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Phelps Family Crest or Coat-of-Arms

This letter, from Prior William Phelps of Vevey, Switzerland, to Andrew Servin, the author of the Phelps Family genealogy, details his knowledge of the origin of the Phelps crest. From The Phelps Family of America and Their English Ancestors, (Save $201 by ordering through us.) Two volumes. By Judge Oliver Seymour Phelps and Andrew T. Servin. (Eagle Publishing Company of Pittsfield, Mass., 1899) Original spelling and grammar retained.


My Dear Kinsman:

From your interesting memoir I gain the assurance of two facts:

The first is that the original arms of the Phelps family were a black (sable) lion chained and rampant. Of this I always was certain. I have the original seal in my possession, and you will receive an impression with this letter. I am glad to ascertain this, because I observe that the Irish family and the Delafield Phelpses, of which later branch John Phelps of Salisbury, Secretary of the House of Commons and regicides, was a member, have adopted a coat of arms, given them doubtless, by Oliver Cromwell, and consisting of a wolf salient, between crosslets.

Also it is evident to me that neither you nor I have regicide blood in our veins. Your branch of the family emigrated long before the civil war of Charles I. The Irish and Salisbury branches were later offsets, and the original stock remained in the environs of Tewkesbury and Twyning, where one of the parish hamlets is called "Phelps."

I have got the name of a party at Tewkesbury through whom I will endeavor to obtain a copy of all the entries relative to baptisms, marriages and deaths of the Phelps family, since the register exists.

You may rest assured that the regicide branch of the family as well as the one established in Ireland, are junior offsets, who obtained a coat of arms from Cromwell. At the same time you are right in saying that the real old crest is black lion rampant and chained. You see it is so on the seal which comes from William Law Phelps, my uncle.

A lady, or a dame, Joan Coke ... had an estate at Podsmead, near Gloucester, which was always to be held by a Phelps after her. The last holder even before my recollection was George Phelps, Esq. a blind man, of extraordinary talent and qualities.

By some means a good estate at Ashchurch near Tewkesbury, went away from the Phelpses to a family named Smithsend, now extinct. This is inexplicable to me since I cannot find that any lady of the name of Phelps married a Smithsend, whereas on the contrary Anne Smithsend was my great-grandmother, and ought rather to have brought an estate with her as a dowry.

You will hear from me again as soon as I get word from Mr. Morgan of Tewkesbury, about the cost of searching all the registers.

Some years ago a most excellent History of Tewkesbury was published. If I can get a copy in England through Mr. Morgan I will send it to you. The first Phelps name there is Francis who, at the dissolution of Monasteries, in connection with another party bought tythes from Henry VIII, (1542-3).

The old Phelps tombstones are at the northwest of the church-yard and the vicarage wall.

Very truly yours,

William Phelps Prior
Vevey, Switzerland, Aug. 9th, 1878