The adventures of a Livery Button
Here's a little video of me, telling you about a little history project that we are working on whilst stuck in lockdown. It all started with a button and turned into the adventures of a livery button :) Take a look..
The first button, manufactured by Bullivant in Birmingham
The set of Livery buttons, the start of our collection
The Barker/Graveyard Livery Button
Follow up article about the buttons, written by my daughter:
The Barker Button
It all started with my fifteenth birthday in 2017. Mum and I
had spent the day exploring Ickworth House, a unique
18th century hall with acres of land and gardens in Suffolk,
near Bury St Edmunds. It has always been one of my
favourite places to visit and choosing to go there on this
day lead to an amazing story of discovery and mystery.
On the way home, we drove through a place called
Kedington, a village that our ancestors the Binks and the
Bowyers had lived for hundreds of years before they came
to Cambridge. As we drove through we passed a
graveyard. I’ve always had a fascination for grave yards
as I grew up going to the Local History Society at St
Andrew’s Church in Cherry Hinton. I’ve always loved
walking around graveyards and reading peoples
gravestones, imagining who they were and what their lives
were like. Mum parked the car and we started to walk
around looking at all the decaying grave stones, hoping
we’d find relatives, then just gleaming underneath the dirt
was what looked like an old coin. She picked it up and
said it was a livery button, coincidentally she had only
recently learnt about them as the Bullivant’s (our main
family name) used to have a livery button company in
Birmingham. We said to the grave, that it was found at,
that we’d bring the button back and put it back, then we
took it home to research.
Livery buttons are about the size of a 2p coin.
We had forgotten about it for a couple of years until mum
found it the other day when she was sorting out her room.
Mum said she would give me £20 if I could find out what
family the livery button belonged to. I am a very
determined person, so I was up for the challenge and
started my research. Firstly, I researched the company on
the back of the button called Firmin and to my surprise,
Firmin and Sons head office in London was still active. I
emailed the company, inclosing pictures of the livery
button to see if they could shed some light and information
about it. Secondly, I joined the livery button Facebook
group and did the same thing and posted information and
pictures of the button to their group. I checked my emails
while I waited for comments on my Facebook post and to
my astonishment, a man called Tony Kelly from Firmin
He then went on to recommend a book called ‘Fairbairn’s
Family Crests’ that he thought could have the family
name. Someone on the Facebook post that I wrote replied
with a link to a website of the books recorded families and
it came up with the exact livery button we had found. After
all the hard work of trying to find this button and feeling
like I was getting no-where, I finally felt like I was getting
somewhere. I emailed Tony from Firmin and Sons and told
him the good news, I had finally found the family, the crest
was the Barker family crest.
Tony helped me identify what was on the button, at first I
thought it was some sort of bird of prey standing on
something that looked like a ball. I later found out it was a
hawk, as I’d thought, with the depiction of a wreath,
sometimes referred to as a torse. He also told me
sometimes there’s a coronet if the coat of arms is that of a
Peer of the Realm like an earl, or a duke.
So the conclusion of this article shows that small choices
we make, like the one we made to stop at the graveyard,
show us that every decision make leads to an amazing
We have so many more questions after finding one button,
where are the Barker family now? Is the button from the
grave we found it at, a family member or staff member
who visited the grave or was did it just fall from someone
passing through the graveyard? Did Firmin and Sons work
with the Bullivant family button making business, when
they were both in Birmingham or were they rival
companies? There is still a lot of good research to be
Hopefully we can contact the family of who the button
belongs to and find out who’s grave it was and then return
their button to them.
Here is a picture of some other livery buttons that we have
now got to start our collection, some made by Bullivant
and some by Firmin.
By Charlotte Rose, April 2020
If you'd like to support the work that I do, why not buy me a coffee, I'd be really grateful and it will help keep me going :)
25/8/2021 07:17:41 pm
What is the official name for the Wire? beneath the crest on many buttons. Thanks.John..
10/5/2022 12:40:54 pm
John - so sorry for the delay in picking this question up, it slipped through the net somehow! I am not an expert of these things yet - I have a lot more research to do to myself to be able to answer such questions! :) I thought that the wire was a rope perhaps? I've just found this great little website where you might be able to find out more, so maybe have a look through that and see what someone who knows a bit more about what they are talking about has to say (you'll have to cut and paste the link):
Chris J Bullivant Snr
9/6/2022 12:42:07 pm
Dear Michelle, I was interested to read your article on ‘Bullivant Buttons in Birmingham’ and thought you would like to know that the Bullivant family still resides in the city and done so for as long as anyone knows. There are two distantly related families here, I therefore believe it must have been a descendant who started the button factory. Interestingly I once had a business in Great Charles Street like my relative of two hundred, or so, years ago! Regards, Christopher Bullivant.
10/6/2022 10:00:50 am
Well, Hi cousin! All us Bullivant's are related in one way or another :) How cool to hear from you! I feel a visit to Birmingham is in order soon to do some more research and see what further links can be found. If you ever go on Ancestry I have a pretty extensive Bullivant family tree on there that you welcome to view but I will get round, at some point, to putting more information on here too. Thanks for getting in touch and perhaps we will all met up at some point :)
14/3/2023 02:36:26 am
We recently came across 6 G&H Bullivant Birmingham buttons with a bird on a stick with an axe. We are interested in history and value on the buttons. Is this company still in business. Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.
20/3/2023 02:32:25 pm
Dear Michele, Thanks for getting in touch. Great to hear about more Bullivant buttons! I'm afraid that I need to do a lot more research myself on the whole subject and intend on producing a more in-depth article on the Birmingham Bullivant's and button manufacturing but until then, the only information I have is that posted above in the article about the button we found, and within the comments. As far as value goes, eBay is a good place to go for price checking most things and you will find quite a few livery buttons on there, for sale, which will give you some comparison. The website Livery Buttons Identified: https://sites.google.com/site/liverybuttonsidentified/
18/3/2023 02:45:51 pm
20/3/2023 02:48:07 pm
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This is a blog page for the archives in my own collection. It includes many of my personal & family archives, tales and scrapbook items to all kinds of general archive items from UK History.