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.



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Berkshire

Berks

The above proposed flag has been designed by David Nash Ford of the Royal Berkshire History website http://www.berkshirehistory.com/odds/arms.html The overall design is loosely based on the Welsh national flag and the Buckinghamshire flag (and county council arms) which both have depictions of animals overlaid over a bi-colour field. The colours of blue, gold (yellow) and white are taken from the former county council arms

Berks Council Arms

and may also be seen as representing the River Thames and the country’s chalk hills. The emblem on the flag is a golden silhouette of the crest on the former council arms

Berks crest

and refers generally to the forestlands of Berkshire and specifically to the legend of a late 14th century royal huntsman named Herne The Hunter. Legend has it that after various nefarious deeds by his jealous rivals, this one time favourite of the king was dismissed from royal service and distraught, he hanged himself from an oak tree which was then struck by lightning. The white hart is “one of the manifestations of his restless spirit”. The emblem is a variation of the Berkshire badge used by the Royal Berkshire Militia and, according to Drayton’s poem of 1627, a banner with this badge, or something very like it, was carried by the men of Berkshire at the Battle of Agincourt “Barkshire a Stag, vnder an Oake that stood,”  Before its formal award of arms, the Berkshire County Council used insignia depicting the same stag and tree

Berks Seal

Variations of this are used today across the county, examples include;

Reading RFC - Berkshire WanderersReading RFC – Berkshire Wanderers;

Berks scouts   Berkshire Scouts ;

Berks and Bucks Football AssociationBerks and Bucks Football Association;

Berks cricket.Berkshire Cricket;

BERKSHIRE TABLE TENNIS ASSOCIATION Berkshire Table Tennis Association;

Berkshire Local History AssociationBerkshire Local History Association;

BERKSHIRE BOWLING ASSOCIATION BERKSHIRE BOWLING Berkshire Bowling Association;

bfedBerkshire Federation of Women’s Institutes

The proposed design is therefore a relevant proposal for the county’s flag. It is also now widely available commercially. However, whilst it has been warmly received in some quarters, it has also met with opposition; the flag breaks the rule of tincture by placing a yellow charge partially on a white background making it less visible from any distance. Additionally, the particular form of the central emblem, as lifted from the badge used on a cap by county regiments,

Royal Berkshire

creates a curve in the composite tree and stag emblem that has led to criticisms that it resembles a letter “C”, which misleads some people who thus make no association with Berkshire. For these reasons the flag is unlikely to be registered for lack of compliance with the FI guide to good flag design.

Berkshire

Accordingly ABC member Michael Garber has designed this stag and tree flag for Berkshire. In discussion with Jason Saber and Philip Tibbetts, the colours and elements have been specifically designed to feature the stag and oak tree charges and three colours of David Nash Ford’s original flag. The design thus retains as much of the original symbolism as possible, which, as explained, is considered highly apt for the county but in an arrangement that is felt to be more effective.

BerksElls

A further proposal has been designed by Brady Ells. The design is formed on the basis of the description of the traditional stag and oak emblem which refers to the animal eating from the branches of the tree, as depicted in the old council insignia

Berks Seal

The flag features a front facing stag however, inspired by the coat of arms of Windsor

Windsor

where a stag forwards facing stag represents the county of Berkshire, a device used in this fashion since 1532 where it appeared on the town’s seal.

 windsorseal

A similar forward facing stag also appears on the arms of Wokingham Borough

Wokborough

and Woking Town

Woktown

To illustrate the stag’s consumption of the oak, the front facing stage is seen munching on a sprig of oak held in his mouth

stag

It may be further noted that an oak sprig has itself been used to represent the county of Berkshire, three examples of this are;

the arms of the Middleton family, granted in 2011,  charged with 3 gold oak sprigs to represent Berkshire, home of the Middletons

Middletons  ;

another example is the Badge of the House of Windsor which also features gold oak sprigs, alluding to the county where their Windsor home is located

 windsor

 

and a third example is found in the coat of arms of the old Windsor Rural District Council…

 Windsor Rural District Council

All three previous examples being gold, so is the oak sprig in this proposal.

