The Crewe Arms: Inspiration for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts?

The Crewe Arms: Inspiration for
Harry Potter’s Hogwarts?

by

Charles E S Fairey & Michael C Oakes

May 2020






At the Crewe Arms Hotel, opposite Crewe Railway Station, in the South Cheshire town of Crewe, in the UK, exists a Coat of Arms of the Crewe Family, upon a marble fireplace, in the main Entrance Hall to the Hotel.

The reason this Coat of Arms is interesting to all Harry Potter fans, is the distinct possibility that it was used as inspiration for the Harry Potter novels, especially for the Houses of Hogwarts School!


The Coat of Arms on the Marble Fireplace 
to the Entrance of the Crewe Arms Hotel

The Coat of Arms itself is a quartered shield, and is surmounted by a closed vizored helm[et] of steel, sideways, which indicated that the coat of arms was for an esquire or gentleman.

The quartered Shield is made up of:-

Top Left: A Lion Rampant
This coat of arms represents the basic arms of the Crewe Family, namely ‘Azure a lion rampant Argent’. That is ‘an erect silver lion, upon a blue background’. The Silver Lion Rampant is often known in the area as the ‘White Lion’ of the Crewes.

Top Right: Fleur-de-lys within a diapered Pattern
This coat of arms represents the ancient arms of the Crewe Family, and was used in the reign of Henry VIII, and later replaced by the Silver Lion. It is ‘Gules, fretty and semy-de-lys Or’. That is ‘scattered gold fleur-de-lys of a field of fretty [interwoven over one another bendlets and bendlets-sinister, like a trellis], on a red background’.

Bottom Left: A Lion Passant Guardant on a Cross Fleury
This coat of arms represents the Offley Family of Madeley, who gained the seat of the Crewes, after Ann Crewe, the only daughter and heir of John Crewe (1624-1684), had married John Offley (1649-1711), after his son, John Offley, and the rest of his children changed their name to Crewe, in 1708, and deleted parts of their original coat of arms, namely, the four Cornish cloughs Sable, beaked and legged Gules, and which coat of arms became the coat of arms of the Barons of Crewe of Crewe, and is ‘Argent, on a cross fleury Azure, a lion passant guardant Or’. That is ‘a walking gold lion, facing the viewer, on a blue cross adorned at the ends with flowers, on a silver background’.

Bottom Right: Three boys’ figures with a snake coiled around their necks
This coat of arms represents the Price Family, who John Offley (1681-1749), who changed his name to Crewe, married into. He married Sarah Price, and the coat of arms consists of ‘Gules [Sable], a fess Argent between three boys’ heads couped at the shoulders entwined about the neck by a snake Or [Vert]. That is ‘gold and green snakes entwining the necks, at the shoulders, of three boys’ heads, cut straight at the bottom, between a silver band, on a dark red background’.

Sarah Price married John Offley in 1707 [who changed his name to Crewe, in 1708], and was the daughter of Morgan Price of Nantgwared in Llywel in Breconshire. John Offley was the son of John Offley of Madeley Manor in Staffordshire, and Ann Crewe, the only daughter and heir of John Crewe (1624-1684). John Offley-Crewe inherited Crewe Hall and its estate, from his mother Ann. The Prices were also linked with the Vaughan Family of Tretower Court, Powys, and much of the South Wales, and Forest of Dean areas, who share the same coat of arms, ‘a snake entwined around the neck’.

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Why is this Crewe Coat of Arms linked with Harry Potter’s Hogwarts?

You may ask, what if anything does this coat of arms possibly have to do with the world of Harry Potter, and Hogwarts?

Well if we look at the coat of arms of Hogwarts, and the names and figures representing each of the four houses of the school, we come up with a parallel, which infers that this Crewe coat of arms may be the inspiration for the Hogwarts’ coat of arms, and a bit more!

The Coat of Arms of Hogwarts is a quartered shield, with an italic ‘H’ representing ‘Hogwarts’ to the centre.

The quartered Shield is made up of:-

Top Left: A Lion Rampant
This erect lion represents the House of Gryffindor.

Top Right: A Snake
This snake represents the House of Slytherin.

Bottom Left: A Badger Passant Reguardant
This walking badger with its head turned back over its shoulder, represents the House of Hufflepuff.

Bottom Right: An Eagle
This Eagle often mistakenly shown as a Raven represents the House of Ravenclaw.

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So now if we compare the quartered shields: of the Crewe Arms at the Crewe Arms Hotel’s marble fireplace to its Entrance Hall; with that of Hogwarts; we find that:-

The Lion Rampant [erect] is the same as the Crewe Family’s basic coat of arms, and is in the same position in the quartered shield.

