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A Cow Standing in a Glass if Water: A Story About a Logo

Words & images by Paul Hollingworth.

Have you ever been sitting in traffic, looked at your steering when and thought, “what on earth does this logo mean, what does it have to do with my car?”

With the recent purchase of my new Morris 1100S (see I told you I would bore you about it for years) I got to thinking just that – “why would a car company called Morris be represented by a cow standing on a glass of water?” Surly a group of English people dancing around a pole in the town common would be more appropriate? Well, I guess not.

We’ll have to look first at old-mate Morris. William Morris, later Viscount Nuffield, lived in Oxford from the age of three. He started a bicycle repair shop on Oxford’s High Street in 1893, and was at one stage the cycling champion of Oxford. In 1901 he began designing and building motorcycles while maintaining his bicycle repair business, and later a taxi service and a car hire and repair service. He started making Morris cars in 1912 in a factory in Oxford. By 1984, with Viscount Nuffield long gone, his brand was also dead – with an occasional reimagining from India’s Hindustan Motors, and the ‘M’ from SAIC’s MG.

So why tell you all this? Well, William Morris’ link to Oxford (Nuffield is a small village in Oxfordshire) was the inspiration behind the badge – much like Porsche’s is a combination of the state bade of Württemberg and its capital Stuttgart.

Oxford derives its name from Old English and simply means “ford of the oxen”, and the shield on their coat-of-arms shows exactly that – an ox crossing the river. William Morris used a stylized version of this shield on his cars, and Morris branded vehicles used this badge virtually unchanged during the BMC, British Leyland and Hindustan Motors years.

City of Oxford Coat-of-Arms
William Morris

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