I began my recent post about the grave of Scipio Africanus with an explanation of how I first came to know of its existence – which was that while attending Henbury School, we visited the local St Mary’s Church and were shown the grave and given a little information about it. This was probably in the context of learning something about the slave trade.
I did a small amount of research before I started to write anything, and in the process looked for references to the Henbury Great House, at one point the residence of Charles William Howard, 7th Early of Suffolk and his wife, Arabella Astry – the couple for whom Scipio worked as a servant, and who by all accounts were responsible for his quite ornate grave. This led me to the Landed Families of Britain and Ireland blog by Nicholas Kingsley, and in particular the Astrey of Harlington Woodend and Henbury Great House entry.
There I was drawn immediately to the family arms, which I mentioned in the post – it reminded me of the old school badge. I tried to find an example of the badge, but my searches were unsuccessful. General searching (and reverse image searching based on the arms) found nothing, and the current website for Blaise High School (its name since 2019) only shows the current logo, which appears on the current school badge, but that reflects the new name and the only similarity it bears to the old one is the shield shape.
I was actually quite disappointed by the website – and not just because I didn’t find that one specific thing I was looking for. The site itself is very professionally done, and as such serves its purpose to the letter, but it presents no history of the school, which dates back (I believe) to the 1950s. It doesn’t even have a page for alumni – notable or otherwise. Offhand, I’m pretty sure champion ice skater Robin Cousins attended the school, for example, and I know actress Alice Evans did because I was there with her – and the Wikipedia page for the school mentions environmental activist and writer Rob Hopkins and naturalist and author Simon King.
I didn’t think of it when I was writing that post, but this morning I thought to look for the school website on the Wayback Machine – and that turned up trumps. The earliest snapshot of the old school site is from March 2001, and that provided me with the confirmation I needed – the old school badge, which was also its logo – was there on the page.
It’s possible that any similarity is just coincidental – and there are obvious differences – but it seems likely that the old school logo and badge was based on the Astrey (Astry) arms given that the family features significantly in the history of the area.
And a little digging later, before putting this post online, I can now confirm that to be so!
I mentioned in the original post that I’d found a Facebook group for the school, which I joined and suggested that at some point I’d look at it to see if there were any pictures of the badge. I had no real enthusiasm to do that because although I’ve started using Facebook again, I still can’t stand it – but fuelled by finding the logo via the Wayback Machine, I decided to delve into the Facebook group’s pictures. There I found this photograph of the old school badge, uploaded by someone called Andrew Winstanley:
And in the comments on the badge, someone called Dennis Broe had uploaded an image of a page from the opening day programme from 1958, explaining the history of the badge:
“The School badge is adapted from the arms of the Astry family, seventeenth century owners of large estates at Henbury. These arms are described in heraldic terms as a ‘barry wavy of six azure and argent on a chief gules three bezants or,’ that is, six wavy bands of blue and silver on the lower part of the shield and three gold coins equally spaced on the red band at the top. In our badge we have submitted a sun for the middle coin, this emblem being borrowed from the arms of Bristol University, and the rays of the sun to indicate a variety of courses within the school.
The motto ‘arete’ is a Greek word signifying that our aim is the highest standard of excellence in all that we do.”