The flag of Shropshire (Salop) was registered in March 2012, The flag is a banner of the arms
of the local county council, which were awarded in 1895. These arms, are themselves derived from the arms of the county town, Shrewsbury
While the feline heads appeared in the fifteenth century, on the seal of the Corporation of Shrewsbury, their precise origin is unknown. It is speculated that they may have been fashioned from the royal arms
of England or based on the Arms of the De La Pole family
or those of the local Pontisbury family.
The cats’ heads are colloquially known as “loggerheads”; one theory behind this unusual term is that it refers to the practice of carving animal heads on the battering point of a log, used as a battering ram. Interestingly, a small town by the same name of “Loggerheads “ sits just across the county boundary in Staffordshire. Another area of debate is whether the beasts depicted on the shield are lions or leopards. Heraldic distinctions between these two large cats have been traditionally vague, even the national arms have been variously described as the lions or the leopards of England but evidence in the form of a late 17th century manuscript, referring to “leopards’ faces” indicates that the faces on the Shrewsbury arms are definitely those of leopards; a description that is repeated through the ensuing centuries.
Although based upon the arms of Shrewsbury the county council arms are distinguished by having the leopards’ faces appear on three piles. These are triangular divisions of the shield, two pointing down and one up, formed by the imposition of a “w” shape, in erminois across the middle of the shield – in heraldic terminology a “fess dancetty”. Erminois is a gold pattern bearing traditional black heraldic marks indicative of fur pelts. These arms were awarded to the council on June 18th 1896, not long after its formation and appear to have been an innovative creation of the College of Arms, although no information appears presently available to explain the specific choice of this rather elaborate but clearly distinctive element. Plausibly, it may derive from the arms of a notable county dynasty.
Prior to the registration of the county council’s banner, two versions had been commercially available which unaccountably replaced the very distinctive gold colour with a more insipid white. One rendered with better artistry
as can be seen, with an inferior pictorial quality, however this was the form of flag that flew over the Department for Communities and Local Government building in London in April 2011. This flag had no legal sanction as at this time only the arms bearer, the Shropshire Council, was entitled to fly this flag. Perhaps the poor realisation of this design made it so different from the real banner of arms that it was considered a wholly different item altogether!?
Following the the raising of this flag, Shropshire native and artist, John Yates, was motivated to seek release of the true banner of the council’s arms, to the public, to be registered and used as the county flag. After careful research he reworked the charges from the arms to realise a more accurate flag with correct colours and proportions and superior artistry. The faces of the leopards now looked bold and fierce! Mr Yates then approached Shropshire Council with his design. He secured the support of Martin Stevens, from the Lord Lieutenant’s office and council legal department, whose confirmation to the Flag Institute that the council approved the new Yates version for use as the county flag, resulted in its subsequent registration. This came as something of a surprise to the flag’s designer who only learnt of the registration after seeing his flag marketed!
In light of that registration an official ceremony was held on April 19th 2013, at the Shire Hall, Shrewsbury to unveil and launch the now officially approved Shropshire Flag. The event was attended by several dignitaries including The Vice Lord Lieutenant, Colonel Edmund Thewles, The High Sheriff, Mrs Diana Flint, and Salopian MP’s – Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury & Atcham), Owen Paterson (North Shropshire and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Mark Pritchard (Wrekin). John Yates is seen below at the launching ceremony, in the middle of the group, holding the recently registered flag.
Following the registration of the new Shropshire flag, products bearing the new design are now widely available, such as these badges and cufflinks. The cufflinks add a touch of red on the tongues – as found on the arms of Shrewsbury.
The flag has also been seen flying across the county
and has been adapted by local businesses