These wrought iron gates known as ‘The Bodley Gates’ was given by Violet, Lady Powis as a birthday present to her husband. It is a copy by G. F. Bodley of the early eighteenth century gate shown in a print of Powis House, the family’s London home which was later demolished. The gates are set at the entrance to the Fountain garden.

Above the gate is the Powis coat of arms, combining the Elephant of the Clives with the Griffon of the Herberts, and surmounting each pillar is a wyvern (another legendary monster) holding in its mouth a hand ‘couped at the wrist’, which is also on the coat of arms.

Crowning Glory

I know the symbolism is heraldic but I have always wondered about the exact significance of the severed hand. The only reference I can find is  a little inconclusive*:

The severed red right hand (dexter hand couped at the wrist gules) is a feature of many coats of arms for families of the Uí Neill (i.e. descendants of Niall). This same symbol is associated with the province of Ulster and appears on the Arms of that province and on the modern flag of Northern Ireland. There are at least three explanations of its origins. The first relates to the name of the son of Bolg or Nuadu, the Sun God of the Celts, and by some accounts the divine progenitor of all Celts. This son was known as Labraid Lámhdhearg (Labraid of the Red Hand). The association of the symbolic red hand with the Sun God, therefore makes it an appropriate heraldic icon. The second relates to Nuada, king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who had his right hand severed by Sreng during a great battle with the Fomorians. No imperfect man being allowed to hold the throne, Nuada was forced to abdicate in favour of Bres. However, a silver hand was fashioned for him and the power of ancient magic was used to cause flesh and sinew to grow back around the prosthesis. When Bres died, Nuada again assumed his royal place. The third explanation is somewhat more fanciful. The story tells of a pact among the seven sons of Miledh of Esbain, the Celtic king who sons conquered Ireland that the ruler of the new land would be whosoever among them first touched the soil of the island. As the flotilla approached the shore, one of the sons took his sword, cut off his right hand and threw it to land, thus becoming the ruler. He must have been either left handed or pretty stupid (or both) otherwise it is unlikely that he could have thrown the severed hand well enough to accomplish his purpose. Certainly, he was left handed for the rest of his life. The story, if true, may relate to Erimhon who is reputed to have been the first Celtic ruler of the northern part of Ireland. His brother Ebher ruled the southern half. They were the only two of the seven brothers who survived the conquest.

The Gates To...

*This is one of several pages that contain this exact quote, but within different family contexts.

14 Comments CherryPie on Apr 19th 2012

14 Responses to “Wyverns with Hands Couped”

  1. It never occurred to me that a Wyvern would be a dragon! It was the name of a large sheep station on the Murrumbidgee River near Darlington Point, that I knew as a child. Named, I guess, by some nostalgic Englishman. What a strange tidbit of information to stumble upon, following some unknown threads deep into cyberspace! Have a good day …

  2. Ginnie says:

    What a story for this mythical Wyvern! I go with the 3rd version because of its…stupidity/cleverness! :)

  3. ....peter:) says:

    I was quite impressed with the framing of your photos of the Gates and the bit of garden Cherie… and also your narrative… thanks you for the history lesson….peter:)

    • CherryPie says:

      Thanks Peter, these are some of the photos where I had my camera on the wrong setting. The colours aren’t as vibrant as they should be.

  4. james higham says:

    I like the way ladies just give things like that to their husbands. I never got a gate in my life.

    • CherryPie says:

      Now did you provide your lady with a mansion in order that she could surprise you with the delightful gift of a wrought iron gate?

  5. Marcie says:

    Such exquisite ironwork. I always enjoy the informational bits and pieces that you share. I learn so much!

    • CherryPie says:

      Thanks Marcie, I have always enjoyed visiting these places and exploring the history. It is nice to know that others enjoy the virtual journey and history too.

  6. Whatever the origin of the story the Wyverns are impressive beasts!

  7. Love how you framed the gate photos! Beautiful. And thanks also for the background.