Northumberland’s flag was included on the registry from its inception. Strictly the flag is a banner of the arms of the Northumberland County Council but its origins predate the council by more than a millennium and although it is not registered as a “traditional” design, Northumberland’s flag is essentially of ancient origin and certainly part of a local tradition. The 7th century King and Saint, Oswald, founded the kingdom of Northumbria by merging his domain of Bernicia with its southern neighbour Deira. The Venerable Bede, England’s first historian, writing in his “Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum” describes Oswald’s tomb where “…they hung up over the monument his banner made of gold and purple;” It is probable that this description caused the mediaeval heralds to assign arms of eight alternate stripes of red and gold (yellow) to Bernicia.
It is reported that in the Middle Ages the same colours were flown by the first Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy. Before its formal award of arms in 1951, the Northumberland County Council had informally used these attributed arms of Bernicia although the College of Arms modified the design, dividing the stripes by an “embattled” line, that is an indentation which resembles a castle’s crenellations The modification was intended to symbolise the interlocking stones of Hadrian’s Wall, which runs through the county, and Northumberland’s position as a border shire. Whilst the formal grant of arms meant that strictly, an armorial banner formed from them would belong to and represent, only Northumberland County Council, the historical references to red (purple) and gold striped banners indicated an association of the territory and the pattern dating back some 1200 years. More than just a device of the century old council, the design was intrinsically a symbol of the over a thousand years old county. The council accordingly voted to “release” its banner of arms for general use by Northumberland folk on November 15th 1995 and the Flag Institute duly registered it when the registry was created a few years later, noting in doing so, that Northumberland is wider than the county council area – Newcastle-upon-Tyne being a Northumberland town. The motivation to release the flag to the public was obvious, reflecting a 1,200 year old tradition and association between Northumberland and the colours red and gold, akin for example, to that of Essex and its seaxes.
The depiction of the stripes on the arms is quite distinct in that each red bar, or in heraldic terms, “pale”, is outlined separately, which emphasisesthe intended representation of the interlocking stones in Hadrian’s Wall. Inpractice however, this level of detail is not seen in the generally availableNorthumberland flags nor is it present in the depiction of Northumberland’s flagon the FI registry. The Northumberland flag has perhaps the longest history of any flag in the country and is still flown locally with great pride today.
- 100% polyester flag
- Featuring ancient flag of Northumberland
- Size: 5ft x 3ft
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