Historic County Flags Day

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The 2014 poster announcing the inaugural Historic county Flags Day by Brady Ells
County flags at Parliament Square July 23rd 2019

Historic County Flags Day is an occasion established to celebrate the nation’s historic counties through the flying of flags. The inaugural “County Flags Day” was Wednesday, 23rd July, 2014. This date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the creation of the flag of Devon in 2002, which started the momentum of the modern concept of a county flag. The initiative of Brady Ells of the Association of British Counties (ABC) the concept is endorsed by the Flag Institute and the government's Department for Communities & Local Government. The aim of Historic County Flags Day is to have as many county flags flying across Great Britain as possible on one day, 23rd July, to mark the nation’s historic counties. The occasion is intended to celebrate our historic counties, each possessing its own distinctive history, landscapes, traditions, dialects and building styles. Their long unbroken histories have made them the natural basis for cultural, social and sporting organisations and this common inheritance is to be valued and cherished, which can be perfectly demonstrated through displaying one's county flag.

Upon its inception, Peter Boyce, Chairman of the Association of British Counties stated:

“For centuries the historic counties of the UK have formed the familiar geographical background to our national life. People’s affinity for their county goes deep. The historic county provides a living link to past generations who trod the same ground and nurtured the same loyalties as today’s Britons.”

Charles Ashburner, Chief Executive of the Flag Institute said:

“In Great Britain, our most enduring tribal groupings are perhaps our traditional counties. Rich in history, yet inclusive of all of parts of society, these areas have survived modern administrative boundary changes and – due in no small part to the efforts of the Association of British Counties – are enjoying an impressive resurgence. As county identities have flourished so the need for symbols combining both old and new has increased. Flags have been the ultimate symbols of identity throughout history, and they remain so today. Individuals of wildly differing age, sex, religion, or political creed can hold aloft the same flag – and suddenly they are part of the same tribe. As the UK’s national flag charity, the Flag Institute has worked hard to support those wanting to establish their own county flags. We are therefore delighted to endorse ‘Historic County Flags Day’.”

In 2016, seeking further methods to promote the occasion and encourage the flying of county flags to celebrate our counties, fellow ABC member Jason Saber, approached the Parliamentary Flags and Heraldry Committee with a novel suggestion, inspired by the annual displays around Parliament Square, Westminster, of the flags of members of the Commonwealth and the permanent display of provincial flags around the Dutch parliamentary complex at the Hague, he suggested that Parliament could similarly arrange to celebrate our counties with a display of county flags on Parliament Square, each Historic County Flags Day. In late December 2018, government minister Jake Berry ordered his civil servants to draft new guidance for English local authorities on promoting their traditional county links and ordered fresh guidance to assist councils in how they can “boost community pride and tourism”. He declared that councils should put up signs to indicate where historic municipal boundaries lie, to encourage families to find out more about their history and, that they should fly county flags. In consequence of this policy initiative, the minister was contacted afresh with the suggestion that county flags be arrayed at Westminster to celebrate Historic County Flags Day each July 23rd, resulting in an announcement in The Sunday Telegraph of June 30th 2019 that this suggestion would be put into effect. On July 23rd 2019 and for several days following, the public was treated to a magnificent display of our county flags, exactly as had been originally envisaged.