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As with many county emblems, the Surrey checks originated with local aristocracy – in this case the de Warenne family, themselves originally from Normandy. This was the first dynasty to hold the Earldom of Surrey after its creation by William I in 1088AD. The de Warenne checks

de Warenne arms

are first recorded in the ‘Glover’s Roll of arms” dating from around 1253-58 although they may have been based on an earlier depiction, in a roll now lost, dating circa 1240 which would make it one of the earliest rolls of arms and thus the checked arms, one of the first instances of formal heraldry. The arms are described in the Glover’s Roll as “Le Counte de Garenne escheque d’or & d’Azur” – “The Count [Earl] of Warenne, checks of gold and blue’, Garenne being an earlier form of the name Warenne.

The pedigree of the Surrey checks therefore appears to be one of the oldest of all county emblems. By 1415AD the de Warenne line had become extinct but it seems it was not too long before the de Warenne checks were wielded to represent the county whose earls they had been. In the very year that the last of the House of Warenne died, Michael Drayton, in his 1627 work, ‘The Battaile of Agincourt’ records that the men of Surrey carried a banner of gold and blue checks into the Battle of Agincourt in honour of the 1st Earl of Surrey,

“The men of Surrey, checky blue and gold, which for brave Warenne their first earl they wore”

A near two decades before Drayton’s poem was published the de Warenne checks had appeared on John Speed’s map of Surrey



By the nineteenth century the association of the checks with the county seems to have been consolidated. They were adopted for example, as the emblem of the Surrey Archæological Society

and in 1863 the Borough of Reigate was founded and adopted for itself a device which pointedly includes the Earl of Surrey’s checks

Reigate device.

. The formal relationship of the checks to the county itself was cemented when Surrey County Council, which had come into being in 1889, adopted a seal for use on official documentation which included the de Warenne checks at the apex

Surrey Seal

The seal is described in the 1894 work “The Book of Public Arms” by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies and M. E. B. Crookes;


The seal incorporating the de Warenne checks was subsequently used to represent Surrey in a general sense as shown by its inclusion on this 1907 Surrey cricket postcard where it appears in the top right


and again in this 1934 Surrey Beekeepers Association medal where it is also seen at the top


1934 was the year that a formal award of arms was made to the county council, which included the de Warenne colours of yellow and blue in a vaguely chequered arrangement


It is conjectured that the arms did not feature the de Warenne checks more unequivocally because when the county council was set up in 1888 it lost administrative control over much of the county and accordingly the College of Arms specifically designed the new arms to reflect the fact that the council’s remit was a new one, which did not extend across the whole of Surrey – implying that had the council been given control of the entirety of the territory of Surrey it would naturally have received arms incorporating the Surrey checks in a more definitive arrangement! Rather confirming this conjecture is the abundance of the blue and yellow checks amongst the arms of the county’s towns


Reigate Borough Council (in use 1951-1974)


Reigate and Banstead Borough Council  (in use since 1975)


Wandsworth Metropolitan Borough Council  1965)


Wandsworth Borough Council (in use since 1965)


Wimbledon Borough Council (in use 1906-1965)

Lambeth Lambeth Borough Council (in use since 1922)


Beddington and Wallington Borough Council  (in use 1937-1965)


Dorking Borough Council (in use 1954-1974)


Cranleigh Parish Council (in use since 2007)


Mole Valley District Council (in use since 1975)

 colours taken from the de Warrene checks.

Surrey Heath

Surrey Heath Borough Council (in use since 1974)

colours taken from the de Warrene checks.

Elmbridge Borough Council

Elmbridge Borough Council (in use since 1976)

colours taken from the de Warrene checks.

Other examples of the association of the county of Surrey with the chequered yellow and blue emblem are;

its appearance, embossed on the front cover of the ‘Little Guide’ to Surrey by J. Charles-Cox, Methuen & Co Ltd, 1952,

Surrey Little Guide

; this 1925 volume on the county, “Unknown Surrey” by Donald Maxwell, clearly adorned with the Surrey checks in exactly the same manner that Kent related items might bear that county’s white horse, or a Sussex publication, its gold martlets

Uknown Surrey1    Uknown Surrey2

; the appearance of the checks on this 1937 medal issued by the Surrey Rifle Association

Surrey Rifles Medal 1937

and their continued inclusion in the association’s logo

rifles2       rifles

; use of the chequered pattern by Surrey Cricket club over the years, such as this 1965 publication


; the appearance of the checks on the badges of two Surrey bowling clubs, at left below the county bowling association and at right the Surrey indoor bowling association

Surrey County Bowling Surrey Indoor Bowling

; the incorporation of the de Warenne checks in the arms of the University of Surrey


; and in the modern era, great use of the checks as a clear expression of Surrey identity by the Surrey County Amateur Swimming Association

Surrey Swim 1

              Surrey Swim

The Surrey checks are also used as the school badge by Wallington County Grammar School

 Wallington        Wallington2

and form part of the badge of Wallington High School For Girls


In light of this overwhelming weight of evidence, initiated by some extensive historical research into the subject carried out by Philip Tibbetts, the chequered banner of de Warenne was unambiguously and demonstrably shown to be the only and obvious flag for Surrey. On July 23rd 2014, Historic County Flags Day, a number of Surrey county bodies flew the de Warenne banner in support of the campaign to establish the design as the county flag. The groups flying the flag included;

the Richmond Society who flew the De Warenne banner from St Mary Magdalene Church in Richmond

Richmond       Richmond 2;

 Caterham Valley Parish Council who displayed the de Warenne checks at Soper Hall, the council headquarters.


Godalming Town Council raised the flag, displayed here by the town’s Deputy Town Clerk


Cranleigh Parish Council arranged to fly the de Warenne flag from a flagpole, near the War Memorial in the town’s High Street – Vice Chairman of Cranleigh Parish Council, Councillor Brian Cheesman, is seen at right below, raising the flag.

 Cranleigh 1                   Cranleigh 2;

and the Mayor of Haslemere, also hoisted the de Warenne checks


Registration of the flag was also supported by

The flag was thus registered on September 11th 2014 on the basis of,  its ancient linkage with the county; its widespread deployment in the arms, badges and insignia of a number of county organisations; it’s unequivocal extensive support by a variety of county organisations either by written declaration or practical usage of the flag.

The campaign for registration of the de Warenne checks was based on this Facebookpage which now continues to promote the flag.

Thanks to Philip Tibbetts and Brady Ells for their extensive research in this area.

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