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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Ceredigion (Cardiganshire)


The flag features a gold lion reguardant (looking backwards) on a black field. This design was attributed as the arms of the ancient Welsh ruler Gwaithfoed and his kingdom of Ceredigion, from which the modern county derives and was incorporated into the arms

Cardiganshire CC Arms

used by the local council in the top left quadrant.

The erstwhile administration of Dyfed also included the Gwaithfoed arms to signify the inclusion of Ceredigion as part of its territorial remit

Dyfed Deheubarth 2


so there are precedents for use of this design to represent the county.

Interestingly several heraldic sources indicate an original version of the Gwaithfoed arms with these colours reversed

Earlier arms.

. Such switching of the colours of field and charge in attributed arms is not uncommon in early Welsh heraldry but by the twentieth century, the council’s use of the gold lion on black indicates that this had become the established form and the locally familiar design. This preferred pattern is now used locally, as seen at the Castle Hotel, Aberaeron, in the county in Summer 2014.




Camarthenshire proposal

The proposed flag, illustrated by Brady Ells, is his suggestion as a flag for the county based on the quasi coat of arms which featured in the 1933 work Civic Heraldry of England and Wales by C.W Scott-Giles


used informally by the Camarthenshire County Council, prior to the formal award of arms in 1935. The design features two avowedly Welsh symbols, a leek and a harp – the latter being apt as the county is an important centre of Welsh musical traditions and poetry.

Whilst clearly not having a specific nor long standing local provenance, being rather, a combination of generic Welsh emblems, this civic insignia was also used to represent the county in a general way as demonstrated by this Camarthenshire County Bowling Association badge,

Carmarthenshire County Bowling Association.

In 1935 the local council received a formal award of arms

Camarthenshire County Council

which combine two Welsh dragons with two gold lions on a quarted red and gold, counter charged field, the quarters being divided by an an indented line. The lion and indentation are from the arms of Rhys ap Tewdwr Mawr, King of Deheubarth, a kingdom occupying the territory of modern day Camarthenshire, in the eleventh century

Rhys p Tedwr Mawr

and it has been suggested that an armorial banner formed from these arms would be an appropriate flag for the modern county which occupies the territory of the anicent kingdom


The erstwhile administration of Dyfed included the Deheubarth, arms to signify the inclusion of Camarthenshire as part of its territorial remit

Dyffed Deheubarth

so there is certainly a precedent for use of this design to represent the county.
An alternative design has been created by Philip Tibbetts, taking the shield from the later council arms arms as inspiration.

PT Camarthenshire

This design retains the same colours and indented divisions of the civic design. The county’s soubriquet of “the garden of Wales” is recalled in the inclusion in each quarter of water lillies, all suitably countercharged in red and gold. These flowers also reflect the county’s recognition as the “Ystrad Tywi” territory i.e. “Vale of the River Twyi/Towy”.



The county flag is a banner of the arms of the former county council but is a rarity in being sufficiently uncomplicated to work well as a flag. The flag is also extremely familiar to the residents of the county being used as an emblem by several local organisations and in 2011 flew outside the DCLG to represent the county.


The design displays the trio of golden wheatsheaves on blue which have been associated with the Earldom of Chester since the late 12th century. It is the same as that known to have been used as the city arms of Chester in 1560 and which can be seen on the bridge at Eastgate, Chester. From 1779 this shield was occasionally used as the Chester Assay Office hallmark.

The ABC secured the support of several local bodies to have this flag registered by the Flag Institute – their endorsement contributed to this aim. The flag was registered by the Flag Institute in April 2013.  (http://ukflagregistry.org/wiki/index.php?title=Cheshire)

A facebook page promoting the three wheatsheaves flag has also been established at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheshire-Flag/413786481990071


A white swan on a bicolour field of red and black is a traditional emblem of Buckinghamshire. The Swan emblem dates back to Anglo-Saxon times when Buckinghamshire was known for breeding swans for the king. The same pattern is also used on its arms by the local authority. The pattern was registered as the county flag in 2011.

Merioneth / Meirionnydd


The proposed Merioneth flag is adapted from the seal used by the former county council

Mery seal

This in turn derived from the description of a banner borne by the men of Merioneth at the Battle of Agincourt, in the 17th century poem of the same name by Michael Drayton. Here he wrote of “three goats dancing ‘gainst a rising sun”; the shield was blue, the sun golden and the goats white. Speculation regarding this unusual arrangement suggests a connection with Cader Idris, where goats browsed and behind which the sun rose.

This design appears in the The book of Public Arms by A. C. Fox-Davies’ from 1894



and on illustrated plates




Today the same device can be found on the ceiling of the Shanklin Reading Room at Bangor University, representing the county

Mery - Bangor

The proposed flag therefore both maintains a theme associated with Merioneth for six centuries and is also a highly distinctive design – no other flag features a sun in this position and the arrangement is uniquely Merioneth. 

M Fielding Design

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

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