The proposed flag of Suffolk is a banner
of the arms
attributed to Saint Edmund, bearing a golden crown “pierced” by two golden arrows against a blue background. Described heraldically as “Azure two Arrows in saltire, points downwards, enfiled with an ancient Crown Or.”
Edmund, the last King of East Anglia, was reportedly murdered by the Danes in the year 870, who scourged him and shot him with arrows when, at a meeting with the invaders, he refused to share his kingdom with their chief. Edmund’s arms accordingly reflect his kingship and the manner of his death. They appear in “Saints, Signs and Symbols” by W. Ellwood Post, 1964
Edmund’s burial site is located at Bury Saint Edmunds, eponymously named for the martyred king. His firm association with the county thus makes his armorial banner an ideal flag for Suffolk, several of whose towns include the crown and arrows theme in their own emblems.
The arms of the great abbey at Bury which grew up around St. Edmund’s shrine, depict three of the golden crown and arrows devices, against a blue background
and these arms were also used by the town itself
The modern borough of Saint Edmundsbury which now incorporates the town, repeats the crown and arrows theme
its council also uses a single crown and two arrows device as a logo
The same emblem has been adapted for use as the club badge by the town’s football team Bury Town FC
and the badge of the Bury Saint Edmunds squadron of the Air Training Corps
The crown and arrows are further used by Framlingham College, located in the county;
the Suffolk town of Beccles;
the coastal town of Southwold
, also seen in the town’s seal which appears on an entrance sign
on this commemorative coin and on the arms of West Suffolk Council
Perhaps the greatest recognition of the status of the crown and arrows device is its use in the arms of Suffolk County Council.
Interestingly, the strong Suffolk heritage of the Saint Edmund’s arms has also been recognised by the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History whose own emblem includes the arms of Saint Edmund at its centre
Such recognition attests to the emblem’s status as the natural symbol of the county. This recognition is further found in its use by the county’s scout association, seen below in differing realisations, including the actual form of the Saint Edmund’s arms, with a gold crown and arrows against a blue background.
Other examples of its use around the county include its appearance as the logo of famous Suffolk brewery Green King IPA
the badge of the local school’s athletic association
and adaptation as a badge, with a trio of crowns, by a local branch of the Women’s Institute.
There is a carved version on Saint Edmund’s church, Fritton
and a stained glass version in Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s Church, Hoxne.
Another notable use of the Saint Edmund’s arms to represent the county was their appearance on the front cover of his 1930 guide to Norfolk and Suffolk, by celebrated mediaeval scholar and acclaimed writer of ghost stories, M.R. James.
The association of the crown and arrows with Suffolk was also noted in the eighteenth century by their appearance, in the trio form used by the Abbey at Bury Saint Edmund’s, on Edmund Bowen’s map of the county.
and again in the following century where they are depicted twice, in variant forms, on Thomas Moule’s map of the county
, once as part of a decorative arrangement of shields at the left of the map, where three crowns are each “pierced” by two arrows, inverted so that their tips point upwards and also at the bottom right, where just one similarly configured crown with upwards pointing arrows, is depicted on a shield held in the hands of a seated figure.
Evidently, an obvious Suffolk symbol, the arms as such are not borne by any extant individual or body and are thus available for deployment as a county flag – a possibility first mooted by the Chief Vexillologist of the Flag Institute, Graham Bartram. Accordingly, in 2014, such a flag
was commissioned by a Suffolk resident from the manufacturer Mr Flag, whose chief executive, Charles Ashburner, crafted the crown and arrows device that appeared on the flag.
In 2017 the county held its inaugural ‘Suffolk Day‘, an occasion marked with use of a special logo which featured the county’s traditional crown and arrows emblem
On the day itself, June 21st, in celebration of the county day, Suffolk County Council flew the armorial banner of Saint Edmund, the county’s traditional emblem, over its headquarters, Endeavour House, in Ipswich.
Another usage of the St Edmund banner of arms was made by the Ipswich Building Society where a local history talk on the day was decorated with bunting bearing the design
Use of the Saint Edmund arms on a flag for the county had first been suggested by local resident Bill Bulstrode, at left below
, who imposed the arms as a shield on the cross of Saint George
This design, however, is almost identical to the flag of the region of East Anglia as a whole
which is, registered with the F.I. and is therefore not registrable, primarily for lack of distinction. Indeed the design is actually based on the flag of East Anglia. Moreover, the Bulstrode design is also copyrighted,
making it automatically ineligible for registration as all registered flags must be in the public domain. The inclusion of the Saint George’s cross in this context also conveys nothing specific about the county of Suffolk – whilst the Saint Edmund arms are evidently representative of the county, the cross of Saint George is not; its inclusion in a flag for the county is superfluous as the task is served very well by the Saint Edmund’s arms alone. Additionally, without the unnecessary Saint George’s Cross combination, the arms in flag form make a much more distinctive, eye-catching, flag
uniquely Suffolk in character.
Two other designs are associated with the county; an armorial banner of the Suffolk County Council arms
and a flag which places the shield from its coat of arms, on a yellow cloth
, in contravention of standard heraldic practice. Neither of these represents the county but just the council which runs it, as an administrative body.