The Heraldry of Sewell
Robert Sewell
    This page was set up by Robert Sewell in November, 2002 to show the history of the Heraldry of the Sewell / Sewall Family since the earliest known times.  Robert Sewell graduated from McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) in 1967 with a B.Sc. degree in chemistry.  After a year of studies at the University of Toronto's College of Education, he taught high school science in Collingwood, Ontario for a year and then taught chemistry, physics and general science in Hamilton, Ontario for twenty-nine years.  Robert Sewell retired from teaching in June 1998.

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Please visit the Sewell Genealogy Site Map for other pages in this series.

The information presented has been taken from the following sources:

Bees in Heraldry
"The insect which is most usually met with in heraldry is undoubtedly the bee.  Being considered, as it is, the symbol of industry, small wonder that it has been so frequently adopted. . . . 
"It occurs in the arms of . . . Sewell . . .."
....Fox-Davies, A Complete Guide to Heraldry, page 195

The earliest mention that I could find of bees in heraldry is in the arms of Thomas Muschamp (Azure, 3 bees, 2 and 1, Or) on page 274 of Richard Thomson's An Historical Essay on the Magna Charta of King John. Thomas Muschamp is described as a "baron of the reigns of John, Henry III and Edward I"; i.e., during the 13th century. 

Thomas Muschamp

sewell with bee crest
    The arms claimed and borne for centuries by the Sewells of New England, and by their ancestors in the United Kingdom, are: "Sable, a chevron between three bees volant, argent"; their crest being:  "Within a chaplet of roses, argent, leaved vert, a bee Or."(1)  A seal bearing these arms was brought to Massachusetts by {Rev} Henry Sewall in 1634.  This seal is now in the possession of the Durnford Family of Montreal who are descendants of Solictor General Stephen Sewell (1770 - 1832). The Sewells claim that these arms belonged to their ancestors before the founding of the College of Heralds in 1483:     Despite the foregoing, and despite the fact that the archives of the Heralds' College contain several Sewell coats in which flying bees appear, the bearings described are shown as having been originally recorded at the College by Nicholas Girlington, of York, in 1563.  While the Sewell Family claims that the College has made a mistake, it must be borne in mind that:
    According to an 1899 pedigree held by the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia, USA, the following arms are associated with the Sewells of Coventry and New England and date from 1540 or earlier:  "Sable, a chevron Or between three gaddbees volant Argent."(7)

   The earliest reference I have been able to find to this coat (with the gold chevron) is in Professor Salisbury's Family Memorials(8).  Quoting correspondence with Mrs. Philip Durnford of Montreal (née Augusta Sewell, my greatX2 grandfather's cousin), Professor Salisbury writes:

"According to this lady's description of the arms, the chevron is Or, there is a crest consisting of a wreath surrounding a bee volant (see Burke's General Armory, ed. 1878, p. 914), and there are roses depicted at the lower corners of the shield which are said to have been permitted to be worn as a reward for some deed of valour, performed by an ancestor fighting on the side of Lancaster during the War of the Roses" (9)
    Presumably, the roses alluded to above would be the red rose of the House of Lancaster, as opposed to the roses argent (the white rose of the House of York)  mentioned in the crest of the Arms of Sewell.  However, this aside, Professor Salisbury also writes (with no mention of the chevron Or):
 ". . . the indisputable fact that certain arms — namely: Sa. a chevr. betw. three bees volant Arg., have been handed down by painting, tradition or otherwise, among the Sewalls now known to reside in New England and Lower Canada . . .." (10)
    A tablet was erected in Trinity Church, St. John, New Brunswick in memory of Jonathan Sewall and Esther Quincy by Edward Comyns Durnford (1844 - 1927, my great grandfather's second cousin).  This tablet does not show a differentiation between the tinctures of the coat of arms.  Please click HERE to view this tablet.
    Thus, the Sewalls and Sewells of New England and Canada are left with a choice of silver (Argent) or gold (Or) for the chevron, as shown in the following drawings:
sewell argent
sewell or
The arms claimed and borne for centuries 
by the Sewells of New England, and by 
their ancestors in the United Kingdom, are: 
Sable, a chevron between 
three bees volant, Argent
According to the Edward Elbridge Salisbury, 
the arms associated with the Sewells 
of Coventry and New England are: 
Sable, a chevron Or between 
three gadbees volant Argent.

Sewell with acorn in crest
In Memory of

Roy Brown Sewell, Sr.
of Georgia and Alabama

This beautiful Coat of Arms, described as:
"Sable, a chevron between three bees volant argent. Crest A dexter arm embowed in armour proper garnished or, holding an acorn gold" 
has been shared through the courtesy of 
Mr. C. M. Wright of Oklahoma.

Click to send an email to
Mr. C. M. Wright

John's Mom's Bee Crest
John Rees sent the image of this crest along with the note: 

"This little crest came to light amongst
some things of my mother's."

John Rees is my father's second cousin,
our common ancestor being {Rev} Henry Doyle Sewell. 
Click on John Rees for details.

    Some Sewells have abandoned their ancient claim altogether, and have obtained fresh patents of a totally dissimilar kind.  The first to do this was Robert Sewell, the youngest son of John Sewell of Great Henny, Essex, described as a "Gentleman of His Majesty's Privy Chamber," who in 1667 took a grant of "Argent, on a bend gules three martlets of the field."(11) For more on this family, please Click Here.