The Snake is similar to the Price’s Family Coat of Arms, a snake entwined around a boy’s neck, but in the Hogwarts coat of arms, it is in the quarter above where the similar arms appear in the Crewe shield.

The Badger Passant [walking] is similar to the walking Lion in the Crewe coat of arms, and is in the same position in the quartered shield.

The Eagle or more specifically, the Eagle’s Claw, which represent one of the four Hogwarts Houses, is similar to a fleur-de-lys, i.e. an Eagle’s Claw is often made up of three claws protruding in front, with a claw behind, which is similar to the symbol of the fleur-de-lys. However, the Eagle is in the quarter below where the fleur-de-lys are depicted in the Crewe coat of arms.

  
The Coat of Arms of Hogwarts School

  
A Comparison of the Crewe Coat of Arms with that of
the Coat of Arms of Hogwarts School


*   *   *   *   *   *   *


The Price’s Snake Coat of Arms and the House of Slytherin

As mentioned above the Price Family Coat of Arms, consists essentially of ‘a boy with a snake entwined around his neck.’

With the human voice box being located in the neck, and our speech essentially being developed in the neck and throat, the snake around the neck, when we connect both the Price Coat of Arms, with the world of Harry Potter, then there is a direct link between the real world and the fictional world.

That connection or link exists in a number of characters, being ‘parselmouths’ in the world of Harry Potter. A parselmouth is someone who has the ability to talk to snakes. Slytherin, who gave his name to one of the Houses of Hogwarts, himself, could talk to snakes, as well as Voldemort and Harry (Voldemort’s grandfather and uncle, and presumably his mother were all parselmouths in the books as well).

The snake entwined around the neck is a great symbol for their magical attribute.
  

Crewe Price Heraldic Stained Glass Window, Old East Entrance, Crewe Hall (Left)
Enlarged ‘Snake Entwined Around Neck of Boy’ (Right)


Why Crewe?

So why would this Crewe Family Coat of Arms, situated on the marble fireplace of the Crewe Arms Hotel’s Entrance Hall, in the South Cheshire Town of Crewe, have offered JK Rowling inspiration for the Houses of Hogwarts?

Well, the town of Crewe was built in the mid Victorian period as a new Railway town, around the new Railway Junction, often depicted as a six spoked wheel, representing the number of railway lines which converge at the junction, where Crewe Railway Station is situated.

If anyone has travelled on the West Coast Mainline, or from Stoke, Derby, Birmingham, Cardiff, Chester, Liverpool, and Manchester, etc, it is likely at some point they have travelled through Crewe, and its railway station, or changed trains here, or even stopped overnight, to carry on their journey the next day.

This means that JK Rowling is very likely to have travelled through Crewe and its railway station, often throughout her life, but most likely when she was living in Manchester, whilst working for the Chamber of Commerce in the city, when she was visiting her parents, and friends, who lived elsewhere.

It is recorded that whilst on a late train from Manchester to London, in 1990, she first dreamed up the idea of Harry Potter!

That therefore makes it likely that she had stayed at the Crewe Arms Hotel, a railway hotel, opposite the entrance to Crewe Railway Station, and maybe whilst booking into her room, or over her stay, JK Rowling sat in front and warmed herself by the marble fireplace, and noticed the Crewe coat of arms, which gave her some of the inspiration for the Hogwarts coat of arms, and its houses.

It is also a nice coincidence, that one of her favourite writers, Charles Dickens’s grandfather and grandmother, were butler and housekeeper at Crewe Hall, the stately mansion where the Crewe Family resided.

JK Rowling also lived and attended school near to the Forest of Dean, just to the south-west, in Tutshill near Chepstow, and may have visited local places where the Vaughan and Price coat of arms appeared, namely the ‘snake entwined around a boy’s neck’, which any person would think rather unusual, with branches of the Vaughans living in and around the Forest of Dean, and also just over the border in Wales.

And if staying at the Crewe Arms Hotel overnight, travelling via train, noticed the unusual coat of arms, and made the link between Crewe, and a place she was very familiar of, which helped her with the inspiration for the Houses of Hogwarts.

The story of the heraldic ‘snake entwined around a boy’s neck’ comes from a number of legends: one legend that it represented the recording of what happened to a Welsh infant prince, who whilst sat in a garden, a poisonous adder wrapped around his neck, and when his nurse came back, the infant killed the snake. That infant grew up to be a great warrior king, Moreiddig Warwyn, and adopted his childhood experience, for his coat of arms; another legend is that the infant was a prince, who was born with his umbilical cord around his neck, and survived; another legend that an infant was born with a birthmark which resembled a snake around his neck; and another, that it represented three Anglo-Saxon children who were strangled or beheaded by the British. (The Vaughan Family Crest: No, We're Not Really from Slytherin, Saturday, May 7, 2011, (http://www.moderatebutpassionate.com/2011/05/vaughan-family-crest-no-were-not-really.html).

