In The Hotseat with Thomas Woodcock

Thomas Woodcock
Thomas Woodcock
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Thomas Woodcock has been Garter Principal King of Arms for a year and most recently designed the coat of arms for the Duchess of Cambridge, prior to last month’s Royal wedding.

He is the principal adviser to the Queen on matters of ceremony and heraldry and the position is arguably one of the most powerful in the UK.

To celebrate his birthday last Friday, his wife Lucinda brought him to Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay – although he had been hoping for a trip to Paris.

Now back in his London office after his enjoyable trip to the Yorkshire coast, he took time out to chat to reporter Karl Hansell and answer this week’s 20 In The Hotseat questions.

1 What are your first memories of Whitby?

The view of the Abbey as we approached Whitby.

I just thought it was a very memorable sight to see the Abbey with the town out below it.

I work in London but I live in Lancashire and go home, where my wife is a sheep farmer.

She’s always been interested in historic agriculture and she had never seen any of the historic East Riding of Yorkshire.

2 What makes Whitby special to you?

We only spent a day in Whitby but I enjoyed the whole layout of the town and the port.

I’m interested in old fishing ports and the fact there’s a lot of old interesting architecture.

It’s not somewhere you go to on the way to anywhere else so you would never go there by mistake.

We also went to Robin Hood’s Bay and it was pleasantly unspoilt.

3 Life’s highlight?

I don’t think I have any particular highlights, I just enjoy life generally.

Recently I was responsible for designing the coat of arms for the Duchess of Cambridge.

It’s a matter of sitting down with them and finding out what they want from it, so it’s an enjoyable process.

4 Biggest regret?

I suppose one always regrets not taking opportunities when you have them.

For example, when it was suggested we should go to Whitby I seized the opportunity.

5 What did you have for breakfast this morning?

I’m afraid to say I had some yoghurt and some blueberries and a cup of coffee.

On a Saturday, when I am back in Lancashire, I always have kippers.

6 What is your favourite eating place?

I don’t have any one in particular, but there are some very good spots near to where I work – the College of Arms, near St Paul’s Cathedral in London – and my wife is a very good cook.

7 What is your favourite pub?

I don’t really visit pubs but I live in a village that used to be in Yorkshire and there’s a very good pub called the Harke to Bounty, so we took it for Lancashire.

8 Where are the best fish and chips?

I don’t remember the name of the place but when we were in Whitby we had haddock and chips to take away from a spot that had a sign saying ‘fish and chip shop of the year’.

We ate them while walking across the bridge.

9 What is your worst habit?

I’ve got innumerable, but being rather slow at everything I do, I suspect.

10 Where was your last holiday?

I haven’t really had a holiday for a bit, but we stayed with friends in Scotland last summer.

11 When was the last time you cried?

I think I’m a bit stuck on that one, I really can’t remember.

12 What would be your ideal day in Whitby?

When I came to Whitby, St Mary’s Church was unfortunately closed but it had been very well written up on the internet so I was sorry not to get into it.

We didn’t have time to get to the Whitby Museum either.

The kippers shop closed at three, just before we got there, so I missed out on that as well.

13 What was your first job?

I have always worked in the College of Arms, since 1975, and I have slowly worked my way to the top.

14 What is your favourite film?

I like old films, so Casablanca, although I can’t remember the names of any others.

15 What is your favourite book?

The Dictionary of National Biography.

It’s an A to Z of biographies of famous British people.

16 If you won the lottery, what would you do with it?

I would buy some farmland.

It would probably be a farm with livestock, just because I prefer the countryside with green fields and hedges instead of land that’s ploughed up.

17 Dracula or Captain Cook?

Captain Cook, his voyages of discovery are very exciting.

18 What is your signature dish?

The only things I can cook are lamb chops.

19 Favourite drink?

Water, which sounds dreadful but it’s true.

20 What would be your epitaph?

I would just like my name, date of birth and death and let others decide who I was.”