Wandering around Churton when I first arrived in the area, I was surprised to see the Talbot Hound on a number plaques. In the village of Aldford to the north the Talbot hound is a very familiar character, shown on signage all over the village of Aldford, as it has been a symbol of the Grosvenor estates, of which the Eaton Hall estate is the family seat, since the late 16th Century.
In Churton, several examples of Talbot Hounds are to be found on the Churton-by-Aldford side of the village. Churton-by-Aldford was affiliated to Aldford and the Eaton Hall estate. At the same time, both the hound and a wheatsheaf can be seen incorporated into the the old school house wall, carved out of red sandstone in high relief. The school house, at the top end of Stannage Lane, was built in 1864 and paid for by the Eaton Hall estate,.
So why was an Aldford emblem dotted around Churton? Up until 2015 Churton was split into two townships, with Churton-by-Aldford to the north of Hob Lane and Pump Lane, and Churton-by-Farndon to the south of that line. I will be posting about how this division arose shortly, looking at what it meant in everyday terms and how it is visible on maps and on the ground, but the short version is that Churton-by-Aldford was once a part of the Eaton Hall estate (some parts still are) and Churton-by-Farndon was not. The Talbot hounds are one of the easily identifiable differentiators between the two halves of the village.
Talbot hounds are now extinct. The hounds were white, and characterized by large paws and a tail curled over the lower back. They were used as hunting dogs, but is unclear exactly what prey they were employed to retrieve. There is a lot of speculation about whether or not they were introduced by the Normans, where the name originated and whether they may have contributed some genetic material to modern hunting breeds, but most of this appears to lack any supporting data. What seems to be without dispute is that the Talbot hound first appears on the Grosvenor family’s coat of arms in 1597.
The legend/text around the Talbot hound is centred within an oval frame that is sculpted into a garter with a buckle at its base, the Order of the Garter, which always reads HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE,. This is Old French. Broken down, the text can be translated as follows:
- Honi – Old French conjugation of modern honnir, to shame, or to be contemptuous of
- Soit – subjunctive of être, “be”
- Qui – relative pronoun, “who”
- Y – adverbial pronoun, “it”
the sense of which can be roughly translated as “shame on whoever thinks bad/evil here/there” The Order of the Garter dates to Edward III (1327-77). The Order was created when Edward III founded the college of St George at Windsor, reputedly modelled on the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. The new Order was associated with a small group of 25 knights headed by the king, each of whom was provided with a stall in the chapel, entitled the Order of the Garter. It is unclear what the garter actually was, but one theory is that it was a device used to connect pieces of armour, and it was worn by all the knights concerned. The order is headed by the current sovereign (Sovereign of the Garter) who, since 1946, personally selects Knights of the Garter to honour those who have contributed to the nation or who have performed a particular personal service for the Sovereign.
The Talbot hound and the emblem of the Order of the Garter are topped with an earl’s coronet, showing four strawberry leaves and four silver balls or pearls above the rim, clear representatives of which are shown on the carving shown above.
The Grosvenor family coat of arms already included a wheat-sheaf or Garf prior to the addition of the Talbot hound, probably from the 14th Century. The Grosvenor family shares the wheatsheaf symbol with the City/Palatine of Chester, where it refers to the Earls of Chester and to Cheshire. It does not, as far as I know, appear on any other Churton buildings.
Churton Parish Newsletter, September 2019
College of St George, Windsor
History Timeline – 1385-1390, 1597
The institution, laws & ceremonies of the most noble Order of the Garter : work furnished with variety of matter, relating to honor and noblesse by Ashmole, Elias, 1617-1692
Statue: Robert Grosvenor statue
Order of the Garter