    Arms described as "Ermine on a bend engrailed between two lions rampant Gules three martlets Argent" were patented by John Goulding Sewell of Scopwick, Lincolnshire, in May 1843.(12)
Robert Sewell of Essex
John Sewell
Robert Sewell of Essex, 1667
Argent, on a bend gules 
three martlets of the field
John Goulding Sewell, 1843
Ermine on a bend engrailed between 
two lions rampant Gules three martlets Argent

    Other Sewells, desiring to retain in their coats some trace, at least, of the lost bearings of their ancestors, have accepted patents showing the Sewell bees in different form.  In this group we find:
thomas sewell
fred sewell
Thomas Davies Sewell
Gules, a pale Argent surmounted by a chevron invected counter-changed between in chief two escutcheons of the second and in the base one of the first each charged with a bee volant proper
Frederick Robertson Sewell
Gules, a chevron between 
two bees volant proper and 
a chaplet of roses in base, Argent
P A Sewell Hickey1912
horace sewell
Percy Ambrose Sewell Hickey
Per chevron Sable and Vair; 
three bees volant, Or
Horace Somerville Sewell
Azure, a chevron engrailed Argent 
in chief two bees volant proper

Sir Hector Livingston Duff
Sir Hector Livingston Duff, K.B.E., C.M.G
Knight Commander of the Most Excellent 
Order of the British Empire 
Companion of the Most Distinguished 
Order of St. Michael and St. George. 

All records indicate that Sir Hector was a "good chap."

Sir Hector Livingston Duff, son of Alice Sewell (afterwards Lady Russell) and John Pope Duff of Edderton, Rosshire had title to the Arms of Duff of Clydebank surmounted by a badge showing the bee of Sewell charged upon the cinquefoil of Livingston(17).

Sir Hector recorded much of our family history in his book The Sewells in the New World, Exeter 1924.  This book, along with many others, is available as a reprint from Higginson Books of Salem, Massachusetts.

Sir Hector was my grandfather's second cousin; their common ancestor being {Chief Justice} Jonathan Sewell.

Sir Hector Livingston Duff
Photo from
The Sewells in the New World
Exeter, 1924
     Sir Hector was Chief Secretary to the Governor of Nyasaland.  This made him "Number 2" and he would effectively run the country if the Governor was on leave. He wrote an unpublished book Nyasaland in the World War 1914-18 which is held by the Imperial War Museum in London.

     Sir Hector spoke fluent German and as a result he accompanied the Nyasaland Field Force at the northern border and fought at the battle of Kasoa in Nyasaland.  After the British invaded German East Africa (Tanganyika) he was made Chief Political Officer and effectively ran the Govt. of the Occupied Country.  He was awarded his Knighthood for these services. He then suffered some sort of a breakdown. Colonel Barton speaks highly of him in his unpublished diaries.

. . . thanks to Peter Charlton who is writing The Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve.

Bob Sewell's Arms
    In the middle ages, the right to arms was jealously guarded, and no person would have dared to use a heraldic coat without justification, or could have hoped to escape detection and punishment if he did.

    The 2002 cost of patenting a coat of arms is £2895, or $4560 American as of November 2002. This is a whopping $7200 Canadian!  Fortunately, heraldry is now considered little more than a hobby, and Robert Sewell intends to use the arms pictured to the right without bothering to patent them.  (At $7200??  I'm glad I was seated when I figured that one out!)  Thanks to Mark Sewell of Liverpool for the suggestion with regard to "gold bees"; I think they look better than silver bees.

    Thanks to Darren S. A. George of British Columbia for suggesting that ". . . we have our own heraldic authority in Canada.  This is part of the Governor General's office . . .."  Please visit The Canadian Heraldic Authority which has a number of options and states that as of 2005 ". . . the minimum cost of a grant of a coat of arms (shield, crest, helmet, mantling, and motto) is likely to be around $1,900 . . .." It appears that various options could double this amount.  Be sure to visit Darren's website which is devoted primarily to Heraldry in Canada: "The Mad Alchemist's Heraldry"

    For further information on drawing your own arms, check the following links.  Remember not to take any of this too seriously; but please show respect for those who choose to do so:

Please visit the Sewell Genealogy Site Map for other pages in this series.

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Footnotes  Click on the Footnote Number to return to your place on the page above.

(1) Sir Hector Livingston Duff: The Sewells in the New World, Exeter 1924, page 97
(2) Stephen L. Sewell, letter, November 2002
(3) Sir Hector Livingston Duff, page 99
(4) {Rev} Henry Doyle Sewell, letter, February 3, 1858
(5) {Rev} Henry Doyle Sewell, letter, February 3, 1858
(6) Sir Hector Livingston Duff, page 99
(7) Stephen L. Sewell, letter, November 2002
(8) Edward Elbridge Salisbury: Family Memorials, 1885, pages 145 & 165, and pedigree chart.
(9) Edward Elbridge Salisbury, page 166, footnote.
(10) Edward Elbridge Salisbury, page 165
(11) Sir Hector Livingston Duff, page 101
(12) Stephen L. Sewell, letter, November 2002
(13) Stephen L. Sewell states "October 1897" and Sir Hector Livingston Duff states "October 1867".
(14) Sir Hector Livingston Duff, page 102; Stephen L. Sewell, letter, November 2002.
(15) Sir Hector Livingston Duff, page 102 & 103; Stephen L. Sewell, letter, November 2002.
(16) Stephen L. Sewell, letter, November 2002
(17) Sir Hector Livingston Duff, page 102 & 103