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A Link with the Hogwarts Express?

Another link with Crewe is the Hogwarts Express, the train which Harry Potter, and his friends, aboard to make their way to and fro from Hogwarts.

We are told that there had been a problem of how to transport children to and from Hogwarts for a long time, according to Potter lore, because a daring and controversial decision was taken in 1827 by Ottaline Gambol, who was the Minister for Magic, and was intrigued by the technology of the Muggles, especially their steam locomotives, as a great alternative to Portkeys or unregulated travel to Hogwarts. So Ottaline had her eyes on a steam locomotive for the Hogwarts Express, which was originally built by Muggle engineers possibly at Crewe, in the early to mid 19th century. To hide her acquisition and its use of the steam locomotive, and the whole train, from the world of Muggles, in 1830 a large scale operation with the aid of 167 Memory Charms were used to conceal the acquisition of the steam train. There was some opposition from pure-blood families who did not want to use Muggle technology, but this was put down by the Ministry of Magic, with the argument that, if students did not use the train to go to and from school, they would not attend the school at all.

According to the Official Wizarding World Website, written by J. K. Rowling, we are told of the origin of the Hogwarts Express that: “A daring and controversial solution to the thorny problem [of transporting students to Hogwarts] was finally suggested by Minister for Magic Ottaline Gambol, who was much intrigued by Muggle inventions and saw the potential in trains. Where exactly the Hogwarts Express came from has never been conclusively proven, although it is a fact that there are secret records at the Ministry of Magic detailing a mass operation involving one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain. The morning after these alleged crimes, a gleaming scarlet steam engine and carriages astounded the villagers of Hogsmeade (who had also not realised they had a railway station), while several bemused Muggles railway workers down in Crewe spent the rest of the year grappling with the uncomfortable feeling that they had mislaid something important.”

Together with the Hogwarts Express Steam Locomotive being possibly built by the Muggle railway engineer workers of Crewe, we are also told that to publicize the fourth book, ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, on 8th July 2000, “a special train named Hogwarts Express was organised by Bloomsbury [the publisher], and run from King's Cross to Perth, carrying J.K. Rowling, a consignment of books for her to sign and sell, also representatives of Bloomsbury and the press. The book was launched on 8 July 2000, on platform 1 at King's Cross – which had been given "Platform 9 34" signs for the occasion – following which the train departed. En route it called at Didcot Railway Centre, Kidderminster, the Severn Valley Railway, Crewe (overnight stop), Manchester, Bradford, York, the National Railway Museum (overnight stop), Newcastle, Edinburgh, arriving at Perth on 11 July.”

JK Rowling was aboard the train on its publicity journey, so she could sign the many books bought by her adoring fans en-route.

This special publicity train recreated the journey that all Hogwarts students take, and even Platform 1 at King’s Cross, where the journey began, was renamed, 9¾’s.

Again this adds weight to JK Rowling staying overnight at some point in her life, or on numerous occasions, at Crewe, whilst travelling by train, and gives the strong possibility of her staying overnight at the ‘Crewe Arms Hotel’, situated in front of Crewe Railway Station (and gaining inspiration for the world of Harry Potter), with the Hogwarts Express, in real life, stopping overnight at Crewe, too.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *


The Gryffindor?

Not only do we have the strong possibility that JK Rowling gained some of her inspiration for the Houses of Hogwarts, from the Crewe coat of arms, situated upon the marble fireplace in the Crewe Arms Hotel’s Entrance Hall, whilst staying overnight at the Hotel, whilst travelling by train, but we also have the link of the town of Crewe, to the construction of the Hogwarts Express steam locomotive, but even further still, we have a Gryffindor, or rather a ‘Griffin’s Door’ located at the Crewe Arms Hotel.

And even further, this blocked up by brick doorway, either or both may have served as:-

·         the inspiration for the magical brick walled doorway which Harry Potter and his fellow students pass through, to get to Platform 9¾’s in order to board the Hogwarts Express;

·         and/or the inspiration for the hidden street, where in the Muggle streets of London, inside a pub, that none of the Muggles seem to be able to see, and in a courtyard at the back of the pub, where if the bricks are tapped in the right order, an entrance opens up to Diagon Alley, a magical street in London.


