Jenny Hurkett, founder and director of the Blue Town Heritage Centre, with the coat of arms which used to be at the old court house in Blue Town
A royal coat of arms which once had pride of place at the former Sheerness Magistrates’ Court has been presented to the Blue Town Heritage Centre.
The heavy, hand-painted royal shield is thought to have hung on a wall at the old court in High Street, Blue Town, ever since the building opened in about 1832.
It was handed over to Jenny Hurkett, who runs the centre, by Lynda Jones, chairman of Central Kent Magistrates’ Bench in Maidstone which now handles all Sheppey cases.
Mrs Jones said: “It seemed fitting the coat of arms should go on display at the centre – which is just a few yards from the old courthouse – for the benefit of future generations, instead of being lost for ever, which could have been its fate.”
Mrs Hurkett said: “We are thrilled to have it – it’s beautiful.
“It was an unexpected gift and a bit of important Sheppey history that is being preserved – think of all those people that have been through that courthouse.”
It was positioned on the wall immediately behind the court chairman’s seat to show that the work of the court was being done in the name of the crown.
It bears in Old French the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Evil be to him who evil thinks).
However, in magistrates’ courts, the Coat of Arms is often referred to as the Semper Idem, the Latin phrase for ‘always the same’, the intention being to show that justice will always be fair and even-handed.
The Blue Town court building was closed in the late 1970s because it was outdated and expensive to maintain and converted into flats.
The court switched to the former civil defence building in Bridge Road, Sheerness, before that too closed about 12 years ago and all cases from Sheppey were then heard at Sittingbourne Magistrates’ Court.
With the closure of Sheerness court, the coat of arms was due to be transferred for safe-keeping to the Sittingbourne court house, Park Road, but it went missing for several years before being found again.
There are several theories as to where it was eventually found, but no one is really sure.
One is that it turned up in a building at Sittingbourne railway station and was supposed to have been collected after being transported from Sheerness to Sittingbourne by train, but somebody forgot it was there.
The other, more likely theory, is that it was found in a store room at Sittingbourne police station. It was then hung on the wall in the magistrates’ retiring room at the Sittingbourne court building until its closure in 2011.