Berkshire Flag

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Berkshire’s flag was registered on February 27th 2017 following declarations of support from twenty-four local organisations, backed by the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, James Puxley. The flag features the traditional hart (stag) and oak theme associated with the county for several centuries, which appears on the badges, emblems and logos of a large number of county organisations.

The hart and oak refer generally to the forestlands of Berkshire and specifically to the legend of a late 14th century royal huntsman named Herne The Hunter. Legend has it that after various nefarious deeds by his jealous rivals, this one time favourite of the king was dismissed from royal service and distraught, he hanged himself from an oak tree which was then struck by lightning. The hart is “one of the manifestations of his restless spirit” and, according to Michael Drayton’s poem of 1627, a banner with this badge, or something very like it, was carried by the men of Berkshire at the Battle of Agincourt “Barkshire a Stag, vnder an Oake that stood,”.

Before acquiring formal arms in 1947, the hart and stag emblem was used as a seal by the former Berkshire County Council in both monochrome

seal

and coloured depictions

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where a naturally brown stag, stands under a similarly naturally coloured, oak tree, with leaves and surrounding grass, set against a field of gold. The latter colour perhaps being a reference to Berkshire’s status as a “Royal County”, owing to the presence there of the principal royal residence, Windsor Castle. The seal is present on this 1912 image of the commemorations for the royal visit to Hungerford, affixed to the sign over the street

hungerford

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where the light coloured background against which the hart and oak are placed, is evident.

The specific colours of the county seal also appeared on the engines of the county fire service

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This traditional depiction, fashioned to fly as a flag by Brady Ells, maintains the resonant local theme, steeped in Berkshire history and culture, as evidenced by many further examples of the emblem in use in the county.

The combined hart and oak has been used as a regimental badge by the Royal Berkshire Militia

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and the same combination was found on the badge of Berkshire constabulary

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In 1947, the council received a formal award of arms

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where the hart and oak featured as a crest.

berks-crestThe trenchant Berkshire motif is in use today across the county, examples include;

Berkshire Local History Association berkslochist ;

Berkshire Archery berks-arch

Berkshire Federation Of Women’s Institutes berks-wi;

Berkshire Scouts berkscouts;

Berks and Bucks Football Association berks-fa;

Berkshire Cricket berks-cricket;

Berkshire Rugby  Berks rugby.png ;

Berkshire Bowling associations berksbowling;

Berkshire Table Tennis Association  berksteabtan ;

Reading FC – Berkshire Wanderers reading-fc;

Berkshire Schools Athletic Association

bsaabig

Berkshire Lieutenancy

In early 2017, realising that their county was one of only six in England without a registered flag, a number of Berkshire organisations threw their weight behind a campaign to see the traditional hart and oak, in original colours, registered as the Berkshire county flag. A total of twenty-four county bodies, from across the county

supported this move and with the subsequent sanction of James Puxley, the Lord Lieutenant and Victoria Fishburn, the High Sheriff, the design was duly registered as the county flag. The supporting organisations were;

Berkshire Local History

Berkshire Archaeological Society

Newbury & District Agricultural Society

Abingdon Area Archaeological and Historical Socirty

Goring Gap Local History Society

Maidenhead Archaeological & Historical Society

Project Purley

Sonning & Sonning Eye Society

Stanford in the Vale and District Local History Society

Windsor Local History Group

Friends of the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum

Royal County of Berkshire Bowling Association

Berkshire Chess Association

Berkshire Netball 

History of Reading Society

Berkshire Archery Association

Didcot & District Archaeological & Historical Society

Maidenhead Civic Society

Maidenhead Heritage

Finchampstead Society

Reading Civic Society

Twyford And Ruscombe Local History Society

Hungerford Historical Association

Theale Local History Group

The notion of deploying the county’s long associated emblem as a flag had first been mooted by David Nash Ford of the Royal Berkshire History website. Who created a white and blue bicolour bearing a golden silhouette of hart and oak across the two bands

berkshire-nash-ford

The overall design was loosely based on the Welsh national flag and the neighbouring Buckinghamshire flag (and county council arms) which both have depictions of animals overlaid over a bi-colour field.  The colours of blue, gold (yellow) and white were taken from the shield on the former council arms

berks-cc-armsand were further seen as representing the River Thames and the county’s chalk hills.

This design was well received in some quarters, but also encountered opposition; the design breaks the heraldic “rule of tincture” (defined in point 3 of the Flag Institute’s recommendations on good flag design ) by placing a yellow charge partially on a white background, making it less visible from any distance. Additionally, the particular form of the central emblem, as lifted from the badge used on a cap by county regiments,

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created a curve in the composite tree and stag emblem that led to criticisms that it resembled a letter “C”; this misled some people who thus made no association with Berkshire! In any case, as a novel design, the proposal could only be registered as the winner of a competition or other selection process and the pre-existing traditional arrangement made this novel realisation unnecessary.

Another strong contender for the county flag on traditional grounds, was the county’s other recognised emblem, the Uffington white horse

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, which was first deployed as a flag

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by the Friends of Berkshire in the 1980s. The design bears the image of the horse produced by removing sections of green turf, to reveal the white chalk below.

The estimated three thousand year old chalk carving certainly has a long association with the county and has been deployed as a badge

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by the Berkshire Yeomanry

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The emblem has appeared on buttons

and as a patch
patch

Unsurprisingly, with its ancient origins, the device has also been favoured as an insignia by county based archaeological concerns and local family history society

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The Uffington horse is also found often in the badges of local sports teams and league

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Of particular note is the adaptation of the Uffington horse by the West Berkshire Racing Club

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located in Newberry.

The horse also appears in the arms of two local councils

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and features in the logos of a community bus service

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a county brewery

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and a school in the county, located in Reading

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With its ancient stylisation the emblem is strikingly distinct and unique to the county

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Ultimately however, the hart and oak was a more entrenched county symbol, with a much longer recognition and usage as a representation of Berkshire and with its 1627 poetic reference, also recorded as such in the written word.

Prior to registration a “flag”,

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based upon the logo of the former Berkshire County Council, itself derived from the above council’s coat of arms, which were novelly created in the twentieth century, was commercially available. This design both lacked any artistic merit, a true armorial banner of its arms would have looked something like this

berks-cc-armorial-banner

and was also devoid of the centuries long tradition enjoyed by the hart and oak emblem. Additionally, being essentially a white piece of cloth bearing some markings, the design is not a successful one for flag use, being quite indistinct against cloudy skies. This logo flag has never been the Berkshire county flag.

Thanks to Brady Ells for his extensive research in this account.

Useful Links

Berkshire

 

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