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


Suffolk is the only county on the east coast without a flag although it is closely associated with the arms attributed to the local saint and martyred king of East Anglia, Edmund,

St Edwho was killed in a hail of arrows; his burial site is located in Bury Saint Edmunds. The arms were ascribed to Saint Edmund in the mediaeval period and reflect his kingship and death.

They were adapted as the arms of the abbey which grew up around his burial site

Sr Ed Abbey Shields

and can also be seen incorporated into the coat of arms of the Suffolk town of Beccles


 as well as the arms of the Suffolk County Council

 Suffolk CC Arms

One design that has been promoted for several years, the creation of local man Bill Bulstrode, combines Saint Edmund’s arms with the cross of Saint George



However, this flag is almost identical to the registered flag of the region of East Anglia East Anglia of which Suffolk of course, is a part, so it cannot be registered. However a less complicated version simply deploys the Saint Edmund arms as an armorial banner – stretching the design from the shield to fill the shape of a flag.




This proposal has been manufactured from a design created by Charles Ashburner, chief executive of the flag manufacturer http://www.mrflag.com/ from whom the flag shown below, was commissioned by a Suffolk resident, in 2014

Flag of Suffolk

The arrow pierced Crown of Saint Edmund has also featured on two further proposals for Suffolk’s flag, both of which feature the locally associated pink shade.

In this proposal from Brady Ells

Suffolk Ells

the field of the flag is pink. As he describes, ‘Suffolk Pink’ is a symbol in itself being a hue strongly associated with the county, Suffolk is famous for its pink-washed houses and cottages.

Suffolk pink houses

Traditionally the Suffolk pink distemper was mixed with buttermilk and pig’s blood and then painted on to the house. The Suffolk Pink concept has now become so popular that a new variety of apple (discovered in Suffolk, of course) has been named after it. The colour pink would be unique among British other county flags, and is already extremely rare amongst all the flags of the world.

In this proposal, whose creator is unknown,  the field is divided into pink and blue stripes. Again the motivation for the colour choice was the famed house colour found in the county.

 Suffolk Stripes



Ahead of the prospective Caithness flag competition a number of suggested ideas have been devised and presented. A few themes have emerged including the use of a raven and/or a Nordic cross to signify the county’s Scandinavian heritage. The colours green blue and yellow have also been used in various combinations.


In Philip Tiibbetts’s proposal a large white triangle reaching from the lower hoist to the very tip of the upper fly symbolises the county’s position at the very tip of the land. Imaginatively, it also refers to the meaning of ‘ness’ as ‘headland’ and the white colour represents ‘cait’ as ‘pure’. The black raven reflects the county’s long standing Scandinavian association; a typical symbol of the Vikings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven_banner), which also appeared in the arms of Caithness County Council.

Caithness CC Arms

In the 11th century the region became part of the Jarldom (Earldom) of Orkney, one of the most influential parts of the Norwegian Kingdom and remained under Scandinavian influence for more than 300 years, so the raven is an obvious charge to include in a flag for the locality. Another proposal makes use of these former council arms in banner form

Caithness CC Armorial Banner

An alternative and wholly distinct design from Rupert Barnes imaginatively takes the basic design and colours, blue, yellow, white and black, of the arms of the Earl of Caithness

 Arms of the Earl of Caithness

and renders them in an offset, Scandinavian form,

RB Caithness

again reflecting the locals’ fondness for their Viking heritage! This proposal also mirrors the colours found in the arms of Caithness County Council. A similar idea comes from James Dignan who renders the cross with a more conventional straight edge.

 Caithness James Dignan

A further variation of the theme from Leonardo Piccioni keeps the original axis and engrailed or scalloped edge of the cross from the Earl’s arms and combines it with the Caithness council arms

  Caithness Piccioni

This design


from Wick resident Alan MacDonald also features a Scandinavian cross and first appeared here http://forum.caithness.org/showthread.php?221447-Caithness-County-Flag&highlight=caithness+flag . The green background represents the land and the yellow/gold represents the low winter sun and the long summer days, a trait of the far north. These colours are also used by Caithness rugby club as seen in the club kit

Caithness Rugby Kit

and badge

Caithness Rugby Club Badge

which also, again, references the Viking heritage of the locality. The form of the flag with its offset Scandinavian cross mimics the designs of the flags of nearby Orkney and Shetland.

