Oxfordshire’s flag was registered in May 2017 following a request delivered in February that year, from a collection of county bodies. Registration was only secured after several months following this initial request and the flag did not appear on the registry until August.
A flag bearing a red ox head set against two white wavy stripes, running from the top left to the bottom right corner, all placed against a blue background, with a golden oak tree and wheat sheaf in respective bottom left and top right corners, had been popularly
flown across the county
Originating as the armorial banner of the shield
from the coat of arms
awarded to Oxfordshire County Council in 1949, the design included the blue of Oxford University while the white wavy stripes represent the River Thames flowing through the county. In combination with the red ox head, the arrangement punningly alluded to the name of the county town of Oxford, around which the wider county is based. The golden wheat sheaf, top right and golden tree, bottom left, represented the agriculture and woods of the county. The arms were no longer used by any armiger (arms holder) but specifically related to the true boundaries of the county and thus were comparable to use of the arms in banner form, of the former Middlesex, Cheshire, Westmorland and Cumberland councils, as the flags of those respective counties.
This acknowledged Oxfordshire emblem has been used by county organisations such as the local constabulary, whose badges bore the ox head and wavy stripes;
and the county fire brigade;
and attesting to its long established local provenance, it further appeared on souvenir items such as this decorative horse brass
this car badge
and this stitching pattern map of the county
The flag has also been much used by the county’s scouts
both at home and at international gatherings,
to represent their county, as seen below on a 2016 visit to Iceland,
and continues to be proudly used by them in shield shape, as a badge
which also appears on other promotional material
including for example, the 2016 Iceland trip.
Oxfordshire Rugby Football Union’s badge is also the familiar county emblem
whilst the county’s rugby players proudly wear the Oxfordshire flag on their sleeves!
The red ox on white wavy stripes and blue field is also the badge of the Oxfordshire county hockey association
whilst the county’s junior badminton team proudly present the county flag in competition
and the design appears on the sign of the Oxfordshire village of Goring
Most notably the acknowledged county flag appears on the Twitter profile of a county based news service
Demonstrably, to all intents and purposes already established as the flag of Oxfordshire, in late February 2017 Oxfordshire residents contacted the Flag Institute to request that their de facto county flag be added to its registry. The request was presented by the following seventeen local groups
from right across the county
Two versions of the established county emblem had been fashioned as flags, one with superior artistry
and a more poorly rendered one
but for the registration request a newly crafted realisation, by Brady Ells, was presented
which better matched the high standard of existing designs of flags on the Flag Institute’s registry and reflected the advice on flag design which the Flag Institute promotes.
Regrettably, however, this initial request to register a county flag for Oxfordshire did not meet with success as in spite of the attempt matching the Flag Institute’s provisions for a community flag, being of long standing local usage and general recognition and the request being a widely supported local initiative, residents were advised that the effort required the sanction of a county official or representative such as the Lord Lieutenant. All efforts to secure this proved fruitless as county officials and representatives expressed no interest in securing a flag for their county and consequently Oxfordshire remained without a registered flag, to the benefit of no one, for several months. Ultimately contact with the regional planning authorities in the county secured confirmation that no prosecutions of people raising this flag would be enacted, in accordance with the 2012 flag flying regulations and the Flag Institute accordingly agreed to register the design.
The chosen flag of Oxfordshire residents, the design meets the requirements which are set out in the Flag Institute’s guide to registering a community flag stating;
“If a traditional design doesn’t belong to a local authority it can be registered by any local representative group.” – As detailed above, Oxfordshire’s traditional design was presented for registration by seventeen county organisations
The submission must be made “in writing, on headed paper, detailing the group’s relevance to the area in question”. – The request for registration came from one of the seventeen groups and included supporting statements for the flag from sixteen others.
The design in question must be accompanied by details of “the provenance of the traditional design.” – All the evidence of local usage and association of the Oxfordshire flag with the county, as presented in this account, was included in the registration request.
It is also noteworthy that the Flag Institute states in its guide that it is
“a uniquely democratic organisation, and we champion the popular use of democratically chosen flags. We’re here to support your right to fly a local flag which you feel represents you….registering designs which you and those with whom you share a sense of community can point to and say “this is our flag”.”
As per this description, the flag that Oxfordshire community felt represented it was the one presented for registration. The hope of this community was that the Flag Institute would register said design which it points to and says “this is our flag”. Moreover, nothing in the Flag Guide states that the sanction of a local authority or county official is requisite in the registration of a traditional design, already supported widely by the community.
Additionally, the Oxfordshire flag fulfilled other conditions met by previously registered flags.
As with Westmorland, Cumberland, Middlesex and Cheshire, the Oxfordshire flag originated as the arms of a now defunct local authority, the designs for these counties have all been registered without further requirement; in the case of Middlesex it was simply included on the registry upon creation, for the others, statements of support for each design were amassed from a number of county bodies. Whilst there is still a local authority administering Oxfordshire, this is a different entity from the original council, which relinquished its interest in the design in question, over forty years ago. In practical terms, use of the original arms as the county flag is entirely the same for Oxfordshire as it has been in the cited examples.
As evidenced by the wealth of photographs of the flag in use, by both the general public and by such county bodies as its scouts, its hockey team, its badminton team and its rugby association, the flag is in regular daily use as the flag of Oxfordshire. The design has been deployed as a flag for a decade and used as a county emblem for nearly seventy years. The flag of Pembrokeshire was registered on the basis of its extended local usage, recognition and popular appeal and exactly the same situation obtains for Oxfordshire and its chosen flag.
Palpably, the flag of Oxfordshire, the design is actively used by Oxfordshire citizens, unequivocally supported by substantial county groups and evidently qualifying for registration by the Flag Institute on several of its own conditions, both stated in writing and applicable by precedent; the undeniable county flag
The present council’s own arms in banner form
are commercially available in some outlets, mistakenly marketed as ‘Oxfordshire Flag’. This design derives from the above original form of the arms but was specifically altered to represent the modern authority and accordingly differs markedly from the original design, principally with the absence of the distinctively Oxfordshire element of the red ox head and also on its specific stylisation. This armorial banner and the arms from which it derives, as dictated by the rules of heraldry, represent only Oxfordshire County Council and no one else has any right to use them. This is not the county flag of Oxfordshire but ONLY the banner of arms of the modern day Oxfordshire County Council. Another version of the modern council’s armorial banner
unaccountably using a green background colour, is also sometimes seen but this again, is not the Oxfordshire county flag.
A further design
has been promoted as a potential county flag by the Oxfordshire Association. Named the Saint Frideswide Cross, for the county’s traditional heroine, it features a white cross against a countercharged blue and green background, with the first quarter in green. An attractive design but a novel creation, the proposal could have achieved registration only by winning a competition but no such event was ever organised and given the county’s existing above traditional emblem, this was in any case unnecessary.