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Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

A New Wing Family Mystery with More Questions than Answers

By Elizabeth Fulford


Recently, an English metal detectorist contacted WFA Historian, Sharon Ahearn, about the above pictured button, and, as you can see, the embossing strongly resembles the WFA crest. Leon, the detectorist lives in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, UK.

Leon describes the button like this: “The button is approximately 190 years old but still holds some of the gold gilding! The maker on the reverse of the button was difficult to identify but after some time looking through a jewelry loupe and researching online, I found it was produced by Norzell & Son, 21 Bouverie St., London in around 1830.”


Originally, the button would have been attached to a household livery or servant’s uniform, or, less likely, a military uniform.


Leon didn’t respond to my email or say exactly where he found the button, but the now ceremonial County of Rutland is just to the west of Peterborough where Leon, the button finder lives. There is also the civil parish of Wing (population @300 – area of @4.5 sq. miles) in today’s Rutland and there are records of many Wings who lived (and are living) in Rutland and nearby counties. This raises the question about what a circa 1830s English Wing family was wealthy enough to afford livery for their servants? More research is needed here.


I turned to Conway Wing’s original 1881 Wing Genealogy to see about the Crest. Conway says, “As far back as 1485, Theodore Wing received the knightly accolade from the hand of King Henry VII of England. In Burke’s General Armory of Great Britain, it is described in heraldry, The Wing Armour, County of Rutland. “Over the monogram of Wing appears the coat of arms. A shield embossed with these arms: “Per pale and argent and vert (silver and green) a maunch or loose sleeve countered charged etc.. These were stated as true heraldic history. “The Arms of Wing as borne by Sir Theodore Wing, Lord Warden of Wastes and Liveries to King Henry VII.


All well and good, but I could find no mention of Theodore Wing in the lists of Knighthoods awarded by Henry VII nor could I find The Wing Armour, County of Rutland. The title, Lord Warden of Wastes and Liveries should read, The Lord Warden of Wards and Liveries, wards being dependent individuals. This office was created under Henry VIII. Again, more research is needed.


Did the button detach from the livery? We’ll never know for sure, but maybe not. I did a little research about livery buttons and discovered this:


“Why do so many livery buttons get found by metal-detectorists in the UK? A few must surely have been lost whilst in use on the uniforms but that will not account for the hundreds found each year. A more likely reason was the practice of 'shoddy'; this is backed up by the many that are found in an otherwise rural and isolated area. Shoddy is where old clothes were either cut up or shredded and placed directly onto the land as a form of fertilizer. It seems that the buttons were no longer in fashion so were not recycled. Over the years the fabric will have rotted away, leaving us with just the buttons. This is the main reason for the thousands of buttons and buckles found by detectorists and their efforts are to be congratulated as they are unearthing unknown livery buttons and recording them here: https://sites.google.com/site/liverybuttonsidentified


If you like this sort of mystery, I hope you’ll help with the research so that we can have a second installment to the story of the button. Contact me if you have questions: owleditor@wingfamily.org


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