The Arms of the Family of Pearson
The arms as engraved upon this handsome George II/III Scottish Sterling
Silver Mounted Cowrie Shell Snuff Box, possibly by John Welsh hallmarked Edinburgh circa 1760
are those of the family of Pearson. They may be blazoned as follows:
Quarterly 1st and 4th Per fess embattled gules and azure three suns in splendour or (for Pearson)
2nd and 3rd Gules a lion rampant between three spearheads argent (for Macnamara)
This snuff box was undoubtedly in the possession of a gentleman who was a member of the
family of Pearson (or one of its variant spellings) one of whose forebears we may presume at this
distance in time married an heiress of the Macnamara family hence the Macnamara quartering.
Authorities state that the family of Pearson resided at Wisbech in the Isle of Ely
(which lies today in the modern County of Cambridgeshire)
and were connected in some way to in the City of London.
Upon the balance of probability and without any evidence to the contrary,
given the fact that the snuff box was assayed at Edinburgh,
there is a presumption that it came into the Pearson family via a marriage to a
Macnamara heiress, if indeed the Macnamaras were of Scotish descent and engraved
some time thereafter by a descendant of this marriage.
Alternatively, the snuff box could have been acquired by a member of the family in the City of
London or some other provincial centre where silver objects such this snuff box were sold, who again,
being a descendant of this marriage caused the engraving of the arms upon the lid of this snuff box.
Sadly, there is a dearth of printed and other sources pertaining to the
Pearson family which would allow us to pinpoint both the original marriage and the
subsequent family member who owned this snuff box.
As an aside : it is interesting to note that sometime during the latter half of the 16th
Century, a member of the Pearsons, of Wisbech, Mathew Pearson settled at Cleveland
in the County of Yorkshire. At the time of the Heralds' Visitation of Yorkshire of
1665 undertaken by Sir William Dugdale, Norroy King of Arms, Mathew's great,
great grandson, Sir Mathew Pearson (or Pierson), of Lowthorpe in the County of
Yorkshire recorded his pedigree and arms on the 31st August 1665.
The arms having the addition of a canton and may be blazoned as follows :
'Per fess embattled gules and azure three suns in splendour or a canton argent'.
A further note by Sir William Dugdale making a record of these arms stated that
'No proofe made of these armes'
meaning that Sir Mathew could not at the time of the visitation furnish sufficient
evidence that the arms were either granted or confirmed by the Kings of Arms at
The College of Arms in the City of London or otherwise give proofs of ancient user.
Heraldry by John Tunesi of Liongam
MSc, FSA Scot, Hon FHS, QG