Bedfordshire’s flag was registered on September 11th 2014 following a campaign led by county native Luke Blackstaffe
of the Friends of Bedfordshire Society. The design is a slightly modified version of the banner of the arms
of the former Bedfordshire County Council, which was abolished on 1 April 2009. The flag may be considered as quasi-traditional as although a comparatively recent creation, the arms being awarded to the council in 1951, it does subsume centuries of local tradition, with elements that bespeak the county’s history, heritage and geography. The three escallops or shells on a black field are taken from the arms of the Russells, Dukes of Bedford,
while the red and yellow (gold) quartered field derives from the arms of the Beauchamps,
the leading family in the county after the Norman Conquest, who constructed Bedford Castle and were granted a barony at Bedford. The blue and white wavy stripes are a reference to the River Ouse which flows through the county and are a traditional heraldic representation of a water course.
Prior to its formal award of arms, the county council had made use of a seal for its official documentation
which also combined these armorial charges, being a quartered device with three bends, the top one itself bearing the three white scallops from the arms of the Russells, the lower a crown and the letters XVI, a reference to the Bedfordshire Regiment. This was adopted in 1924 and also used by the county bowling association
and golf union
and appeared on the cover of this county guide
The arms of the now defunct council are used in various adaptations by a large number of local bodies, especially sporting ones, as a logo, badge or insignia.
This widespread deployment of the former council’s arms made them a self-evidently natural choice for the county flag, especially as the design was already flown informally
The campaign received the immediate support of Bedfordshire’s High Sheriff, Colin Osbourne, whose status as a high county official secured the flag the necessary county legitimacy required for its registration
Before registration, at the suggestion of noted vexillograper Brady Ells, the design underwent a slight modification, with the blue and white colours representing the River Ouse, on the left hand side of the flag, being transposed. This meant that the yellow-white and red-blue colours of the flag were no longer in contact, as they had been in the original arms in apparent disregard of the heraldic “rule of tincture” which operates to keep two light colours or two dark colours, from touching one another. The amendment thus increased the design’s visibility and effectiveness. Similarly the blue of the wavy stripes was rendered in a lighter shade to improve the contrast against the black middle bar.
The superior arrangement of the colours had been identified previously, in the form of a later badge used by the county’s fire service.
where the configuration of the blue and white stripes
mirrors that found on the modern flag.
Following the successful registration of the Bedfordshire flag, the Friends of Bedfordshire Society arranged a poll to select a date to be recognised as Bedfordshire Day, the winning date being November 28th, the birth date of local son, writer and preacher, John Bunyan. The inaugural Bedfordshire Day in 2015 was spectacularly successful with the Bedfordshire flag flown across the county.
A special commemoration took place in the locality of the Eatons, two villages (Eaton Socon and Eaton Ford) in the east of the county that lie adjacent to Huntingdonshire across the Great River Ouse. Special commemorative passports bearing the flags of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, were issued by the Eaton Community Association for people passing over the Willow Bridge which connects the two counties. The respective county flags were displayed on either side of the bridge
The county flag was raised over Woburn Abbey in late 2016
and in 2017 the Lord-Lieutenant of the county, Helen Nellis posed beside it with cadets from Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service, Beds & Herts Army Cadet Force, Beds and Cambs Wing ATC and Bedfordshire Sea Cadets.
and again in 2018!
The flag is seen here over the tents at the Glastonbury music festival
and here at the Secret Garden Party music festival
The flag has also been fashioned into an impressive pair of swimming trunks!