The field of the proposed flag, colours and form, is of course, based on the Arms of the old Berkshire County Council…

Berks Council Arms

The embattled border taken from those arms makes for a very distinctive design, quite different from other county flags.

Paul Lindsay has contributed three further proposals;

Berks1Berks3Berks2

These again feature the blue and white colour scheme as above. These colours also reference the colours of Reading football club, the county’s only professional team, the stripes recalling the shirts in which the team plays and also symbolise the River Thames flowing through the county. The county motif of stag and oak are recalled in the oak leaf clusters and stag heads while the crown alludes to the county’s official name Royal Berkshire home of Windsor castle.

 

 

Denbighshire

Denbighshire

There is a potential traditional flag for Denbighshire based on the arms of the ancient kingdom of Powys Fadog, see the entry in the section “Proposed flags from traditional county emblems”, however as that is yet another lion banner, this alternative suggestion has been designed by Philip Tibbetts. The design derives from the seventeenth century work, “The Battle of Agincourt” by the poet Michael Drayton, where he describes a banner borne by soldiers from Denbighshire “Those of………Denbigh, a Neptune with his three-fork’d Mace:” which refers of course to a trident, as seen on this flag. The quartered yellow and white background comes from the arms awarded to Denbighshire County Council in 1996

Den CC 74

which placed the supposed black lion of Powys Fadog over a quartered yellow and white field, apparently meant to recall the cross used by the local ancient prince, Edwin of Tegeingl – also featured in symbols used by neighbouring Flintshire. The quarters of the field are white in the first and third quarters and yellow in second and third. Although there appears to be no specific reason for this choice of colours, the combination does make for an eye-catching and unusual flag.

Another take on these themes from Paul Lindsay combines the quartered field with the black lion of Powys Fadog and Drayton’s trident.

 Denbighshire PL

Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire

This new flag for the county of Oxfordshire is the proposal of The Oxfordshire Association http://oxfordshire-association.org.uk/index.php?page=home whose chairman, Edward Keen, is seen below holding the flag

Keen St Fri

The proposal is named the ‘St Frideswide Cross’ after a local saint. The green ground represents the fields and woodlands of Oxfordshire, and the blue field represents the Thames. The Oxfordshire Association successfully raised this flag at the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2011

OX DCLG

In 2013 the Oxfordshire Association was contacted by the local Salle fencing club who advised that they had chosen the Saint Frideswide cross for their club badge

Salle

Sara Williams of the club said, “I’d read about the Oxfordshire Flag in the local paper and liked the design a lot; it had the simplicity we needed and was colourful enough to stand out well against the white of fencing jackets.”

Presently the flag remains a prime contender in any prospective county flag competition.

Two further ideas regarding Oxfordshire both aim to realise the name of the county graphically. The first proposal from Brady Ells

Oxon Brady

depicts a red ox’s head at the centre of an unsual white cross, comprised of one straight and one wavy arm. These respectively symbolise a straight road crossing a flowing river, the centre point being the crossing, where the “ox”, “fords” the river! The ox is red to match the scarlet bovine supporter in the coat of arms of the Oxfordshire County Council

Oxfordshire CC Arms

and the red ox found in the arms of the city of Oxford

Oxford Arms

The second idea from Jason Saber

Oxon JS

again features an ox and an aquatic reference. The base of the flag features four wavy stripes of blue and white, a traditional heraldic representation of water. Over this a wide green band reflects the county’s verdant and well watered land. Against the green, a stylised representation of an ox, silhouetted in white, in a dynamic, leaping pose – the white colour standing out well against the green background. In combination, the elements portray a leaping “ox”, “fording” a stream, that flows through a fertile land – a graphic statement of the county’s name, origin and terrain.

Paul Lindsay has provided two suggested designs

ox1 ox2

based upon the Saint Frideswide Cross which bear, alternatively, Ox heads in red or black on white discs at the centre of the cross.

