The flag of the West Riding of Yorkshire
was registered on May 23rd 2013. It was created by Michael Faul, a foremost British vexillologist and was the winning entry in a competition organised by Yorkshire resident and adventurer Andy Strangeway in conjunction with the Flag Institute.
The flag has a considerable history as it was originally designed as a prospective flag for the whole of Yorkshire. In the 1990s, with the fashion for local flags ever increasing, Michael Faul and the late William Crampton, the doyen of British vexillology (flag study) had considered a flag for the county of Yorkshire. One design placed a “rose en soleil” device on top of a Saint George’s cross.
The rose en soleil emblem
was adopted by the Yorkist king, Edward IV upon his accession to the throne after the Battle of Towton. The emblem was fashioned by combining the rose of the House of York
with the sun badge used by Richard II
and was the punning reference in Shakespeare’s famous lines from Richard III;
“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”
In 1927 the former West Riding Council was awarded arms which featured a large rose en soleil
at the centre of the shield. By the twentieth century the association of the white rose emblem of the House of York, with the county of York, had become firmly established and by extension so had the more elaborate combination of white rose and sun.
This splendorous and eye catching emblem, a fine expansion on the theme of a white rose, was a highly suitable charge to appear on a prospective Yorkshire flag. However, wishing to convey something of the Anglo-Scandinavian history of the region, given the enduring Dano-Norwegian presence there in the centuries prior to the Norman invasion, Michael Faul’s development of the design further deployed an off-set cross in the Scandinavian style. The cross was now Scandinavian, in English colours, a neat graphic encapsulation of the local heritage and history.
This latter version became an established contender for the county flag and was taken up by the Yorkshire Dialect Society and the “Campaign for Yorkshire”, which sought to establish a Yorkshire parliament. In time the blue flag bearing a white Yorkshire rose was registered as the county flag but Michael’s rose en soleil and Nordic cross design remained a firm favourite of many.
In the wake of 2012 `legislation regarding flag flying in the UK which specifically referenced “… the flag of…. any Riding of Yorkshire….”, Andy Strangeway launched a competition to select a Flag for the West Riding, one of the three, thousand year old divisions of Yorkshire. Originally a “thriding”, the term “riding” is ultimately derived from the old Norse “thrithjungr” meaning a third part and is a legacy of the Viking settlement of Yorkshire in the ninth century. Yorkshire’s vast size meant that its three divisions of the North, West and East Ridings, which were each of comparable size to other counties, also functioned effectively as counties, with separate legal proceedings, “Quarter Sessions” and separate Lieutenancies. Accordingly, when modern local government was established in 1889 each of the Ridings was awarded an administrative council maintaining their effective status as counties in their own right; there was never a “Yorkshire County Council”!
The Ridings councils and ancient lieutenancies were abolished in 1974 and in the wake of such administrative upheavals many might have thought that the West Riding as an entity in its own right had disappeared but it has not; the competition and the flag that would arise from it, aimed to remind people that the West Riding still exists.
Given the similarity of the design of Michael Faul’s flag with the arms of the former West Riding administration – both are red and white, both bear a rose en soleil – it was felt appropriate to submit the former county flag contender, for consideration in the West Riding flag competition. It was one of six designs selected by a panel of judges for a final public vote, which it duly won.
The newly registered flag of the West Riding of Yorkshire was unveiled outside the Civic Hall, Millennium Square, Leeds on May 23rd by the competition designer Andy Strangeway and Councillor Bernard Bateman, Chairman of North Yorkshire Council.
The unfurling was also attended by Councillor Alan Barry, Chairman of Cumbria Council and Councillor Claude Mole, the Chairman of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
The following messages where received from Civic Leaders unable to attend the unfurling:
- Calderdale – Mayor of Calderdale, Councillor Ann Martin:“With regret, I am unable to attend the West Riding flag unfurling ceremony in Millenium Square, Leeds, however, I am delighted to send greetings from Calderdale on this occasion.”
- Doncaster – Civic Mayor of Doncaster, Councillor Christine Mills: “I wish you success with your flag unfurling”
- Leeds – Lord Mayor of Leeds: “Sends his best wishes and hopes your event is successful”
- Oldham – Mayor of Oldham: “It is with regret that I am unable to attend the unfurling of the West Riding Flag. May I take this opportunity, on behalf of the people of Oldham, to send best wishes for what I am sure will be a wonderful occasion.”
- Rotherham – Deputy Mayor of Rotherham, Councillor Barry Dodson: “Best wishes to you for a successful and enjoyable event”
- Sheffield – Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor Vickie Priestley: “I am sorry that I cannot be with you today for the unfurling of the first West Riding flag but send my best wishes to all involved in this special event for a successful and enjoyable day.”
The flag has since been seen across the West Riding