It might seem strange that the Incorporated Trades should each have their own coat of arms and other heraldic embellishments, but this has been the case since the first written references to the incorporations in the fifteenth century. The devices were derive originally from the shop signs that were universally in use before everybody could read and write, usually including a material or product or tool of the trade, such as bonnets for the Bonnetmakers or a hammer for the Hammermen. The latter’s records, which begin in 1494, show that the simple arms that they use today, depicting a crowned hammer, are identical to the arms that were in use the fifteenth century. These were painted on banners that were carried in festive processions and more sombrely on the field of battle.
Over the years this corporate heraldry has become more elaborated and has settled down into an organised system, although not all the incorporations’ coats of arms have yet received the sanction of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, whose approval is legally required before they can be officially used in public.
The arms of the different Incorporations are found over the centuries depicted in a number of ways, not only on banners but engraved in stone and wood, on gold, silver, brass and pewter, printed in books and blazoned in stained glass.