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The "Crescent and Star" device commonly used around Hungerford as the official badge appears to have been used for many centuries, but the origins are unclear.
- The "Crescent and Star" badge of the Town and Manor of Hungerford
- The various horns of Hungerford (From "Hungerford - A History")
- Various examples of the "Crescent and Star" badge from outside Hungerford.
The Crescent and Star device in Hungerford:
The device has been used in Hungerford for over 500 years. It appears on the "John of Gaunt" horn, thought locally to date from the 14th century (although an expert from the British Museum in 2000 was of the opinion that it dated from the 15th century). Despite much debate locally, no absolutely firm and authoritative opinion has yet been made.
Summers (in "The Story of Hungerford in Berkshire" p.63) states that on the horn "is also three times repeated the badge of the crescent and star, which seems to have been one used by the House of Lancaster, and which is now recognised as the Arms of Hungerford".
In proper heraldic phraseology it is described as: "Azure, an estoile argent issuant from a crescent of the same," being similar to that of the Borough of Portsmouth. It is sometimes incorrectly blazoned: "Azure, a crescent argent, an estoile of the second in chief." In modern terms it is described "A crescent between the horns an estoile".
It is worth noting that in heraldic terms, a star (estoille), which may have straight or wavy edges, normally has six points; a mullet normally has straight sided rays, usually only five in number.
Other similar designs:
There is much uncertainty regarding the origins of the crescent and star. The following is from a website on the topic:
Constantinople: The star and crescent symbol was originally used as the flag of Constantinople. According to legend in 339 BC the city of Byzantium, (later known as Constantinople and then Istanbul), won a decisive battle under a brilliant waxing moon which they attributed to their patron Goddess Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology) whose symbol was the crescent moon. In honor of Artemis the citizens adopted the crescent moon as their symbol.
When the city became the Christian Roman Constantinople in 330 AD, Constantine also added the Virgin Mary's star on the flag.
Isaac Comnenus of Cyprus: Isaac Comnenus was the last ruler of Cyprus before the Frankish conquest during the Third Crusade. He was a minor member of the Comnenus family, a great nephew of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus (1143–1180) and a grandson of the Sebastocrator Isaac. (Panicos Panagi emailed (June 2020) emphasising that the crescent and star was taken from the flag of King of Cyprus Komnenous in 1191. The battle in Cyprus was at Tremetoushia village outside Nicosia.)
The coat of arms used by Issac Comnenus was a crescent moon and an eight pointed star on an azure background, adopted in relation with his family links to the Byzantine emperor.
Emperor Manuel made Isaac governor of Isauria and the town of Tarsus in present-day eastern Turkey, where he started a war with the Armenians and was imprisoned by them.
When Isaac was released in 1185, he hired a troop of mercenaries and sailed to Cyprus. He presented falsified imperial letters that ordered the local administration to obey him in everything and established himself as ruler of the island.
Richard the Lionheart: In 1192 the fiancée and the sister of the English King Richard I Lionheart were shipwrecked on Cyprus and were taken captive by Isaac. In retaliation Richard conquered the island while on his way to Tyre.
Isaac was taken prisoner near Cape St. Andreas on the Karpass Peninsula, the northernmost tip of the island. According to tradition, Richard had promised Isaac not to put him into irons, so he kept him prisoner in chains of silver. At this time Richard adopted the star and crescent symbol, which Issac Comnenus had been using, as his own.
Isaac was turned over to the Knights of St. John, who kept him imprisoned in Margat near Tripoli until he was released in c. 1194.
Portsmouth, Hampshire: The design is similar to the Coat of Arms of Portsmouth, Hampshire. The Portsmouth device appears to have eight points, whereas that in Hungerford is more usually six-pointed. Indeed, in earlier times it is also seen with only five-points – a "mullet". In 1194 it was King Richard I, Richard the Lionheart, who granted the Town of Portsmouth its first charter.
The star and crescent symbol is also present on the seal of William de Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, who as Lord Chancellor, was involved in the in the granting of Portsmouth's charter.
It is believed that the Town of Portsmouth adapted the symbol to use as its coat of arms in tribute to King Richard, for his patronage in granting Town status.
The Star and Crescent symbol is known to have been used by Mayors of Portsmouth from at least the seventeenth century and probably earlier from the middle ages.
The motto 'Heaven's Light Our Guide' was incorporated into the coat of arms in 1929, it is the same motto that was also used by the Order of the Star of India and was used on Indian troopships which regularly travelled between Portsmouth and the East.