Two further designs have been proposed that appear to be imaginative adaptations of the Scandinavian cross theme. This version from Darren Manson

 Caithness Darren Manson

splits a white cross horizontally against the blue background. In the the cantons formed at the fly end are the black viking raven over a gold rampant lion, as

found in both the arms of the Earl as seen and of course the royal arms of Scotland


Another offset cross design, the work of Brady Ells, features the blue and gold colours of the former Caithness County Council, combined with the green and gold colours of the county rugby club. A black Viking raven sits at the centre of the cross.


In another proposal the Scandinavian cross is switched horizontally so that the vertical arm lies near the fly edge of the flag and the horizontal arm of the cross is lowered so that it lies near to the bottom edge of the flag. The upper quadrants formed by the inverted cross are green and the lower are blue. At the centre of the cross is a map of Caithness in green.


Local resident Paul Manson has produced two further designs.

PM Caithness1 PM Caithness2

These again feature the lack raven symbol of the Vikings, set against a blue and yellow tricolour in both vertical and horizontal axes, the latter with a wider central gold panel for the raven to sit against. The light blue and yellow are felt to be a particularly effective combination here, as a contrast to the solidly black raven symbol.

Local media has now begun efforts to acquire a flag for the county – further details are available here http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Should-Caithness-have-its-own-flag-16052014.htm and http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Victory-for-Caithness-flag-drive-21112014.htm









The design retains the rose and crown pattern used in the county for several centuries in various guises. A combined rose and crown symbol was used in heraldic badge form (similar to a company logo)


by Hampshire council without legal sanction before it received a formal grant of arms in 1992

Hants CC

The 1992 award included a gold royal crown on a red field, over a red tudor rose on a gold field. This proposal, from Jason Saber, replaces the “royal crown” with a specifically Saxon crown as a reference to the county’s association with the era of Alfred the Great and his capital of Winchester. Such a crown also appears in the full achievement of arms used by the council,


symbolising exactly the same Alfredian legacy as intended in this proposed flag. This flag is promoted at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hampshire-Flag/148058315336078 and is supported by the Wessex Society http://www.wessexsociety.org/ . It has now been manufactured

Hampshire flag.

The basic theme of crown and rose, long associated with the county features in a few further variations – both of which retain the Saxon type crown in recognition of Wessex.


Brady Hampshire
This version from Brady Ells, uses red, navy blue colours, highlighting the county’s long military connection. The red band at the top, represents the British Army bases in northern Hampshire around Aldershot and Andover, whilst the navy blue band represents the the Royal Navy bases around Portsmouth in the south. Red and blue also feature in the kits of Hampshire football clubs  Aldershot Town,  AFC Bouremouth, Portsmouth and Southampton.
Blue and Red are further used as the corporate colours of Hampshire County Council Captureand appear in the badge of the Hampshire Rugby
Football Union  and and Bowls Hampshire
The Tudor rose appearing on the flag on the flag is inverted, with a red rose emplaced on a white one
This unique Hampshire variation of the Tudor rose has appeared on the badges of Hampshire Constabulary  Constab , Hampshire County Amateur Swimming Association  HMS Hampshire  HMS Hampshire , the Royal Hampshire Regiment royal hampshire regiment and Hampshire Yeomanry  Hampshire Yeomanry  .
Hampshire MJacobs

Michael Jacobs’s, version has a green upper stripe which, he explains, represents the county’s hills, while the lower blue stripe stands for the Solent. The thin white stripe reflects Hampshire’s ubiquitous chalk terrain. The same inverted Tudor Rose, as previously described appears on the lower blue stripe. This flag has also been manufactured.

Tudor reversed

Tibbetts Hants 2                  Tibbetts Hants 1

Hampshire’s inverted rose also appears in two proposals from Philip Tibbetts. He opts however, to retain the form of crown that appears in the corporate logo of the Hampshire County Council, combined with the red on white rose as a single charge on the flag. In both proposals red, navy blue and sky blue (celeste) stripes echo the British joint services flag, with these colours representing the army, navy and airforce as found in that flag. This colour scheme recalls the county’s military associations as described above. Two versions aligned both vertically and horizontally are suggested.

