The flag of Cheshire was registered by the Flag Institute on April 10th 2013, following a request by the Historic Counties Trust and after receipt of expressions of support for its registration from a number of countywide bodies. The three gold wheatsheaves, known heraldically as garbs, on a blue background, have been associated with either the Earldom of Cheshire, the county of Cheshire or its county town, Chester, for several centuries. They were first used by Earl Ranulph de Blondeville, the sixth Earl, in the 12th century.
and appear amongst a series of local arms, down the left side on John Speed’s map of the county,
from his 1610/11 atlas, “Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine”.
According to the Cheshire Heraldry Society this same design was later used as the city arms of Chester in 1560, however, as is evident on the same county map, at the top of an inset plan of the city
the city arms have an additional sword amongst the garbs.
The Earldom of Cheshire was originally created by William 1st when the Norman regime, making examples of the local nobility, confiscated the property of Earl Edwin of Mercia and other local landowners as part of measures taken to overcome the entrenched resistance of the Anglo-Saxon population. The first earl, Hugh d’Avranches, ruled virtually autonomously in William’s name and with his full authority. By the late twelfth century the earls had established a position of power as quasi-princely rulers of Cheshire which led to the later designation of the “County Palatine of Chester”, indicating that the territory enjoyed a degree of autonomy distinct from other shires, “palatine” meaning from the palace and referring to the authority so derived by the rulers. The addition of the sword amongst the garbs is said to reflect the assertion that the Earl of Chester held the lands of the County Palatinate “as freely by his sword as the King of England held by his crown”although it seems unclear when this addition was effected.
Chester was later awarded different arms by Elizabeth I, in 1580, which incorporated the de Blondeville garbs alongside the arms of England.
and these also appear on the Speed map
Cheshire County Council, which inherited the administration of the county after its formation in 1889, was awarded its own arms in 1938
which were identical to those originally appearing as the arms of the city of Chester.
It is interesting to note that the design was also used by the Chester Assay Office as its hallmark between 1686-1701
which conceivably may have been the inspiration for the later arms awarded to the county council. The golden garbs and sword on blue, also adorn the Eastgate Bridge in the city,
further indicating a degree of overlap in the use of these arms by both city and county bodies. The original garbs of Ranulph de Blondeville are also present.
Two further designs were used by the Assay office; between 1701 and 1779 it used the arms of the city of Chester which had been awarded by Elizabeth 1st
and from 1779 until 1961, when the office closed, it again reverted to the three garbs and sword device, in a slightly modified form – by the last few decades of this era of course, the same arrangement had been taken up by the county council.
A wheatsheaf has since become a general county emblem, and can be seen singularly, as a trio, or in combination with the sword in the insignia of many Cheshire bodies including;
Cheshire County Football Association Cheshire Youth Cricket
Cheshire Constabulary Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services
It is also used as the club badge by Stockport County FC.
who on April 8th 2011 held a “Cheshire Flag Day” to celebrate the club’s roots in the historic county of Cheshire.
Chester (the modern form of the arms awarded in 1977 includes a border)
Congleton Crewe and Nantwich Ellesmere Port
Macclesfield Sale Altrincham
as a small sample.
In many counties the arms of the council are excessively intricate and may not be particularly representative of the county itself – Dorset council’s three red lions of England are such an example. For Cheshire however, the arms borne by the council have a very long standing association with and usage in the county, there could be no other more appropriate flag for it than a banner formed of these arms. The Cheshire County Council itself was disbanded in 2009 but even prior to this and as with several other county councils, one version of a banner of its arms was made commercially available as the county flag of Cheshire, albeit without legal sanction! This actually flew at the Eland House headquarters of the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2011 to represent the county, clearly demonstrating the general consensus of the design’s de facto status as the county flag.
Indeed the design had been earlier incorporated by William Crampton – founder of the Flag Institute, doyen of modern British vexillology and native Cestrian – in the canton of his early 1970s design for the Cheshire Fire Brigade Flag.
In light of this overwhelming evidence, support for registration of the design of three gold garbs and sword on a blue background, as the county flag was sought and received from the following local county institutions;
- Cheshire County Athletic Association
- Cheshire County Badminton Association
- Cheshire County Bowling Association
- Cheshire County Cricket Club
- Cheshire County Football Association Limited
- Cheshire County Water Polo and Swimming Association
- Cheshire Local History Association
- Cheshire Schools FA
- Hoylake, West Kirby and District Society
- Marple Civic Society
- North West Association of Civic Trusts and Societies
- Stockport County FC
and the flag was duly registered by the Flag Institute, formally acknowledging the de facto situation. The flag can now be found proudly flown by the county’s residents.