Historical significance of the Rochford Wyvern
The Wyvern in Rochford’s arms derives from the arms for Rayleigh Town
ARMS : Argent a Wyvern Vert armed and langued and the jaws and underparts Gules on a Chief Gules a Seax point to the sinister proper hilt and pommel Or.
CREST : On a Wreath Argent and Gules on a Mount Vert a Roe Doe statant proper pendent from the neck by a Chain Or an Escutcheon Argent charged with a Tudor Rose proper.
ARMS : Chequy of twelve Or a Rose Gules barbed and seeded proper charged with a like Rose Argent barbed and seeded proper and Gules a Garb Or.
CREST : Issuant from an Ancient Crown Or a Mount Vert thereon in front a representation of Rayleigh Windmill proper a Seax fesswise proper mantled Gules doubled Or.
SUPPORTERS : On the dexter side a Bull [guardant] Sable armed unguled and winged Or and sinister a Wyvern Vert.
The wyvern is a modified form of the dragon. Both are mythical reptile like creatures. A wyvern is always shown as having a dragon’s upper body with a fearsome head, two front legs like an eagle’s, two wings and a thin serpent like tail with a barbed tip.
By contrast, the dragon has a similar strong scaly body resembling a crocodile’s and a fearsome head, four legs, sometimes with or without two wings and a thin serpent like tail, often with a barbed tip.
The wyvern that we use locally comes from the arms of Rayleigh Town and latterly Rayleigh UDC. It refers to Rayleigh Mount and Castle from before the Norman Conquest. At the time of the Norman Conquest, Rayleigh Mount and Castle was the seat of the Hereditary King's Standard Bearer. It is said that at that time, the English Standard was a wyvern carried aloft on a pole. Therefore, it is the royal standard that provided the inspiration for the main charge shown in the Rayleigh arms.
The wyvern had been a symbol of nationhood from very early times. It is said that Wales was symbolised by the red dragon or the red wyvern and The Saxons in England used the white dragon or a white wyvern.
The Wyvern was the symbol of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, which by the early 900s AD had effectively dominated and taken over most of southern, western and central England and the Midlands. They would have imposed their standard on their new subjects - The Mercians and the East Anglians which comprised the Kingdom of Essex and the Kingdom of East Anglia, both of whom the Mercians had annexed 100 years earlier.
By contrast, the Danes who ruled England from the late 900s until 1042 used the black raven as their symbol which they took into battle, as King Canute did at The Battle of Ashingdon in 1016. Facing him was the Saxon King Edmund, no doubt with his Saxon Wyvern standard. Canute won the decisive battle and retook the Kingdom of England. But, the Saxons resumed the English throne from 1042 when Canute’s son died and the Saxons held the Kingdom until the Normans invaded. Harold, the Earl of Wessex, who became King of England, is shown with a golden Wyvern on his standard in The Bayeux Tapestry.
In more recent times the English wyvern, like the dragon, has become green.
So, the Wyvern is a significant and relevant feature in local heraldry. It is a symbol of royalty. It is a sign of the importance of Rayleigh, which was the seat of one of the most important royal officials. Rochford has been united with Rayleigh since King William The Conqueror rearranged the counties and boroughs and Rochford Hundred was formed. That is why the Wyvern appears on Rochford’s coat of arms.
The history of our area is why the Wyvern is our symbol. It is more relevant because we started in Rayleigh and we serve the whole District of Rochford.