The original front entrance to the Crewe Arms Hotel is located to the left of the front elevation of the building, down a number of steps descending from the road, in front of the Railway Station.

This doorway has been bricked up, and is no longer an accessible doorway to the hotel, and instead, visitors to the hotel, coming from the railway station, must wonder for a moment, how do you get into the hotel, especially if lugging suitcases, climbing steps up to the roadway, crossing the busy road, and then more steps down to the hotel?

The current entrance is to the right of this blocked up entrance, facing along the building to the right, meaning you have to walk around the porch extension, until you see the modern main entrance.

This may have mystified JK Rowling if she stayed at the Crewe Arms for a moment or two, especially if it was late in the evening, and she needed to stay until she could carry upon her journey, the next morning!

Even further to it being a bricked up doorway, only being a ghost or using some form of magic would allow you to pass through, the doorway is also surmounted by another coat of arms of the Crewe Family.

  
The Coat of Arms of the Barons of Crewe 
upon the Old Entrance to the Crewe Arms Hotel


The Baronial Coat of Arms above the Old Entrance to the Crewe Arms Hotel consists of a Quartered Shield with:-

Top Left and Bottom Right: A Lion Rampant
This coat of arms represents the basic arms of the Crewe Family, namely ‘Azure a lion rampant Argent’. That is ‘an erect silver lion, upon a blue background’. The Silver Lion Rampant is often known in the area as the ‘White Lion’ of the Crewes.

Top Right and Bottom Left: A Lion Passant on a Cross Fleury
This coat of arms represents the Offley Family of Madeley, who gained the seat of the Crewes, after Ann Crewe, the only daughter and heir of John Crewe (1624-1684), had married John Offley (1649-1711), after his son, John Offley, and the rest of his children changed their name to Crewe, in 1708, and deleted parts of their original coat of arms, namely, the four Cornish cloughs Sable, beaked and legged Gules, and which coat of arms became the coat of arms of the Barons of Crewe of Crewe, and is ‘Argent, on a cross fleury Azure, a lion passant guardant Or’. That is ‘a walking gold lion, facing the viewer, on a blue cross adorned at the ends with flowers, on a silver background’.

The Shield is surmounted by a baronial coronet, topped with the Crewe Family Crest, which is an erect lion’s gamb or paw. That is, the crest is ‘out of a ducal coronet a lion’s paw erect Argent’, i.e. ‘out of a duke’s coronet an erect silver lion’s gamb’.

The quartered shield and its crest are supported on the left by a lion rampant, and on the right, by a griffin sergeant [rampant for a griffin].

A Griffin was a mythological beast which has: the body, hind legs, and tail, of a lion; with the head, ears, wings, and foreclaws, of an eagle.
With the Latin Motto ‘Sequor Nec Inferior’ beneath, which means ‘I follow but am not inferior’.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

So the coat of arms above the bricked up doorway, has: a lion rampart to its left; and a Griffin to its top right; with the foreclaws of a lion; possibly alluding to: the erect lion of the House of Gryffindor; the Griffin also of the House of Gryffindor; and the eagle’s claws, to the House of Ravenclaw; in the world of Harry Potter.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

So therefore a magical bricked up or blocked doorway: like Harry Potter encounters to get to Platform 9¾’s; or the magical Diagon Alley; and protected by a magical Griffin: like the House of Gryffindor; Harry is finally chosen by the Hogwarts Sorting Hat; and therefore an actual magical ‘Griffin’s Door’: giving the strong possibility that this original doorway to the Crewe Arms Hotel, was the inspiration for the Hogwarts House of Gryffindor, and the symbol of the House, being a Lion Rampant, the symbol of the Crewe Family!

  
The Blocked Up Gryffindor or the Old Entrance to the Crewe Arms Hotel


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The Crewe Arms Hotel: Some History

The Crewe Arms Hotel was originally built in 1837, by the Grand Junction Railway, and then rebuilt in 1880, to serve passengers using the next door Railway Station. In 1846 it became the property of the London and North Western Railway, and by 1922, it was owned by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. 

It was one of the first railway hotels built in Britain. It even had an entrance opening up onto the platforms of the railway station.

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Bibliography:

Discovering Heraldry, Jacqueline Fearn, 2006.

An Interpretation of the Heraldry at Crewe Hall, Tony Bostock, 2018.

The Vaughan Family Crest: No, We're Not Really from Slytherin, Saturday, May 7, 2011 (http://www.moderatebutpassionate.com/2011/05/vaughan-family-crest-no-were-not-really.html).


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Wikipedia Entry

Crewe Arms Hotel, Wikipedia Entry
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crewe_Arms_Hotel). 


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