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While researching local history in the town of Cockermouth, in Cumbria, England, I came across the coat of arms below on a gravestone. The gravestone is listed on the Find a Grave website here, and is dedicated to three members of the Brown family. This pamphlet, snappily entitled All the Monumental Inscriptions in the graveyards of Brigham and Bridekirk near Cockermouth in the county of Cumberland from 1666 to 1876, describes the arms as the "Arms of the Brown family" on page seven.

I have uncovered just one other reference to these arms, in the Middle Temple Bench Book. Page 232 lists a "Joseph Brown", whose family originates from Cumberland, and describes his arms as "Az., on a Chev. wavy or between three fleurs-de-lys arg. a thistle’s head ppr." This seems to match the arms on the grave below, but excludes the crest.

The crest, to me, looks like a snake entwined around a pigeon, and I haven't been able to find any other examples of a similar crest; although I may just be looking in the wrong place. Is this crest common in heraldry? What might the origin or heraldic description of this device be?

From comments:

Suggestion that this may be a secretary bird which are often depicted with snakes; possible, but as far as I know the family did not have any connection to Africa - my furthest knowledge of the family is limited to the summary in the bench book; that they served Lord Dacre against the Scots in what I presume would be the 1500s, around the Battle of Flodden.

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    Related meta question: When are questions on heraldry on-topic?
    – CDJB
    Dec 19, 2022 at 17:00
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    Googling brown family coat of arms finds images of some arms which reseemble this onebeing blue with a gold chevon between three (gold) fleur di lis. Tehy may be the arms of related brown families or fake coats of arms inspired by this. They all seem to have rampant lions for crests. I susges that you line in Fairbairn's book of crests and in the General Armory of England, Scotland. Ireland, and Wales.
    – MAGolding
    Dec 20, 2022 at 6:45
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    @MCW not as far as I know - my furthest knowledge of the family is limited to the summary in the bench book linked in the Q; that they served Lord Dacre against the Scots in what I presume would be the 1500s, around the Battle of Flodden.
    – CDJB
    Dec 20, 2022 at 11:59
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    @MCW Thank you for your continued research, I could definitely see it being a dove - in my defence, they're essentially fancy pigeons :) I will keep looking!
    – CDJB
    Dec 21, 2022 at 9:19
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    You might have to look beyond heraldic meanings here. Consider this as a tombstone, a memorial marker, not a heraldic device. Researching families from England, I often have come across descriptions of church walls lined with engravings of coats of arms of members. These simple escutcheons do not often show the other elements such as crests or supporters that you find listed in works such as Burke.
    – justCal
    Dec 21, 2022 at 14:23

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Professional historian/herald for the win - I suspect we have a plausible interpretation.

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Wikipedia

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