This is not really an article about Bishop Burton but I thought it might show how a fairly mundane item of domestic equipment can offer up a wealth of information. Last year I bought a silver napkin ring at a fair in Mavern, Worcestershire. It was nearly the end of the show and the dealers were packing up. I was very pleased to pick up a silver napkin ring which had a rather intriguing badge on it. The ring wasn't in great condition ( we collectors can be very fussy about scratches and blemishes, you know)  but it caught my interest and I got it for a very reasonable price. What attracted me to it in particular was the swastika that was on the badge.

The ring is hall-marked and it tells us that the item was assayed in Birmingham in 1936.  It bears a maker's mark which relatively few napkin rings do. The mark was V&S which a search of the internet revealed was Vaughton and Sons of Birmingham. They were a well-known jewellery firm who manufactured many commemorative items including the second FA Cup which was used between 1896 and 1910. That FA Cup was sold at auction in 2005 for £478,000, slightly more than I paid for my ring!

On the enamel badge, we have the name Bellingham and above it three emblems - the flag of St George, representing England, a white horse rampant set on a red background, and at the bottom a silver swastika set on a green background. I thought initally that the badge was connected to Bellingham, a very attractive village in Northumberland. But it seems more likely that it's the Bellingham that is a district of Croydon in South London which would have been just inside the Kent border. A rampant white horse on a red field forms part of the Coat of Arms of the County of Kent which it was awarded in 1933 but it is also reputed to be the symbol of the ancient Saxon kingdom of Kent.

The swastika was more of a puzzle, not least because it is now overwhelmingly associated with Nazi Germany and World War 2. A bit more research on the internet revealed that the swastika had previously been regarded as a symbol worldwide of good luck and success before being "high-jacked" by the Nazis. It's almost impossible now to use the swastika with its original connotations. My napkin ring was probably one of the last items that would have been created in England, if not in Europe, where the original symbolic meaning was intended. The use made of the swastika by the Nazis has tainted the symbol forever it seems. Last year, the Spanish fashion chain, Zara, was foced to withdraw from its British stores a handbag that bore swastika-like emblems.

The story ends here. I don't know what occasion triggered the creation of the ring. Perhaps it was for a special dinner in Bellingham, more likely to be connected to a public service than a private organisation. Maybe someone out there knows. Please add a comment if you've any thoughts.