 

Brecknockshire

Brecknockshire

The proposed flag was devised by Jason Saber and realised by Philip Tibbetts. It combines charges found in the county’s armorial history. The kingdom of Brycheiniog was established in the 5th century by a revered Welsh patriarch named Brychan and survived until its subjugation in the Middle-Ages. In the later Mediaeval period arms were assigned to Brychan,

Brychan arms

Anlach

his quartered shield featuring the purported arms of his father Anlach in the first and fourth quarters, black with a gold bar across the centre and two smaller bars above and beneath that (a cotised bar) with silver sword at top and bottom with the arms attributed to his mother Marchell, gold with three blue bats, thus;

Marchell

Upon its establishment in 1889 the Brecknockshire County Council adopted the attributed arms of Brychan but never obtained an official grant of armorial bearings. In adopting these legendary arms, albeit informally, the County Council asserted a linkage between the early kingdom and the later county and highlighted the historical significance of the founding father Brychan. The symbols used clearly being felt to be appropriate and locally meaningful. Accordingly, the proposed flag reworks the essential and more distinctive elements found in the arms.

The flag therefore features three main colours of black, gold and “cerulean” blue. The black features as the main field colour, upon this is a cotised gold stripe i.e. a stripe with two smaller ones above and beneath, as found in the arms of Brychan, which is felt to be a particularly elegant and pleasing arrangement. Across the cotised gold stripe is placed the silhouette of a bat with outstretched wings in the blue shade.

The proposed flag is locally meaningful with historically relevant symbols and colours, presented in a simple but unusual and visually interesting arrangement. Additionally bats are an uncommon charge on flags so the design is generally rare and would certainly be unique amongst British county flags.

Leicestershire

There are several suggested designs for a Leicestershire flag. Several bear similar charges which are used in the county but as there is no anciently defined arrangement a competition will likely be necessary to secure it a flag.

Leicestershire RB

The first shown has been devised by Rupert Barnes. It retains the colours of red and white which feature prominently in the arms of the Leicestershire County Council

L CC Coat of Arms

and includes an ermine cinquefoil (essentially white with minimal black detailing) as found in the arms but enlarged and placed at the fly end, on a red field The same serrated edging as found on the council arms dividing the four quarters horizontally, here divides the flag at roughly the first third of the flag’s length to produce a white hoist section.

Leicestershire PT2

Philip Tibbetts’s proposal also retains the quartered pattern of the council’s arms along with its red and white colour scheme and distinctive serrated field division. Four foxes are countercharged in red and white in each of the four quarters. As seen above, a fox is used as a crest in the council arms being a traditional symbol of the county, notably also used as the emblem of the cricket team which additionally are even named the “Leicestershire Foxes”

L Cricket

The head of a fox also appears on the badge of Leicester City football team

Leicester City Football Club

Leicestershire JS

The third design, conceived by Jason Saber, selects several of the above themes in a different arrangement. The red and white colours of the council arms, the distinctive serration and a running fox. The cinquefoil is also something of a local motif, in addition to its appearance on the council arms it can also be seen on the arms of Hinckley and Bosworth

Hinckley and Bosworth

; Oadby and Wigston

Oadby and Wigston

and the city of Leicester itself

Leicester City coat of arms

. It originated in the arms Robert De Bellomonte, first Earl of Leicester and has a clear association with the county. Accordingly the cinquefoil, realised in pure white to keep things simple, appears on the upper red section of the proposed design. The flag thus features several distinctly Leicestershire elements.

Leicestershire BE

The fourth design is the creation of Brady Ells. It is inspired by the colours of the Leicester Tigers Rugby team

Rugby Shirt

and Leicestershire County Cricket Club

Cricket Shirt

At the hoist is a fox head, as found in the badge of Leicester Football club and as seen, a fox is also used by the cricket club.

Leicestershire

Paul Lindsay’s suggestion, illustrated by Daniel Raudulv, combines the ideas of Philip Tibbetts and Jason Saber.

M Fielding Design

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