Historic Counties Blogs

ABC Flag Blog

All about county flags from the Association of British Counties

Welcome the the ABC Flag Blog.

As part of our efforts to strengthen the identity and recognition of the nation’s counties, the county flag is a highly effective weapon in our arsenal. A flag often seems synonymous with the entity it conveys, its very existence can reinforce the notion and status of that entity; a bright eye-catching design rippling in the breeze will attract attention of itself and invariably lead to an enquiry about what or where it represents.

Latest Updates


A Horseshoe has been used to represent the county of Rutland since at least 1784 when the emblem appeared on “A New Map of the Counties of Leicester & Rutland, Drawn from the Latest Authorities” by Thomas Conder, 1784

It seem likely that this symbol became associated with the county as a result of the local tradition that visiting royalty, peers of the realm and noblemen would present a horseshoe to the Castle Hall in Oakham, which now houses a large and unique collection!



By at least 1837, the colour scheme of a gold horseshoe on a green background had become fixed. A gold horseshoe appears in the corners of this Grandfather Clock, given to new Oakham Workhouse in 1837, as part of a “seal of Rutland



This seal was later adopted by Rutland County Council, as described in the 1894 work “The Book of Public Arms” by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies and M. E. B. Crookes…

By 1908 Rutland Police were wearing cap badges of a Gold Horseshoe on Green (as indicated by the hatchings  ( marks symbolising specific colours)


In 1950 Rutland county Council was awarded arms which again included a gold horseshoe against a green field, the latter described as representing the county’s agriculture, especially its rich pasture land.

Since then many county organisations, clubs and businesses have made use of the traditional Gold Horseshoe on Green to represent the county of Rutland on their insignia, labeling, and even transport!


Rutland emblems 2
Rutland emblems 3
Rutland emblems 4Rutland emblems 5
In light of this extensive and long established tradition of representing the county by a gold horseshoe on a green background, this is the obvious emblem for deployment as the county flag. It is also interesting to note that the depiction of horseshoes in the United Kingdom is with three nails on one side of the shoe and four on the other!

3 and 4 nails

With thanks to Brady Ells for his extensive local research on this topic.


The Caithness flag competition has now reached voting stage. The competition attracted 327 entries and is a joint venture between the Highland Council, Caithness community councillors, the local newspaper The John O’Groats Journal and the Flag Institute, sanctioned by the chief Scottish heraldic authority, the Lord Lyon. The public may now vote on these four designs, each of which, the John O Groats journal reports,  “… drew on elements from more than one entry.” rather than being individual submissions.

 Caithness quartet

You may vote for your favourite at this site http://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/8712/public_vote_opens_to_select_a_flag_for_caithness






Camarthenshire proposal

The proposed flag, illustrated by Brady Ells, is his suggestion as a flag for the county based on the quasi coat of arms which featured in the 1933 work Civic Heraldry of England and Wales by C.W Scott-Giles


used informally by the Camarthenshire County Council, prior to the formal award of arms in 1935. The design features two avowedly Welsh symbols, a leek and a harp – the latter being apt as the county is an important centre of Welsh musical traditions and poetry.

Whilst clearly not having a specific nor long standing local provenance, being rather, a combination of generic Welsh emblems, this civic insignia was also used to represent the county in a general way as demonstrated by this Camarthenshire County Bowling Association badge,

Carmarthenshire County Bowling Association.

In 1935 the local council received a formal award of arms

Camarthenshire County Council

which combine two Welsh dragons with two gold lions on a quarted red and gold, counter charged field, the quarters being divided by an an indented line. The lion and indentation are from the arms of Rhys ap Tewdwr Mawr, King of Deheubarth, a kingdom occupying the territory of modern day Camarthenshire, in the eleventh century

Rhys p Tedwr Mawr

and it has been suggested that an armorial banner formed from these arms would be an appropriate flag for the modern county which occupies the territory of the anicent kingdom


The erstwhile administration of Dyfed included the Deheubarth, arms to signify the inclusion of Camarthenshire as part of its territorial remit

Dyffed Deheubarth

so there is certainly a precedent for use of this design to represent the county, indeed the flag is fown in the county today, as seen here in flight over Camarthen Castle

Camarthen Castle
An alternative design has been created by Philip Tibbetts, taking the shield from the later council arms arms as inspiration.

PT Camarthenshire

This design retains the same colours and indented divisions of the civic design. The county’s soubriquet of “the garden of Wales” is recalled in the inclusion in each quarter of water lillies, all suitably countercharged in red and gold. These flowers also reflect the county’s recognition as the “Ystrad Tywi” territory i.e. “Vale of the River Twyi/Towy”.



The proposed flag features the traditional county emblem of a gold Stafford Knot, with which Staffordshire has been associated for centuries. The earliest recording of the knot is on the shaft of a stone cross located in a Stoke-on-Trent churchyard.


There are a number of stories relating to its origin.

