Vancouver's Coat of Arms
Vancouver's Coat of Arms
Vancouvers Coat of Arms is based on a design
by an artist named James Blomfield . . . whose name is as
renowned here for his wonderful works in stained glass. Robert Watt,
a stained-glass enthusiast, says that if you stand in Holy Trinity
Cathedral in New Westminster on a clear, early morning you will
see the three great stained glass windows there on the east wall
behind and above the altar begin to glow. The effect as the
sun rises behind those windows, says Watt, is extraordinary.
The window on the left as you face the altar is a memorial to the
late Dr. A. W. Sillitoe, the first bishop of the New Westminster
Diocese. On the right is a pentecostal scene (depicting the descent
of the Holy Spirit on to the apostles) . . . and in the middle is
a portrait, in rich reds and golds, of Christ in Majesty.
The man who designed the windows, the late James Blomfield, has
more work in stained glass all around the Lower Mainland (and much
more in Ontario). Another of his more spectacular and well-known
achievements is the beautiful representation of the Three Graces
that visitors to Romano's Macaroni Grill in Vancouver's West End
admire while they dine. Those three windows were designed and installed
in 1901 when the house, built by sugar magnate B. T. Rogers, was
known as Gabriola. Also Blomfield's work is the Queen Victoria window
in St. Paul's Anglican Church in Vancouver's West End.
Perhaps unfairly, the evidence of Blomfield's artistic talents
most often seen by us was the coat of arms for Vancouver that served
as the city's emblem for more than 60 years. He designed it in 1903,
and it was used until 1969. Today's coat of arms, although different
and much simpler in design, is based on Blomfield's original conception.
Vancouver's Coat of Arms was granted by the College of Heralds,
London, England on March 31, 1969. The Coat of Arms, the city explains,
represents many of the important parts of our heritage. The
shield, with ship's sail and crown, depicts Vancouver's location
and status as a seaport. The Kwakiutl totem pole shows our Native
heritage; the logger and fisherman point to the City's original
industries; and the dogwood flowers are symbols of B.C.
Blomfield's stained glass windows were an important part of a special
exhibition called Rainbows in Our Walls held at the Vancouver Museum
back in 1978.
What's extraordinary is that all of this gorgeous work came out
of a rough workshop in what was then bush at West 10th Avenue and
Columbia Street. This was the firm of James' father, Henry Bloomfield.
(Sometime around the turn of the century, James dropped one of the
'o's from his surname.) Henry Bloomfield started the first local
art glass firm in New Westminster in 1890, and moved in 1898 to
Vancouver with his two sons, Charles and James.
Robert Watt learned that James Blomfield was buried in the Hamilton
Mausoleum in Hamilton, Ont. But, in a tour of the building with
the owner, he also learned the artist's crypt was unmarked. The
owner, W. Stoneham, opened the Blomfield crypt and handed the urn
containing the artist's ashes to a mildly startled Robb Watt. "That
was my closest contact to the man," Watt says. (The crypt also
contains the remains of Mary Blomfield, the former Mary Augusta
Diamond, whom he married in Vancouver in 1903.)
On his return to Vancouver, Watt began a low-key campaign to get
that marker. He contacted various nieces and nephews of the artist
and, eventually, a memorial plaque was commissioned for the man
Watt describes as "the outstanding Canadian stained glass artist
of the pre-1950s period."
Incidentally, Robb Wattonce the director of the Vancouver
Museumis today the Chief Herald of Canada, appointed to oversee
and approve the use of coats of arms in Canada.
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