Above the main door on the Baroque Wing at Halswell House is an elaborately quartered coat of arms which no visitor can fail to miss.
Carved and painted at the completion of this part of the house in 1689, a date stone sits just above the pediment, it commemorates not only the building of this grand part of the house but also the owners who made it possible; Sir Halswell Tynte (1649-1702) and Grace Fortescue (c. 1622-1694) who married in 1671.
The left side of the quartering records the Tynte (Halswell) family and the right side records the Fortescue’s and their forebears.
LEFT to RIGHT, TOP to BOTTOM
Tynte, Halswell, Fortescue, Densell
Gatcombe, Tremayle, Trivett, de Waere (Trewin), de Filleigh,
Farway, Speke, Unknown, Unknown
One of the legends that surround the family who lived at Halswell is that of the first Tynte who, as a young knight of the Arundel Family, is said to have gone on the Third Crusade with King Richard the Lionheart. He was singled out for his bravery at the 1192 battle of Ascalon. The King observing him is supposed to have said:
“ .. the maiden knight had borne himself like a lion, and had done work enough for six crusaders“
For which service to the Christian cause the King is said to have conferred on the young Knight his armorial bearings (Heraldic device), a lion argent on a field of gold between six crosslets of the first and the motto Tynctus Cruore Saraceno (“tinged with Saracen blood”).
The red hand of a small white shield in the upper right corner of the Tynte arm is the heraldic emblem of a baronet, the Tynte baronetcy, which existed from 1674-1785.
The heraldic descriptions of the arms of each family
Tynte: Gules, a lion couchant between six cross crosslets argent
Halswell: azure, three bars wavy argent over all a bend gules
Fortescue: Azure, a bend engrailed argent cottised or
Densell: Sable, a mullet in chief and a crescent in base argent
Gatcombe: Gules, three goats’ heads erased argent
Tremayle: A fess between three brogues
Trivett: Argent, a round trivet sable within a bordure sable
de Waere (Trewin): Argent, on a bend vert between six crosses crosslet fitchee gules three crozierheads or
De Filleigh: Gules, a fess vairee between 6 crosses formee or
Farway of Penhallam: Sable, a chevron between three escallops argent
Speke: Argent, two bars azure over all an eagle with two heads displayed gules.
At the time of writing we are yet to discover the identities of the last two coats of arms from the Fortescue side of these quartered arms. If there are any Fortescue family history specialists who might know the answer do please get in touch!