The knot was said to symbolically bind three different local areas which joined to form what is now known as Staffordshire when Ethelfleda, eldest daughter of Alfred the Great,


who defended a stronghold at Stafford, symbolically took off her girdle and said to the local lords: “With this girdle, I bind us all as one”, and the three areas became Staffordshire. The anniversary of this event was celebrated in 1913, a thousand years after it was said to have happened.

Another theory holds that the Knot forms the shape of a double ‘S’ representing ’’Stafford-Shire’’. There is also a popular notion that the Knot originated when a Stafford County Sherriff invented it to hang three criminals at the same time. He only had one piece of rope but could not just hang one of the criminals as it would be unfair to the other two to give precedence to only one of the condemned! He therefore tied his single rope into three loops and dispatched of all three criminals at the same time.

However, the earliest authentic appearance of the Stafford Knot is on the seal of Joan Stafford, Lady of Wake, who died childless in 1443. A descendant of Hereward the Wake, she may have inherited the device, described as the “Wake Knot”, from past generations. This artefact, now in the British Museum, passed upon her demise to her nephew, Humphrey, Earl of Stafford. He adopted the knot, henceforward to be known as the Stafford Knot, as his badge, probably just preceding his creation as Duke of Buckingham in 1444 and it appears coloured gold, in abundance on his standard.

Staffs standard

The townsmen of Stafford, “liegemen” of the de Stafford family, also made use of the Stafford Knot badge. As the days of feudalism passed and individual and civic liberties grew, it was gradually adopted by the Citizens, Freemen and Burgesses of the county. Accordingly by 1611 when John Speed published his Atlas of Great Britain, he included a map of the town of Stafford


which featured the de Stafford family arms, gold with a red chevron, combined with the family badge a gold Stafford Knot, as the apparent arms of the town.

The knot has since become the ubiquitous symbol for Staffordshire and its county town, It has been used as the badge of the Staffordshire Regiment


and appeared on the shirts of local nineteenth century football teams, being seen here


proudly emblazoned in a large and clear depiction across the chests of the 1876 Rushall Rovers team, from a mining village near Walsall and again on the shirts of


West Bromwich Albion in season 1881-1882.

Then, as recorded in his 1933 work “Civic Heraldry of England and Wales ” C.W.Scott-Giles writes that the Staffordshire County Council, formed in 1889, was formerly awarded arms in 1931 which are described as “Gold, a red chevron, charged with a gold Stafford Knot…..”

cc arms

With the addition of a blue chief, the council, had seemingly “annexed” the arms originally ascribed to the county town in the seventeenth century, by Speed. But notably the theme of a gold Stafford Knot on a red background was maintained across three centuries. The town of Stafford itself by the twentieth century had received different arms which nonetheless still featured two gold Stafford Knots against a red background


  North Staffordshire Railways was formed in 1845 and used a logo of a gold Stafford Knot against a red background


and was affectionately known as “The Knotty”.

The gold knot on a red background has subsequently appeared on several of the town arms in the county; from left to right below, Stoke-on-Trent, Cosely, and Tipton.

Stoke     COSELEY    Tipton

A gold knot on red background was further used by the Staffordshire Yeomanry


and in the modern era appears on the arms of Keel University


is the logo of Staffordshire Federation of Women’s Institutes


 and is found on the labels and logos of the Staffordshire brewery Marston’s, based in Burton-on-Trent




The county emblem is also the logo of the Stafford Morris Men


This extensive use of the gold on red Stafford Knot by county based organstions makes it the obvious and natural emblem for deployment as the Staffordshire county flag .


The campaign to see this traditional county emblem registered as the county flag of Staffordshire can be found here



There is a traditional design that is available for registration as the county flag of Warwickshire, described here


aditionally however, Philp Tibbetts has aslo created this alternative based upon the colurs of the county regiment and various local depictions.


Warwickshire County Council was granted arms

Warwickshire CC Arms

depicting a bear and ragged staff in 1931 but the device originated as the badge of the Earls of Warwick centuries before. The combination is therefore steeped in local history and is a very familiar emblem for the county being used by many local associations including, from left to right below;

Warwickshire emblems1

Warwickshire Rugby Union; Warwickshire cricket club; Warwickshire local history society,  Warwickshire Police and Warwickshire Football Association. In addition the council makes use of logos incoproating the same motif in a simplified, stylised form

Warwickshire emblems2

Phillipp Tibbetts has thus devised the above potential flag for Warwickshire depicting the bear and staff in blue to reflect the badges of the Warwickshire Police Constabulary, Warwickshire Football Association and Warwickshire County Cricket club. This is charged on a yellow background as yellow and blue were the colours of the Royal Warwickshire Regiments/Fusiliers as demonstrated by these regimental ties


M Fielding Design

ABC Flag Blog is one of the Historic Counties Blogs, official blogs of the Associtation of British Counties.

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