Visitations. The Clarenceux and Norroy Kings of Arms were empowered by their commission to hold Visitations in their respective provinces, either personally or by deputy.
Accordingly they were accustomed to issuenotices to the bailiffs of the different hundreds in each county, warning them to suTumon the Knights, Esquires, and Gentlemen resident therein to ajopear before the King of Arms or his Deputy at the time and place by him appointed. They were to bring with them such Arms and Crests as they used and wore, with their descents, pedigrees, and patent of Arms, and the necessary evidence to justify them ; in order that the King of Arms might duly record them if found correct ; or on the other hand, to reject, and degrade all such persons as falsely, and without good reason had taken the title of Esquire and Gentleman upon them, and cause their names to be proclaimed as infamous at the Assize of Arms, or General Session, held by him at some central place in his province. Those who failed to answer to this summons were warned to appear personally, on a day specified, before the Earl Marshal, under a penalty of ten pounds.
In case of a petition to the Earl Marshal fora grant of Arms, an order was directed by him to the King of Arms of the province in which the petitioner resided, who accordingly formed a fitting coat, which, with the sanction ofthe Earl Marshal, was duly blazoned and registered at the Visitation. The King of Arms also, during his progress, might visit all Churches, Castles and Houses in his province, and there pull down or deface any bearings contrary to the laws of Arms which he might find. The records of these Visitations are perhaps the most comprehensive of all our repositories of genealogical information ; inasmuch as they contain an authoritative list of pedigrees, and the exact blazon of each coat as it was issued or confirmed by the Heralds. The original of these records are for the most part in the College of Arms; but some few of the originals, and copies of most of the others, are to be found in the Library of the British Museum, which, is very rich in Heraldic M.S.S.
The first Visitation on record took placeA.D. 1528, in Staffordshire, but in the majority of the other counties they are not mentioned till 1530. The last Visitation was held in Middlesex, 16S7.