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the enfield chimera

Updated on January 25, 2011

The Enfield Chimera

You know griffins, and basilisks, and cockatrices...but do you recall, the least famous chimera of all? The enfield? One of the least known chimeras, the enfield is a mythological beast most commonly (when seen at all) used in European heraldry especially in England and Ireland. It is most famously used in the heraldry of the London Borough of Enfield. So, what is an enfield anyway? What does it look like? What significance does it have? Read on my friend, and find out!

What is an enfield?

great drawing of an enfield
great drawing of an enfield

An enfield is a chimeric creature. Chimeras are mythological creatures that are made up of body parts of (usually) real-life animals. For example, a griffin has the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Chimeras are often associated with Greek mythology, but are common to many cultures around the world. The ancient Egyptians, for example had gods that often had the head of an animal and body of a man. Then there is their famous Spinx, possibly the largest surviving statue of a chimera which has the opposite: the body of a lion and the head of a man. Often, each body part would have some meaning to the people in the culture that the creature originated in. The creature itself would also have some meaning and sometimes even a specific role in the local legends.

With the enfield it has the head of a fox, the chest of a greyhound, the body of a lion, the hindquarters and tail of a wolf, and forelegs like an eagle's talons. The enfield is a creature of Celtic culture and is most commonly found in England and Ireland. In those cultures, the head of the fox means craftiness or cleverness. The chest of a greyhound suggests swiftness and endurance. The body of a lion means royalty (lions are the 'king' of beasts after all) and bravery. The hindquarters of a wolf suggests fraternity and loyalty to family (wolves are pack animals with a strong sense of family). Finally, the forelegs of an eagle's talons suggests strength, nobility and hunting prowess (partly why the U.S.A. has an eagle as a symbol).

The enfield in total had a role in stories as being a guardian of chieftains or leaders who had fallen in battle. The Celts believed strongly in making sure that their honored members and loved ones received what they considered to be proper funeral rites so that their spirits could rest in peace. Enemies would try to carry away bodies, especially of enemy leaders, so that they could tear them apart and use them to demoralize the enemy and serve as a warning. This was distressing to Celtic peoples and they believed the spirit of people debased in this way would haunt the world of the living until they were avenged.

So, the enfield creatures would guard the bodies of leaders to try to prevent this from happening. The photo above is an excellent drawing of what an enfield might look like outside of the stylized look usually seen in heraldry.

Why a lens about the enfield?

I wrote this lens because enfields are special to me. My family is named after them and my ancestors hailed from the Enfield borough of London going as far back as the writing of the Domesday Book. I also like how unique and rare the creature is. I love that the enfield is seen as a protector of human dignity and spirit. I can certainly identify with that.

A Heraldic drawing of an enfield.

This is an excellent drawing of an enfield from a family crest. I wish I could find my official family crest. I have tried, but all I can find is a very good history of my ancestors but the info did not include their crest. I imagine it had an enfield on it similar to this one.

A Beautiful Enfield In Stained Glass

Here is a beautifully done enfield creature in stained glass by Alicia Smith. She is a very talented artist who has done many renderings of mythical creatures. Her work can be seen on CafePress at

http://www.cafepress.com/sk/aliciasmith

What does 'enfield' mean?

Enfield has many spelling variants depending on the era and the language it is being used in. One of the earliest recorded spellings is Enefelde found in the Domesday Book which was written in 1086. It was written for King William the first of England after the Norman conquest. The above photo shows a copy of the page of the Domesday Book that mentions Enefelde. Other variants are Enfeld, Enfild, Emfield, Emenfield, Enestfield, Endfield, Enefele, Inglefield, Englefield and Imfeld. Sometimes, spelling variants would appear in the same document when referring to the same person or place :) The name literally means "an open land belonging to a man called Eana where lambs are raised" in Old English. Ean means "lamb" and feld means "open land free of trees". The land has been named this for centuries. It was even called Enefelde in Roman times, when London was known as Londinium. King Offa is recorded as having given the land to an Abby in 790.

So, the creature this lens is about is named after the land where it first was described. This land, Eana's field, is located in the northernmost part of modern-day London. At one time, there was a good deal of industry in Enfield. The famous Enfield rifles used in many wars, the Enfield motorcycle (one of the oldest motorcycle brands in the world) as well as the Bren and Sten guns; in more modern times, Enfield was home to the first solid-state colour TV plant and the first mass-produced washing machine.

Enfield on the Net

There are few mentions of the enfield creature online. A few more mentions of things pertaining to Enfield, England and to towns named after it in the United States, such as Enfield, New York and Enfield Connecticut. Most mentions of enfield refer to things that were made there, especially the Enfield Motorcycles and rifles. Here are a few of my favourite enfield sites.

Enfield in Call of Duty Black Ops

I've rarely seen "enfield" mentioned in video games in any way, so I was surprised to see it in this popular videogame for the Xbox 360. It was also mentioned in a few WWII video games such as Battlefield 1942.

Nice video of an Enfield Motorcycle

Here is a nice video of one of the famous Enfield Motorcycles. Often referred to as the "Harley of Europe".

Then, there is a band called "Enfield"

Here is a cell phone video of Enfield in concert. They are a rock band in England. I'm friends with them on Facebook too!

A tour of Enfield in Pictures

Here's a touching video slide show someone posted on Youtube about Enfield Town. It's very nice. This is the sort of thing Youtube was originally set up for.

Harry Enfield, famous British comedian

Possibly a distant relative of mine! Harry Enfield was a really funny comedian in the 60's.

Another funny video with Harry Enfield

Man! I love British humour! Harry was so funny!

Is your family named after the enfield? Or are they from the Enfield, England area? Do you like enfield creatures? Are you a fan of the Enfield Motorcycle or the Enfield Rifles? Have a comment about this lens?

In any case, please sign in and post a comment.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Australia's RAAF 38 Squadron used the Enfield as its Squadron logo on the tail of its Caribou aircraft and still use one on its Squadron crest. Thanks for the great information you have posted here

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi my name is Alex KELLY. I believe the picture that you have with the enfield on the crest is that of my families crest. I have to say that you did a very good job describing the enfield... But i was wondering if you have seen the different variations and which one you thought was the best. It is said that the enfield stood over the body of my ancestor Tadhg Mór O'Kelly to protect him from the enemies!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      My maiden name in Infield. I wonder if this is a variation of the Enfield spelling?

      Cheryl Infield

      c-jean@live.com