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Roundel of William Warham

Details in regard to this find were sent in by Jim Crombie. It was found some years back by a Thames’ Mudlark. However, when the finder died a good friend of his (another Mudlark) tried to sell a group of items on behalf of the finder’s family. Amongst them was the item pictured here.

Heraldic arms identified as those of William Warham

At first this find was misidentified and didn’t sell. However, after being properly identified it was eventually purchased by Jim from the friend of the original finder. It is a heraldic roundel, which is made of copper-alloy, measures 42mm in diameter and has a 26mm long spike on the back. The face is covered in enamel of various colours and Jim managed to identify the arms as representing none other than William Warham.

William Warham

Warham was educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford. After graduating he practiced and taught law in both London and Oxford. However, he then took holey orders. His diplomatic skill brought him to the attention of Henry VII who, in 1504, raised him up to be Lord Chancellor of England and Archbishop of Canterbury. He was still in favour when Henry VIII came to the throne and managed not to be totally overshadowed by Thomas Wolsey.

1n 1515 Wolsey became Lord Chancellor but Warham, still Archbishop of Canterbury, retained his position as head of the Church of England. During the turbulent 1520s the Church had to face many attacks from King Henry. Warham opposed the king on a number of occasions but his death on 22 August 1532 saved him from witnessing the break with Rome and the destruction of many religious establishments.

Coat of Arms

On the painting by Han Holbein, above, if you look closely at the processional cross next to his right shoulder, you can see the same arms as shown on the roundel.

Rather than using the language of heraldry, which most people don’t understand, I’ll use plain English to describe the arms. To the right is a goat’s head above three cockle shells; when displayed in this way the arms stand for the Warham family. To the left is what looks like a letter Y adorned with crosses; this is known as a pallium, which was an honour bestowed on the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Pope. Jim said a similar shield of arms, together with others, are displayed around Warham’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral.


The edge of this roundel is a bit rough and there is some pitting to the enamel face but it is in reasonably good condition;

The spike on the back is bent. The spike is intriguing, for what was its purpose? It is solid looking and could not be bent over by hand. It could not be hammered into something, for that would damage the enamel face. It must but for fixing the roundel to something but what? The only way it could be attached to anything would be to drill a hole first, into stone or wood, and then be held in place by some kind of glue or mortar.

Rare find

Lots of heraldic shields and roundels have been found by detectorists but it is rare that they can be associated with an individual. This one not only can be but the individual was an Archbishop of Canterbury during a turbulent phase in the history of the Church of England.


The reference to Warham taking holy orders reminded me of a story I heard many years since. Auditors at the head office of a well-known bank were going through the books when they came upon a name, whose profession was said to be Clerk in HO. They took this to mean Clerk in Head Office. At the time those who worked for this bank received a higher rate of interest on their accounts.

One of the auditors checked the name against the list of staff in head office and couldn’t find it, so he went through earlier accounts and found the same name had been getting a higher rate of interest for several years. It turned out that Clerk in HO didn’t mean Clerk in Head Office. Instead, it meant Clerk in Holy Orders, which is the title that an ordained clergyman goes by! When the clergyman had opened the account the person he dealt with had abbreviated his profession to Clerk in HO. Did he have to pay back the extra interest he had received? I don’t know but would you have the cheek to ask for it back from a clergyman? I wouldn’t!

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