“Honor Before Splendor” — How Great Barrington Got its Name and Seal

with No Comments

While doing research for our current display at the Great Barrington Town Museum, our Executive Director Bob Krol was intrigued to find this banner of the Great Barrington town seal (shown on the home page) in one of the storage closets.


John Shute, Baron Barrington of Newcastle and Viscount Barrington of Ardglass

The words ” Honesta Quam Splendida” are Latin for “Honor Before Splendor.” The seal was that of John Shute (1678-1734), a member of the English Parliament raised by the King in 1720 to the Irish peerage as both Baron Barrington of Newcastle in the County of Limerick, and First Viscount Barrington of Ardglass in the County of Down.


According to Charles Taylor’s book The History of Great Barrington, when called upon to name certain towns in the western part of the colony, Governor Sir Frances Bernard chose to honor his wife’s cousin Lord Barrington, who was known to have a special interest and feelings for the Colonies.


Monument to John Barrington bearing the same seal can be found in St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Shrivenham, in the Vale of the White Horse.

Taylor speculated that the word “Great” was retained from the translation of the Native American name for the locality “The Great Wigwam” and also to avoid confusion with the eastern town of Barrington, Rhode Island.