The Cumberland Flag was officially registered as the county’s flag on December 13th 2012, becoming the 26th British county flag. The design is a re-working of the banner of arms of the former Cumberland County Council, granted in 1950.
The pattern symbolises the coast line, and famous lakes with the blue and white wavy lines, whilst the green upper half with Grass-of-Parnassus flowers recalls the marshy up-lands and fertile plains of the county.
The design of waves and Parnassus flowers is also used by some local organisations to represent the traditional county and appears for example in the logos of, Cumberland Football Association
and Cumberland County Cricket.
A flag based on the same design has been commercially available for some time.
Although it is generally misidentified as the flag of the administrative territory of Cumbria. This featured, for example, in an episode of Channel 4’s ‘Grand Designs’ set in the county.
For registration purposes the Flag Institute requested that the waves and Parnassus flowers be restyled to produce a better looking flag, with improved artistry. Vexillographer (flag designer) Philip Tibbetts, himself based in the county, redrew the Parnassus flowers from images of the actual plant and generally tidied up the arrangement. The colours of the final design were chosen to be the best matches in acceptable flag colours to the former council arms with the green matching that found in the Welsh flag, thus providing an extra element of symbolism as the name Cumberland derives from ‘Cymru-land’, or ‘land of the Welsh’.
Registration of the resulting design was completed after support for the proposed flag was received from the following wide range of local county associations;
- Cockermouth and District Civic Trust
- Cumberland Agricultural Society
- Cumberland Football Association
- Cumberland Geological Society
- Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian Society
- Federation of Cumbrian Amenity Societies
- Holme Low Parish Council
- Lakeland Dialet Society
- Penrith Civic Society
- Workington and District Civic Trust
- Workington Twinning Association
Despite the registration of this flag Cumberland is probably the most obvious example in the country of confusion regarding the name and status of the locality. The names Cumberland and Cumbria derive from a common source but the latter was chosen as the name of an administrative territory encompassing several counties. Probably because of the similarity of the names, people often fail to recognise the distinct identity of the true county of Cumberland. An example of this was provided by The Departmnet of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) which announced in 2010 that it would be raising the flags of England’s historic or real counties. Regrettably when it came to Cumberland’s turn the “flag” that was raised was in fact a banner of the arms of the
Council of Cumbria, which flew on November 14th and was in fact described as Cumbria.
The name and flag of Cumberland were nowhere to be seen! Then, in 2013 on February 13th, the same department again raised a flag in celebration of the administrative territory of Cumbria. On this second occasion however, the peculiar thing about the flag raised is that it was a version of the Cumberland flag although as can be seen, considerably different.
This variation of design and name indicates something of an identity crisis, with distinctions between Cumbria and Cumberland appearing to have been eroded.
The same “variation“is evident in this extract from a forum located on the web in 2012 where the old style flag of Cumbria is shown alongside the modern administration’s banner of arms.
The registration of the flag of Cumberland reaffirms the continued existence of the centuries old county and its residents can now raise the county flag to demonstrate that the county is still there and hopefully clear up the muddle. The county flag is seen flying here over Saint Saint Michael’s Church Workington, March 2013.
The Cumberland flag was raised over the county show in Carlisle on June 18th 2013
and has been embraced with zeal by the staff of ‘Wordsworth House and Gardens’ Cockermouth.
It has been flown widely around the county, including Penrith;
and Millrig Farm on the border with Westmorland
It can also be found in Durdar village
and was seen in the early light of dawn, at Beacon Edge
A locally brewed cider label now also proudly sport the Cumberland flag
A spurious blue flag with a white cross,
sometimes inscribed with the county name, is also commercially available. This is a private initiative, not based on any obvious local historical usage – it is not the county flag.