Chesire is the home of some of the most ancient coats of arms in existence. Coats of arms came into general use by feudal lords and knights in battle in the 12th Century. By the 13th Century arms had spread beyond their initial battlefield use to become a kind of flag or logo for families in the higher social classes of Europe, inherited from one generation to the next.
From "A history and genealogy of the Davenport family", a few general remarks may here be introduced in regard to the origin and use of arms:
Arms in heraldry are ensigns armorial or marks of honor, borne upon shields, banners or coats of mail, in order for distinction. These may belong to indviduals, to families, or to countries.
Badges, and emblems on shields and helmets, occurred in the earliest times. Allusion is made to this in Numbers, (chapter 1 : 52,) where the children of Israel are required to "Pitch their tents, " every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard,"with the ensigns of his father's house."
Reference is also made by the Greek and Roman poets, to the use of such devices ; and Xenophon relates that the kings of Media bore a golden eagle on their shields.
But notwithstanding these traces of armorial bearings in the ancient world, modern heraldry is no older than the tournaments, and seems to have first prevailed in the eleventh or twelfth centuries.
The Crusades, which were expeditions to the Holy Land against the Infidels, during the twelfth century, tended to bring this science to its present degree of perfection. From these originated several new figures before unknown in arms, besides a great number of crosses variously formed, which are to be seen in the arms all over Europe.
In process of time, these tokens, now called arms, became remunerations for services, and were bestowed by emperors, kings, generals,and commanders in the field, upon martial men, as a reward for heroic acts, like a remembrance of which would thus be preserved to posterity.
At first, arms were allowed to be taken up at any gentleman's pleasure, but according to the present laws of the college of arms, in England and most other countries of Europe, no person is allowed the bearing of them but such as belong to the family, except by special grant or purchase."
Seals 11th century: http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/decoration/seal3.htm
How. To read a Coat of Arms:
Heraldry of Leading Chesire Families
Best overall article on Heraldry in general: http://www.heraldsnet.org/saitou/parker/Jpglossc.htm
The Art of Heraldry (ancient sources): http://books.google.com/books?id=rfhYAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA275-IA2&lpg=RA1-PA275-IA2&dq=three+strawberry+leaves+on+coronet+worn+by+princesses+of+england&source=bl&ots=cRc-VO_lUS&sig=IuXKdiQ-uGGyQs0IUkupyJB-opE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=EktdU5y6NYat8AHxn4HICw&ved=0CEkQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=three%20strawberry%20leaves%20on%20coronet%20worn%20by%20princesses%20of%20england&f=false