Reply To: ‘Broad Arrow’

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R. M

    In the 1990s as a member of the Ordnance Society, I spent some time working on matters relating to the c.1500 wrought iron breechloader at Tenby Museum. The gun, which is in poor condition, still sits on a bed of wood from the West Indies, and this bears a pheon mark.1
    The wood remains undated, despite valiant efforts, but the gun-bed and mark are certainly well before 1690. As of course, was the mark on the Mary Rose gun-wheel pheon.
    As part of my research into the broad arrow, I came upon an article by the antiquarian H. Stanford London FSA, in Heraldry Today Volume III p135-6 (1954-55). My now tattered copy came by fax (remember those?) from the Royal Armouries Library. H. Stanford London suggested that the subject of the history of the pheon as a ‘Government badge’ was a ‘pretty problem for one of the younger armorists to tackle’. Perhaps one of them did?
    He mentions Marryat on ‘the Edwards’, which would presumably take the mark back to the 1200s, and also several other suggestions, Fox-Davies among them. His earliest supported reference is Riley’s Memorials of London… being a series of extracts… from the early archives of the City of London, A.D. 1276-1419 (1868) which he states uses a document in the City of London archives dated to ’22nd.XII;10 Ric II’ which is December 22nd 1386, of course.
    Another of Stanford London’s references in the tantalisingly brief, and for my part sadly, non-ordnance inclined, article by the numismatist Edward Hawkins, who produced The Silver Coins of England in 1841, and dated the use of the pheon as a Royal mark to the reign of Henry VIII.2 Of course, Stanford London may have returned to the broad arrow later, because in this short note he raised more questions than he provided answers.
    Rob Morgan

    Editor’s notes:

    1. A ‘pheon’ is an heraldic device granted in an achievement, consisting of a barbed arrow head, the barbs ‘indented’ – with small teeth at the inner edge. The use of ‘pheon’ for the Ordnance Board or state property marks is deemed incorrect by pedants!
    2. The Silver Coins of England by Hawkins, 1841 edition, is available online via Galenet subscription at :