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An engrailed Broad Arrow is called a Pheon.
A broad arrow or pheon is a type of arrow with a typically flat barbed head. It is a symbol used traditionally in heraldry, most notably in England, and later the United Kingdom to mark government property.

Use in heraldry

The broad arrow as a heraldic device has two tapering blades, known as barbs. When these barbs are engrailed on the inside, it is called a pheon. Woodward's A Treatise on Heraldry: British and Foreign with English and French Glossaries, makes the following distinction between the broad arrow and pheon: "A BROAD ARROW and a PHEON are represented similarly, except that the Pheon has its inner edges jagged, or engrailed." Parker's A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry states, "A broad arrow differs somewhat... and resembles a pheon, except in the omission of the jagged edge on the inside of the barbs."

The pheon, the engrailed broad arrow, occurs in heraldry in the arms of the Sidney family, and hence in the arms of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridgemarker. The college's newsletter for alumni is also called Pheon. The Pheon also appears in the arms of Hampden-Sydney College.

Use for British Government property

The Office of Ordnance was created by Henry VIII in 1544. It dates back to the position of Master of Ordnance, one of whom, Nicholas Merbury, was present at the Battle of Agincourtmarker. The Office became the Board of Ordnance in 1597, its principal duties being to supply guns, ammunition, stores and equipment to the King's Navy. The headquarters and main arsenal of the Office were in the White Tower of the Tower of Londonmarker. The broad arrow mark has been used over the years by the Office and Board to signify at first objects purchased from the monarch's money and later to indicate government property. With the demise of the Board in 1855, the War Department and today's Ministry of Defence continued to use the mark. The arrow also appears in the Ordnance Surveymarker logo.

Early use of the broad arrow can be found on some objects recovered from the Tudor ship Mary Rosemarker, which sank in 1545. Bronze sheaves for rigging blocks, spoked wheels for gun carriages, bowls and wooden tankards were found to bear this mark. The broad arrow frequently appeared on military boxes and equipment such as canteens, bayonets and rifles, as well as the British prison uniform from the 1870s, and even earlier, that of transportees in British penal colonies such as Australia. The broad arrow marks were also used by Commonwealth countries on their ordnance.

The origin and earliest use of the broad arrow symbol are unknown. It could be related to the actual arrow, longbows and bowmen being a key part of the English army in the Middle ages. Broad Arrow Tower, built by Henry III of England between 1238 and 1272, in the Tower of London is said to be named after the royal property mark. Invention of the mark is frequently attributed to Henry Sydney, 1st Earl of Romney, who served as Master-General of the Ordnance from 1693 to 1702, since the pheon appears in the arms of his family, but it is known to have been in use earlier than this. There is also an unsubstantiated claim that a document dated 1330, issued by Richard de la Pole, the King's Butler, for the purchase of wine shows that in order to make sure that ownership could be readily established as King's property, he marked each item with an arrow from his own Coat of Arms.

Similarly to hallmarks, it is currently a criminal offence to reproduce the broad arrow without authority. Section 4 of the Public Stores Act 1875 makes it illegal to use the "broad arrow" on any goods without permission.

Use in the American Colonies

The broad arrow was used by the British to mark trees intended for ship building use in North America during colonial times. Three axe strikes resembling an arrowhead and shaft, were marked on large mast-grade trees. Use of the broad arrow mark commenced in earnest in 1691 with the Massachusetts Bay Charter which contained a Mast Preservation Clause specifying, in part:

"...for better providing and furnishing of Masts for our Royal Navy wee do hereby reserve to us...ALL trees of the diameter of 24 inches and upward at 12 inches from the ground, growing upon any soils or tracts of land within our said Province or Territory not heretofore granted to any private person. We...forbid all persons whatsoever from felling, cutting or destroying any such trees without the royal license from us..."

Colonists paid little attention to the Charter's Mast Preservation Clause and tree harvesting increased with disregard for broad arrow protected trees. England imported much of its naval timber from the Baltic during this period, so initially little effort was made to enforce the restriction. However as Baltic imports decreased, the British timber trade increasingly depended on North American trees and enforcement of broad arrow policies increased. Persons appointed to the position of Surveyor-General of His Majesty’s Woods were responsible for selecting, marking and recording trees as well as policing and enforcing the unlicensed cutting of protected trees. This process was open to abuse and the British monopoly was very unpopular with colonists. Parliament Acts of 1711, 1722 and 1772 extended protection finally to 12 inch diameter trees and resulted in the Pine Tree Riot that same year. This was one of the first acts of rebellion by the American colonists leading to the American Revolution in 1775 and a flag bearing a white pine is said to have been flown at the Battle of Bunker Hillmarker.

Use in the Australian colonies

The broad arrow was not widely used for convict clothing during the early period of transportation, due to the lack of government issued uniforms. The Board of Ordnance took over supply in the 1820s and uniforms from this period are marked with the broad arrow and the mark can be seen on the so called "magpie" uniforms. It continued to be used to denote government property in the Australian colonies from the earliest times of settlement until well after federation. William Oswald Hodgkinson's government-sponsored North-West Expedition in Queenslandmarker used the broad arrow to mark trees along the expedition's route. The broad arrow mark was also used on survey markers. It can still be seen on some Australian military property.

Use in characterisation of internal combustion engines

Multi-cylinder internal combustion engines have their cylinders arranged in different ways. If there are just two, they may be in-line, opposed or at an angle, the latter often described as a Vee (or V) arrangement. When there are more than two cylinders, they are either arranged radially, in-line or in in-line groups. Thus a V-6 engine has two groups of three cylinders at an angle driving a common crankshaft, a V-12 two groups of six in-line. Broad arrow engines have three groups, one vertical and the two others symmetrically angled at less than 90o on either side. The Napier Lion was an aircraft engine from the 1920s with this layout, a twelve cylinder motor with three in-line groups of four cylinders.



  • Hayes, Edmund; (1837) Crimes and Punishments: Or, An Analytical Digest of The Criminal Statute Law of Ireland Hodges and Smith, online
  • Malone, Joseph J. (1979) Pine Trees and Politics,Ayer Publishing, ISBN 9780405113802, online
  • Maynard, Margaret; (1994) Fashioned from Penury: Dress as Cultural Practice in Colonial Australia, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521459259, available online
  • Parker, James; Gough, Henry; (1966) A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry. London: Gale Research Company
  • Woodword, John; Burnett, George; 1969 Woodward's A Treatise on Heraldry: British and Foreign with English and French Glossaries. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co.,

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