Every town has its notable quirks and features that it has accumulated over its lifetime; this week’s post highlights the quirky and distinctive house number plates that traditionally denoted houses owned by the Digby Estate in Sherborne.
The numbering in Sherborne can often confuse those that are new to the area. Numbers can abruptly change from sequential to seemingly random. This is due to the odd situation of having two numbering systems within the town. In tangent with the ‘normal’ house numbering system we also have the Estate numbering system for all houses owned by by the Digby family.
Throughout the town are the delightful white enamel plaques with the Digby Ostrich, an upside-down horse shoe in its beak, in black above the estate number.
Since 1350 the ostrich with a horseshoe in its beak has been the heraldic symbol of the Digby family. The symbol is said to originate from around 100BC when the king of Numedia (now Algeria and a smaller part of Tunisia) put warriors on ostriches to fight the Roman Cavalry. The speedy ostrich outflanked the Romans and they fled.
The ostrich and horseshoe crest was later used in Hungary, but it is not clear why it was adopted by the Digbys. You will see it not just on the few rare plaques still on certain houses in the town, but if you look up on your wanders you will see it not just up at the Castle but in town atop buildings, such as ‘The Digby’, in the Digby Road, too. (Now owned by Sherborne School, and deserving of its own history another time.)
Further North in the Digby Road, above the main door into the Digby Memorial Hall is the Latin inscription
DEO NON FORTUNA
“From God, not from chance”
Hence the upside down horseshoe; all the luck is falling out.
Join me on my walks all this year from now until the end of September for more Historical local gems! (Not to mention my up coming Easter Monday Special!)