The flag of Northumberland
Wherever you travel in Northumberland you are likely to come across this flag. It was adopted as the county council’s flag as recently as 1995 but it has clearly captured the imagination of local people who display it proudly on buildings, as a bumper sticker on their cars and even on their clothing (e.g. baseball caps). This popularity may be because its origins are much older than that appropriation by the council, and there are claims that it is the oldest known flag design in Britain. It is derived from the red and gold striped flag of the ancient Anglo kingdom of Bernicia, which merged with that of Deira in the early 7th century to form the Kingdom of Northumbria. Later, in medieval times, the colours of red and gold were adopted by the first Earl of Northumberland.
The British County flags website describes its history thus:
”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 medieval 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 red and yellow stripes in the lower half were then “counter changed”. 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.”
It is quite probable that most people flying or displaying the flag know little of its history, but they reflect an ancient tradition when they do so, as well as demonstrating their pride in their county.
When flying, the top corner, nearest the flagpole, should always be gold, never red.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Norham scarecrow competition
A very recent local custom, the villagers of Norham have taken to competing to produce the best scarecrow. Scarecrows, usually on a humorous theme, are exhibited outside their shops and homes until the village fair on the August bank holiday each year.
Norham is about 7 miles (11 km) southwest of Berwick-upon-Tweed near the Scottish border.
Cornhill-On-Tweed, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, TD12 4UU, u
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