It would appear, therefore that the use of the Crescent and Star in Portsmouth may date from the first town charter given by King Richard I in 1194, and is connected with his travels on crusades.
Does the badge of Hungerford also link with Richard I?
The topic was investigated in 2000 by Carol Cartwright, who was one of the editorial team putting together the local history book "Hungerford – A History". She approached the College of Arms. Timothy Duke, the Chester Herald at the time, searched the registers of the College, and found no evidence that the Hungerford badge was ever registered, or established as a right to Arms.
He did volunteer that the device used by Hungerford is recorded as the coat of Arms of the Minshull family, and the Crest of the Bright family. He was of the opinion that if Hungerford were now to apply for formal registration, there might be objections from others using the device. See Letter from Chester Herald to Carol Cartwright, 21 Mar 2000.
Timothy Duke advised that the correct modern heraldic description is "A crescent between the horns an estoile". He explained that according to "Heraldic Badges" (by A.C. Fox-Davies, 1907), a similar Badge was attributed to Richard I (see the notes on Portsmouth above), King John and Henry III, but the original sources of these is not known.
There are two interesting connections between these kings and Hungerford.
It is known that Richard I raised funds for his crusade by granting Charters to towns and it is known that he came through Hungerford with its owner, Earl Robert de Beaumont III. Portsmouth was granted its Charter in 1194 by Richard I and has the Crescent and Star as its seal. Unfortunately for Hungerford there is no surviving Charter or even any evidence that one existed. However, it is thought that if there had been an early charter, it may have been stolen when the town coffer was broken into in 1461.
The period of the reign of Henry III (1216-1272) was key to Hungerford's development. It was probably at this time that the new "model" town (with burgage plots off a planned regular north-south main street) was laid out, and that town became a "borough" – first referred to in 1241. In 1232 Henry III granted letters of protection to the Hospital of St. John the Baptist in Hungerford, and also to the leprous sisters of St. Lawrence. These may have been at the persuasion of his brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, whose Earl of Leicester estates, including Hungerford, had just been restored to him. There is no surviving charter for Hungerford, but much circumstantial evidence points to Henry III being key to the development of the town. The "crescent between the horns an estoile" badge may date from this time, a century before John of Gaunt.
Mark Alliston contacted the Virtual Museum (May 2019) with information on his own research on the Liston and Alston family: The arms of the Scottish Liston family from the McCall book of the 1800’s are the Crescent and Star. In Essex The arms of the Alston family are stars 4,3,2,1 with a crescent and star on top. In Essex the Liston surname later becomes Alliston and in some cases Alston. In summary the founder of the Liston family is Godfrey The Chamberlain, his son Ranulph Fitz Godfrey The Chamberlain is with Richard when Richard took Cyprus. The Emperor is put in Ranulphs care and when Ranulph dies at the siege of acre that passes to the Knights of St John. Also with them was Baldwin De Buthune who accompanies Richard back when they get kidnapped.In 1212 Baldwin is recorded as a tenant at Liston also that year Johannes De Liston is returned for the Grand Sergeancy of making wafers for the Kings coronation. The Listons can then be followed through to 1385 when Thomas Liston son of William De Liston sells Liston manor to Sir Richard Lions a victim of the peasants revolt. I know that the Liston family were close to many of the plantagenet Kings, it would be good if we could find names linking them to Hungerford I have images of a letter of protection for William Alliston from about this period. The Listons disappear for a few years before appearing back in Essex in the early 1400’s. The peasants revolt may not have helped. He adds: "The information about Richard I taking the crescent and star from Cyprus has been disproven based on the fact that there is an 1189 Seal with the crescent and moon."
Mark Alliston added (Aug 2019): "I have found a link between Robert De Hungerford and Robert De Ayliston - https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C9333714 . It is possible that they were related by marriage. If a De Hungerford daughter married a De Allyston son and they lived in the Hungerford area then the star and crescent may have come to Hungerford. Just a thought."
Mark Alliston added (Oct 2019): "Robert De Ayleston was Arch Deacon of Wiltshire 1326 to 1331 when he became Arch Deacon of Berkshire. Edward III put him forward as Pope of St Andrews but the Pope refused him the position. The Star and Crescent was used on some seals of the Bishop of St Andrews." (See Google Books entry on Robert de Ayleston).