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  Bradshawgate Oak Panels Mystery Solved : Article printed in The Journal (Bolton), 12th August 1960, relating to old oak carvings in a premises on Bradshawgate, Bolton,  assumed to be the coat of arms of the Tonge family.

Related article:  The Journal (Bolton), Friday, May 27 1960

Tonge coat of arms carved into an oak panel

The carved oak panel in Singer’s shop premises in Bradshawgate which has an interesting link with the Tong family.

Mystery Solved

Carving in Bolton shop has link with the year 1201

THE JOURNAL story, published on May 27, about the oak panelling in the shop premises at 15 Bradshawgate, now occupied by the Singer Sewing Machine Co. Ltd., posed a mystery which we here in Bolton were unable to solve.  The coat of arms on the panelling obviously belonged to a Lancashire family, but intensive searching failed to find which family.

Mr. Joseph Grumley, the local manager for Singer’s, sent copies of the paper, and prints of our pictures to the head office where an executive member of the firm, Mr. G. Shelton, was greatly interested in them.  He decided to make some attempt to solve the mystery and put the matter in the hands of the College of Arms in London.

Eventually a report was submitted to Mr. Shelton by J. P. Brooke-Little Esq., Bluemantle Pursuviant of Arms, which throws quite a lot of light on the matter.

He says that the arms shown are clearly intended to be those of the Tong family, and intensive research into the arms shown on the panelling in the Bolton shop lead him to think that they are those of Francis Tong of Lancashire, whose arms are given as “Azure a bend Argent cottised Or between six Martlets of the last.  The crest is a dexter cubit Arm habited in Grey holding a grappling Iron Argent.”

Mr. Brooke-Little comments that although there are slight differences between the correct arms and crest and those shown in the carvings in the Bradshawgate shop, this is merely because as he says, “Carvers, painters and other craftsmen who do heraldic work as a sideline rather than as their principal occupation invariably fall into error with regard to details which they consider to be superfluous but which to the Herald are often very important.”

In Whittle’s History of Bolton there is the following reference to Gilbert de Tonge (with the final “e”): “Gilbert de Tonge, in the reign of King John (1201) was seised of land and woodfend, consisting of two bovates in Tonge, held from the King for the annual payment of four shillings.  The family of Tonge gave name to that place and to Tonge in Prestwich which was held by Christopher and Alicia de Tonge” 

In “Bolton Survey” there is another brief reference to Gilbert de Tonge, who it states “Held an oxgang (roughly 15 acres) of land in Tonge.”

So the mystery of the carvings at 15 Bradshawgate is solved at last, and Mr. Joseph Grumley, the Bolton manager for Singer’s Ltd., has the satisfaction of knowing that although his premises are stocked with the latest types of sewing machines for madams and misses of 1960 the walls are covered with carvings having a most interesting and fascinating link with Bolton of many centuries ago.