Thursday, 18 July 2019

Coat of arms by Capronnier in the west window at Howden Minster, Yorkshire

I posted this picture on Twitter for #AllCreaturesGreatAndSmall #AnimalsInChurchesHour with the text “Two butterflies in this coat of arms by Capronnier in the west window at Howden Minster, Yorkshire And Two #TinyLions for #TinyLionsAppreciationSociety

Posy Hill‏ @PosyHill1 Mischievously replied “Two lions playing football. Those butterflies look a lot like bees.”

Those that know me know that I hate to be proved wrong! So this was a like a red rag to a bull, as they say. In addition I had worried that the wings were an odd configuration for a butterfly.  So I set out to identify the coat of arms. Firstly the motto gave me no leads. So I loaded up a picture of the full window to see who was commemorated.

The dedication reads “To the Glory of God and in affectionate remembrance of George Tutill Esq. Born April 16th 1817, died Feb 17th 1887.

He was not in Burke’s General Armory or in Burke’s Landed Gentry, although there was a family Tuthill but they have quite different arms.

I then decided to try Googling George Tutill!

Unexpectedly I got a result from Grace’s Guide. Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain.
Born in in Howden in 1817 to an illiterate miller father, George Tutill would at the age of 20 set up a firm which would be a prolific manufacturer of trade union banners. More than three quarters of the trade union banners made after 1837 can be attributed to George Tutill.
George Tutill started as a travelling fairground salesman, a profession where it was common to decorate sideshows and caravans. He often met with trade union members and friendly societies who would ask him to paint their banners.
Tutill's banners were made of pure silk and he established his business in East London due to the proximity of Huguenot descended silk-weavers in Spitalfields and Bethnal Green. He introduced hand looms to the premises to control the quality of the silk and the designs of his choice as well as to provide greater control of production.
Tutill took out a patent for "treating materials for the manufacture of banners and flags in 1861. The system employed was to coat the silk with a thin solution of India rubber and once it had dried, either in a heated chamber or by oxidization, a second coat with linseed oil as well, was applied.
George Tutill died, aged 70 in 1887."
The Tutill factory was destroyed in the Blitz but was rebuilt and continued to operate until the 1960s when it closed and production moved to Chesham.
In the 1950’s Tutill’s joined forces with Turtle & Pearce, mainly to develop their flag trade facilities. The business still trades today as Flagmakers based in Macclesfield

Picture of Trade Union Banners, these are more modern than George Tutill's time but give an impression of what they would have looked like. Normally supported by two men with poles at the front of a march.
 In Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland

In The People's History Museum, Manchester

So my conclusion is that George Tutill did not go to the College of Arms to obtain a proper Grant of Arms. He was not ennobled or part of the Landed Gentry. He was in “trade” and would not have been entitled to a grant from the College. Instead he went to one of the many Victorian Heraldic Offices which would draw “something” up for those with the money to spend.
As a result his arms have 2 silk moths (Lepidoptera but not Butterflies) which were the source of his wealth. He made enough money to enable his family to source a stained glass window from Capronnier of Brussels which was placed in the windows of the Church in the town of his birth, although it was many years since he had lived there.
It may be that, with Howden being close to the Port of Hull, the shipping costs on the glass were reasonable. There are 3 other Capronnier windows from a similar date in Howden.

Picture of a female silk moth, with cocoon and eggs - Photo by Merlin Crossley



  1. A stunning window.
    Silk is so hard to work with due to its fraying, but so colourful and bright. His banners must have been a wonderful sight.

  2. The window is beautiful and I remember your tweet. A fascinating and interesting post John - lovely to read about all your research :)