I was interested to read the article about heraldry on page 14 of the June Berkshire Family Historian, as my own family has a coat of arms, although we don’t know for certain which of my ancestors acquired it or how.

When my paternal grandfather’s second wife died, I inherited a metal trunk of some 250 old letters, some dating back to the 1840s, plus wills, account books, leases, etc. – and a coat of arms. On the side of the trunk the name H. Whinfield Hora was painted in black letters. Henry Whinfield Hora (1829-1904 and always known as Whinfield) was my great-grandfather who spent most of his working life with the Corporation of the City of London, being Chairman of numerous committees and Deputy Warden of the Ward of Portsoken. One of the special committees that he chaired was that which organised the visit of  Queen Victoria in 1882 to declare Epping Forest open to the public for ever, and he was one of those presented to the Queen on that occasion, so it was probably Whinfield who acquired the coat of arms. One of my (now late) aunts told me that he used to swan around London with the coat of arms on his carriage, but I don’t know if this is true.

The interesting thing about our coat of arms, however, is that it is of the Hora Siccama family, not just Hora. The word ‘hora’ means ‘the hour’ in Latin, Spanish and Portuguese, and there are plenty of families called Hora, de Hora and da Hora in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. There are also Hora families in the Punjab area of India, and it can easily be confused with Hara in Ireland and Japan. However, in the Czech language ‘hora’ means ‘mountain’, and the story in my family has always been that our ancestors came to England from Czechoslovakia (as was), in perhaps the 15th or 16th century, via Holland. I’m fairly certain this is correct as there are still many Horas listed in the Prague telephone book, and hundreds in North America whose ancestors came from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Russia, Austria, etc. There is a town called Kutna Hora in Bohemia, about an hour’s drive from Prague, and there is also Bila Hora (White Mountain).

Years ago I wrote to the Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie at The Hague, telling them that I had the Hora Siccama coat of arms and asking for information about the family (Siccama is a Friesan name). They wrote back in delightful English, informing me that we had no right to this coat of arms as we are the ‘not noble family Hora’. I take perverse pleasure in being part of the ‘not noble’ family Hora and shall certainly keep the coat of arms! Some cousins of ours in Canada and Australia have copies of the arms, but no one knows who made them.

The Hora-Siccama arms that I have is certainly the original, the wooden frame has seen better days, and the paper on the back with the description in heraldic French has slight tears and is almost coming unstuck. The writing in black ink on brown paper is now faint and difficult to read, but it is possible to make out the main points. There are, in fact, two separate pieces of paper: the top piece says ‘Annoblé, Hora-Siccama, Frise, Holl (An., 27 déc. 1817 et 16 déc.1876’, then in English: ‘1st and 4th quarters are Siccama, 2nd and 3rd quarters are Hora’.

The main piece of paper starts: ‘Hora/Jonkheer/Holland’, then goes on to describe the design. The 1st and 4th quarters (Siccama), contain ‘une tête et col de levrier d’argent colleté d’or (a head and neck of greyhound in silver with gold collar). The 2nd and 3rd quarters (Hora), contain ‘deux têtes et cols de cerf au naturel en chef’ (two heads and necks of stags and a hunting horn encircled by a hoop or ring – ‘viroled’). It then goes on to describe the crest, and the silver and blue mantling or scroll-work, and the supports – two silver greyhounds and buckled with gold.

This coat of arms appears in Rietstaap’s Armorial General.

I have been trying for decades to trace my ancestry further back than the mid-1700s, so far without success. My 3x great-grandfather, Alexander Hora, was a silk weaver in Stepney and Spitalfields and I did wonder whether he might have been a Huguenot. Unfortunately, The Huguenot Society has not got our name on their database of ‘Qualified Huguenot Ancestors’, and not all silk weavers were Huguenots, of course. He must have been doing very well at first because he paid £8. 15s for his eldest son, James Hora (my 2x great-grandfather) to study for 12 months from December 1816 at St Bartholomew’s Hospital under the surgeon, John Abernethy (1764-1831). His two other sons, William and John, followed their father into silk weaving. However, the silk weaving industry in England declined when some of the restrictions on the importation of silk were removed, and poor Alexander died in Kings Bench debtors’ prison in 1830. His age was stated to be 70, giving a year of birth of 1760.

After finding Alexander’s date of death, I made the momentous discovery that he had married in Reading! His wife was Charlotte Fletcher, daughter of Thomas Fletcher, and they were married in 1783 at St. Giles’. She was ‘of St Giles’ and he was ‘of St Laurence’, but how long he had lived in Reading and where he came from is still a mystery. They had seven children – Mary, James, Ann, William, another James, another Ann, and John, all very common English names. The first four were baptised at St Giles (and the first James died aged 4 and was buried in St Laurence), then, at the end of the 18th century, the family moved to London. The last three children were born in Bethnal Green, and were all then registered together in 1816 at Dr Williams’ Library, suggesting they were non-conformist. Alexander’s wife, Charlotte, died in 1819 and she and her husband are buried at St Dunstan’s, Stepney.

Picture of Berkshire Family History Society

Berkshire Family History Society