Suffolk’s flag was acknowledged by the Flag Institute in September 2017 and added to the registry on October 9th. The flag 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.”
Registration of this acknowledged county emblem was formally requested by twenty-one county organisations, following its display by Suffolk County Council on the inaugural “Suffolk Day” June 21st 2017
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 and shrine, is located at Bury Saint Edmunds, eponymously named for the martyred king. With his firm association with the county, his armorial banner is the indisputable flag of Suffolk, several of whose towns include the crown and arrows theme in their own emblems. A great abbey grew up around Saint Edmund’s shrine which used arms
depicting three of the crown and arrows devices from the attributed arms of King Edmund and a small town developed around the abbey. In 1535 Henry VIII ordered the abbey to be dissolved; it was plundered of all its valuables and people of the surrounding town made use of its stone for local buildings. By 1539 the arms of the abbey were no longer in use. In 1663 the town of Bury Saint Edmunds became incorporated, granting it the right to bear arms of its own and in recognition of Saint Edmund and the former abbey it received a blue shield bearing the same three gold crowns although with distinctive silver, arrows
The trio of crowns and arrows duly featured on Edmund Bowen’s eighteenth century map of the county.
They appeared again, in the following century, on Thomas Moule’s Suffolk map
in two distinct, variant forms; once as part of a decorative arrangement of shields at the left of the map,
where each of the three gold crowns is “pierced” by two arrows, which are inverted so that their tips point upwards and also at the bottom right,
where, on a shield held in the hands of a seated figure, all three crowns are pierced with the same two, similarly configured, upwards pointing arrows.
In 1974, the Borough of Bury St Edmunds was combined with adjacent areas into the Borough of St Edmundsbury and a new coat of arms for this borough was created
which features two of the arrow pierced crowns of Saint Edmund. Its council also uses a single Saint Edmund crown and two arrows device as a logoA new town council was re-established for Bury Saint Edmunds itself in 2004 and in 2006 this was re-granted the arms of the original Bury St Edmunds Town Council
The crown and arrows 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
Further afield in the county, the crown and arrows are used by Framlingham College;
the town of Beccles;
and the coastal town of Southwold
, also seen in the town’s seal which appears on an entrance sign
on this commemorative coin.
The device further appeared on the arms of the now defunct, West Suffolk Council,
whilst two feature on the arms of Suffolk County Council.
The solid 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 county’s carpet bowls association
its inclusion in the badge of a local football club located in Great Barton
and adaptation as a badge, with the trio of crowns, by a local branch of the Women’s Institute.
A modern form of Saint Edmund’s Arms is used as a badge by the local school’s athletic association
and the body also displays a banner with the device when in competition!
; a clear precedent of the Suffolk emblem deployed in flag form, representing Suffolk.
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,
scene of the martyred king’s death.
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 county emblem was commissioned as a flag
in 2014, by a Suffolk resident, from the manufacturer Mr Flag, whose chief executive, Charles Ashburner, crafted the crown and arrows device that appeared on it.
In 2017, the county held its inaugural ‘Suffolk Day‘, on June 21st, 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, Suffolk County Council flew the armorial banner of Saint Edmund, over its headquarters, Endeavour House, in Ipswich, announcing the fact on its Twitter account
declaring that it was flying “our” St Edmund banner”, “high for Suffolk”, in an unequivocal expression of its approval for use of the design as the county flag.
Further 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
The Saint Edmund banner has also been incorporated by fans of Suffolk amateur club, Stowmarket Town, into their own flag
In light of this widespread usage of the Saint Edmund arms around the county and following its deployment as a flag by the council and others on the county day, an effort was initiated to see the design formally registered as the county flag of Suffolk. In addition to the county council’s demonstrated approval, this move was supported by the following twenty-one county organisations;
Stoke by Nayland Local History Society
The formal request for the flag’s registration was submitted in July 2017 and the flag
was duly acknowledged by the Flag Institute. The design of the flag was reworked upon registration
and it was raised for Saint Edmund’s Day, November 20th 2017
The county flag is seen flying below in a domestic setting
Use of the Saint Edmund arms on a flag for the county was first suggested by local resident Bill Bulstrode,
who proposed a design with the Saint Edmund arms as a shield on the cross of Saint George, laudably highlighting the county’s lack of a recognised flag of its own.
This design, however, is almost identical to the flag of the region of East Anglia as a whole
which is over a century old and was amongst the first flags included on the Flag Institute’s registry; indeed the design is actually based on the flag of East Anglia. This proposed flag was therefore not eligible for registration, both for lack of distinction and, because the design is a registered trademark, as indicated by the circled letter “R” below
, the design is automatically ineligible as all registered flags must be in the public domain. Additionally, the arms of Saint Edmund were eminently suitable for registration as the county flag, further detail was unnecessary. In this context the cross of Saint George conveys nothing specific about the county of Suffolk; the Saint Edmund arms themselves are evidently representative of the county, inclusion of the Saint George’s cross is superfluous. And, whilst variations of red crosses are legion, the Saint Edmund arms are distinctive, eye-catching and present a 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 (page 10). Neither of these represents the county but just the council which runs it, as an administrative body.