadentia Ventis. 

Impaling Simpson: argent on a chief azure three increscents.

After some research, I came up with the design seen here, in the book, and also in this post on  Facts about coats of arms

However, from the window, it seems the ‘three holly leaves’ should have been literally that.

Wrong Irvings

According to the Clan Carruthers Society (for one), the three times triple leaves belong to the Irvines (Irvings) of Drum, Aberdeenshire/

Whereas the three individual leaves are from the Irvings of Bonshaw, Dumfriesshire, across the Solway from Port Carlisle.

The arms were registered by William Irving, of Bonshaw, in the early 1670s.

It is my understanding that Peter Irving was descended from William’s uncle, Francis Irving of Dumfries. All of which means while Peter Irving was descended from the Irvings of Bonshaw, he wasn’t descended from the man who registered the arms. 

Arms are granted with specific limits as to who can bear them – sometimes, just the holder for his lifetime. So there may have been a little borrowing going on. But it was accepted by the College of Arms, and Peter was from a ‘cadet branch’ of the clan. It was nothing like the random ‘buy a tea towel with a coat of arms you have zero connection to’ of today!

Irving – Simpson arms : the Simpson side

My ‘educated guess’ for the Simpson half of the Irving – Simpson arms matches the actual design seen in the stained glass window.

The puzzle that remains is on what basis did Jane claim those three increscents?

Jane Simpson, born 1808, chose as her half of a coat of arms a silver shield with an azure top third and three increscents. Other people named as having something similar are George Simpson of Scaleby, and John of Loaning Head, Sebergham. Both in 1767 – it would seem they borrowed or amended from someone before.

The Irving papers say Simpsons ‘of Sebergham’.

But so far, I have been unable to uncover a link between Jane (daughter of Thomas, and granddaughter of Edward Simpson of Dalston (Carlisle) and the Lonning Head Simpsons (or the Scaleby ones, come to that).

Maybe Jane Simpson had no link to either armorial family and they also just ‘borrowed’ the increscents, rather than make up something from scratch for her side?

If anyone reading this has an answer, do get in touch via the contacts page.

The Irving window

The Irving window, in St Michael’s Church, Bowness on Solway, was commissioned by John Bell Irving and paid for by him and siblings Dr Robert James, Maggie Jane, and Maud Mary.

The left light commemorates their father James Irving; the right light their mother Barbara née Bell. And the middle, Peter and Jane, honours their paternal grandparents.

John Bell Irving’s son Edward wrote, in 1974, that he believed it was put in in 1903, at a cost of around £110. 

And that the designer’s name was Hemming.

Alfred Octavius Hemming

This was stained glass designer Alfred Octavius Hemming (1843-1907). His name pops up on many websites relating to individual churches, but no one seems to have done anything from the point of him or his eponymous company.

The census returns show he was born in Bristol. His father Samuel was ‘late of the Bombay engineers’. His mother Agnes (Baird) was born in Aberdeen. They lived for a while in Bedminster (Bristol), then Hampstead, where Alfred was to be buried. Alfred Octavious Hemming trained in Edinburgh, set up his own firm in 1883 after working for others. He never married. He may not have websites dedicated to him, or online encyclopedia entries. But there are churches from Armagh to Weston-super-Mare – via Brighton, Cromford, East Grinstead, Hambleton, Newnham, Salisbury, Twickenham… and of course, Bowness on Solway – where his name lives on in shining colours.

Villages by the Sea

BBC2 is to feature Port Carlisle in a new series of Villages by the Sea. This camera-shy author was happy her book aided the research, but hates seeing herself on screen. So, limited info on the content in advance. But it seems it will focus more on the village than Channel 4’s Britain at Low Tide, which had to cram several topics into the episode.

UPDATE (3/11/23):

They did a good job on the programme, which can (at time of writing) be watched here. I even recognised a couple of lines that were almost a direct quote from my book!!

The one thing they got wrong, for the record, was showing a picture of Peter John Irving (the White Star Line captain) as if he were the ship owner, when that was his father, Peter.

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