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Coat of Arms

The Coat-of-Arms

City of Peterborough CrestThe Corporation of the City of Peterborough is one of the few cities in Canada to have an authentic Coat-of-Arms with exclusive right to its use. Devised and granted by way of a warrant dated May 9, 1950, by the College of Heralds of England to commemorate the centennial year of Peterborough’s establishment as a separate municipality, the Coat-of-Arms, in heraldic design and supporters, records the history of Peterborough. Peterborough was incorporated as a Town by an Act of the Legislature of the Province of Canada in the year 1850, and was raised to the status of a City by an Act of the Legislature of the Province of Ontario in 1905. City Council accepted this emblem as the official Coat-of Arms of the City, and on May 7, 1951, Council, sitting in regular session, adopted by by-law the Coat-of-Arms as the Official Seal of the Corporation and placed it in the custody of the Clerk of the Municipality. The following is an explanation of the armorial bearings and supporters on the Coat-of-Arms.

The Shield

The shield itself has a green (vert) background or “field”. This represents the “champs” (French for field) in the word “Champlain”, a reference to the first explorer’s trip through this district in 1615. The green can also refer to the Emerald Isle, from which the first Irish immigrants were brought under the direction of the Honourable Peter Robinson in 1825. It was due to this immigration that Peterborough became a place and secured its name. It also refers to our fields and forests in this district.

The “sword pointed downwards Argent” (silver), “Pomel and hilt Or” (gold), recalls the veteran soldiers and officers of the British army who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 in North America. These men received grants of land in Otonabee and other townships in the district beginning in 1818 and were in the area when the Irish settlers arrived.

Across the shield is a six-barred, wavy arrangement of bars alternately blue and silver, “A fesse Barry Wavy of six of the second (colour) and Azure (blue),” representing the Otonabee River and the many lakes and rivers from which Peterborough draws much sustenance and revenue, because of which access was possible to this town site from the Lake Ontario shore.

The Crest

The most important accessory of any arms is the crest. The crest above Peterborough’s shield, on its arms, is mounted on a wreath of the two chief colours of the shield, green and silver. Cross-wise, on a log of wood, is a Canadian beaver grasping in its left (sinister) forepaw a gold key, pointing upwards and to the left (“Upwards and to the Sinister in bent Or”). This is to represent the key of St. Peter, a tribute to the Roman Catholic third of the city’s population. To the religion of the Irish immigrants, it is a reference to “Peter” in the city’s name.

The Supporters

The second most important accessory of the shield is the Supporters. Many corporations’ shields do not hang; they are supported on both sides, usually by animals having something to do with the history or nature of the place or family to whom the armorial bearings are granted. The supporters of Peterborough’s shield are in this tradition.

On the left side, as we look at it, but on the wearer’s right (hence “dexter”), is a Canadian stag in natural colour. The warrant says: “On the dexter side a stag proper.” The heraldic term “proper” means “in natural colour.” On the observer’s right side, the shield wearer’s left, is a red lion with its neck encircled by a crown and a chain draped over its back. The heraldic description of this is: “On the sinister (left) side a Lion Gules (in red), gorged (its neck encircled), with an Eastern Crown and Chain reflexed over the back Or (meaning the crown and chain are in gold).”

The lion as supporter is taken from the Duke of Wellington’s crest. It was under him that many officers and men, first settlers in this district, served. It was originally intended to use an emblem from Admiral Lord Nelson’s coat of arms for the other side, but this was found to be a sailor and not suitable for Peterborough. The stag appears in many old English arms.

The ground on which the shield and supporters rest is a green arable field, representing the pastoral nature of the country south of the city. On this is the city’s motto. This is unchanged from the motto which the city has had for a long time. “Nature Provides, Industry Develops,” but is translated into interpretive Latin: “Dat Natura, Elaborant Artes,” which means, a little more broadly, that nature gives bountifully, and the arts and crafts and energy of the people develop and elaborate on nature’s gift. It refers to Peterborough’s abundant natural resources and her industries.