Cambridgeshire Flag Competition Underway

The public vote for the Cambridgeshire Flag competition has now commenced and will close at 18.00 on Wednesday 31 December.

Vote on Andy Strangeway’s website: https://andystrangeway.wordpress.com/cambridgeshire-flag/

Design A

Design A

The wavy light blue stripe represents the river Cam/Granta; it is crossed by a vertical dark blue stripe symbolising the bridges that cross over the river. Together these are a reference to the derivation of the county’s name. On the vertical stripe, the three golden crowns are taken from the traditional arms of East Anglia; these also appear on the arms of the Diocese of Ely, located in the county.

Design B

Design B

The three gold crowns represent East Anglia, in which Cambridgeshire is located. They are placed against a blue field which is the same shade used on the East Anglia flag. The wavy lines represent the River Cam and are in the colours of Cambridge University.

Design C

Design C

The three crowns on red refer to the the Isle of Ely, where they have been used by both the former council and the Diocese. The broad blue wavy line represents the River Cam. On this three fleur-de-lis, as found on its coat of arms, represent the City of Cambridge.

Design D

Design D

The crowns represent the coronet of Ely. The Wake knot represents the folk hero Hereward the Wake. The book represents Cambridge University. Purple and gold are the colours of Cambridgeshire.

Design E

Design E

The Fen Tiger refers to the Cambridgeshire Regiment and more generally to the people of the Fens. Blue represents the county’s waterways; yellow, the rich farmland.

Design 6

Design F

The fleur-de-lis represent the City of Cambridge, as found in the city’s coat of arms. The blue stripe represents the county’s rivers and waterways and the two green stripes, its extensive agricultural land. Yellow represents enlightenment and wealth from the county’s universities, scientific and technological endeavours and industry.


beds alt

Whilst the county of Bedfordshire has no long standing symbolic tradition, a coat of arms was created for the county council in 1951


which combines the three escallops or shells on a black field from the arms of the Russells, Dukes of Bedford

Dukes of Bed

with the red and yellow (gold) quartered field from the arms of the Beauchamps,


the leading family in the county after the Norman Conquest, who constructed Bedford Castle and were granted a barony at Bedford. The blue and white wavy stripes are a reference to the River Ouse which flows through the county and are a traditional heraldic representation of a water course. Prior to its formal award of arms the county council had made use of a seal for its official documentation

Beds Seal

which also combined these armorial charges, being a quartered device bearing three bends, the top one itself bearing the three white scallops from the arms of the Russells, the lower a crown and the letters XVI, a reference to the Bedfordshire Regiment. This was adopted in 1924.

With the dissolution of the county council the arms they previously bore became available for deployment, in banner form, as the county flag. a process previously applied in Middlesex, Cumberland, Westmorland and Cheshire.

Use of this design was particularly appropriate as the former council’s arms are used by a significant number of Bedfordshire organisations, including many sporting associations;




  BedBowls   bedbowls2  bedbowls3


bedfoot1 bedfoot2 bedfoot3 bedfoot4


bedsrug    bedsnet  bedfire

Whilst an appropriate design for deployment as Bedfordshire’s county flag it was deemed an opportune moment to correct a minor flaw in the design. It was slightly reworked so that the blue and white colours representing the River Ouse on the left hand side, were transposed, so that the yellow-white and red-blue arrangements were no longer in contact, in apparent disregard of the heraldic “rule of tincture” which operates to keep light and dark colours from touching one another. This change and use of a lighter shade of blue increased the flag’s visibility  effectiveness.

A campaign to secure registration for this improved design was waged by Luke Blackstaffe of the Friends of Bedfordshire from the website located here http://friendsofbedfordshire.org.uk/flag.php . The campaign very soon secured the support of Colin Osborne, the Bedfordshire County Sheriff, whose sanction, as a major county figure, was sufficient to justify the design’s registration which was completed on September 11th 2014.


M Fielding Design

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

Contact Us • Terms & Conditions •  Copyright ©  The Association of British Counties.