The Stafford knot is a common enough symbol in Staffordshire. It appears on the coat of arms of the borough of Stafford, and the North Staffordshire Railway was known as the Knotty. The football clubs of Port Vale and Tamworth FC (the Lambs) use the Stafford knot on their crests, and it is the badge of Staffordshire University. But on the other side of the country in Norfolk you would not expect to find it. Around Costessey however it is found on signs and buildings because of the association of that village with the Earls of Stafford.
The family name was Jerningham or Jernigan, but in 1825 they managed to convince the House of Lords to revive the title the Earl of Stafford for the Baronet Sir George Jerningham. It probably helped that he was on good terms with the king George IV, and had been since he was Prince Regent.
The Jerninghams only enjoyed the rank of nobility in Norfolk for less than a hundred years, for when the last direct descendant of the Jerninghams, the 11th Baron, died in 1913 the Park in Costessey was sold off. The title passed to a branch of the family who were already well established in Staffordshire.
The First World War quickly followed the ending of the Jerningham line, before the Hall could be sold off. It was requisitioned by the War Office for the duration. But with the coming of peace in 1918 the building (that had been badly treated by the many regiments involved) fell in to disuse and was mostly demolished. By the Second World War only a few ruins and the tower remained. You can see my blog on Costessey Park on January 22 2013.
The Stafford knot is an ancient heraldic device known as a badge, and badges were in use before the coats of arms, which were developed after the Norman Conquest. The symbol may be found on Anglo-Saxon carvings in the area around Stafford, which shows it was in use at that time. Unlike armorial bearings the badge may be used by the servants and retainers of the holder, or anyone claiming that association. In Costessey the knot was associated with the houses of the Stafford Estate, and it still appears in such locations as the Queens Hill School sign and the new leisure centre in Longwater Lane. The Stafford Knot is displayed on the road signs as you approach village.
In Newmarket Road in Norwich there is the town house of the Stafford Earls, Stafford House. This too would have been sold off in the aftermath of the death of the last Jerningham Earl. The house has been the junior department of the Norwich High School for Girls for well over half a century. Despite its being a girls’ school, 60 years ago this school also took boys for the first two years of education (Kindergarten and Transition classes) and it was my first school. I remember my interview, which I must have passed, although I had not a clue what was going on. One thing I remember was being given a mug to hold and then being told to open the door. What a mean trick! What it was meant to prove about a child of four I don’t know. After two years at Stafford House I was then supposed to go to Town Close Prep School but because I fitted in so badly with all those girls I only stayed for one year. Because I was too young to go on to Town Close I was sent instead to St Mary’s School in Bungay.