City of Bristol Flag

A proposal by Thomas Rasche   Facebook

Inspired by recent flag competitions and the Ted talk by Roman Mars, I thought I'd consider whether the City of Bristol could benefit from having a city flag. Currently, it does not have a flag. Having a flag can give the community of Bristol a clear sense of community and a shared expression of identity: it is often unclear in people's minds if the City of Bristol is also a county, or if it's still Avon, or Gloucestershire/Somerset.

To encourage local communities, Eric Pickles MP said in 2012 "If people want to flying a flag they should be able to do so... We will make it easier for people to celebrate their allegiance to a cause, a county or a local organisation if they choose to do so."

The City of Bristol does have a coat of arms (blazon) and a similar looking seal, but no Banner of Arms (i.e. a flag, derived from the coat of arms), or flag. It is possible to buy an unofficial flag which has a coat of arms on a white background and the text 'England Bristol' on it. Bristol City Council has a logo (alt) based on the coat of arms/seal and an emblem (alt). Images of the Coat of Arms can be seen around the city, such as on municipal buildings, bridges and the SS Great Britain. The coat of arms is an image consisting of a golden ship leaving the water gate of a silver coloured castle, with two unicorns on either side. The coat of arms can also be referred to as a crest, emblem or blazon.

However, as both Roman Mars and the Flag institute describe, this image is too much detail for a flag. A flag should be much simpler in design: simple, meaningful, limited use of colours, no lettering or seals and relate to what it represents...

To give some context, the City of London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, York and Belfast all have have city flags. Somerset, Wiltshire, Devon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire have county flags. Historic regions such as the black country, Mercia and Wessex have regional/provincial flags (Bristol was within Wessex, on the border with Mercia). England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom all have national flags (Bristol is in England, within the United Kingdom). Historic flags encompassing Bristol included the historic Wessex Flag - typically depicted as a yellow dragon (Wyvern) against a red background, and the historic Flag of Great Britain.

Wouldn't it be great if the City of Bristol had it's own flag?

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Here's the 1569 description of Bristol's Coat of Arms:

Gules [Red] on a mount vert [Green], issuant out of a castle silver [Silver/White] upon wave [Blue], a ship gold [Gold]...upon the heaulme in a wreathe golde and gules; issuant out of the cloudes two armes in saltour charnew, in the one hand a serpent vert, in the other a pair of balance gold; supported with two unicornes seant gold mained, horned; and clayed sables mantled gules dowbled silver." Bold brackets added. Source:

Wikipedia Coat of Arms
Bristol Coat of Arms
About Bristol
Bristol Coat of Arms
in the city
BCC Emblem
Bristol City
Council emblem



News and updates...

Interview with Emma Britton on BBC Radio Bristol - Breakfast Show, on 5th October 2018.

Interview with Laura Rawlings on BBC Radio Bristol (interview starts at 1 hour 36 minutes, but discussed from start), on 19th September 2015.

The (first) Petition submitted to Bristol City Council for a flag design competition (now ended).

For further information and links:

Online Petition with Bristol City Council:, ends Fri 18th Sept 2015

Bristol Flag discussions on facebook

UK Flag Institute, an adviser to the UK Parliamentary Flags & Heraldry Committee. It has "no results" when searching for "Bristol".

Heraldry wiki for Bristol coat of arms/blazon and seal images.

About Bristol for coat of arms examples around the city of Bristol.

Wikipedia for haraldic tinctures (colours).

Online shops selling Bristol flags: World of Flags and Flags of the World Shop.

British county flags.

Meanings of symbols on flags: hallofnames, genesreunited, vandenart


Coat of arms is "a heraldic visual design on an escutcheon (i.e. shield), surcoat, or tabard" (Wikipedia).

Emblem is "an abstract or representational pictorial image that represents a concept, like a moral truth, or an allegory, or a person, like a king or saint." (Wikipedia).

Flag is "a piece of cloth or similar material, typically oblong or square, attachable by one edge to a pole or rope and used as the symbol or emblem of a country or institution" (Google).

Symbol is "a shape or sign used to represent something such as an organization" (Google).

Crest is "a distinctive device representing a family or corporate body, borne above the shield of a coat of arms...or separately reproduced, [e.g.] on writing paper" (Google).

Dragon is "a mythical animal usually represented as a monstrous winged and scaly serpent or saurian with a crested head and enormous claws" (Merriam-Webster). A Griffin is "a mythical creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, typically depicted with pointed ears and with the eagle's legs taking the place of the forelegs" (Google). A Wyvern is "an early form of dragon, similar to those used as standards by the Saxons. It closely resembles the Welsh dragon, but instead of hind legs it terminates in a snaky tail ending in a barb, and is winged. This tail is usually depicted as 'nowed' (knotted), and the monster is covered in scales. Wyverns are fairly common in heraldry", Newsham cited by Dron. The Somerset flag depicts a dragon, as does the Welsh flag.

Blazon is "a coat of arms" (Google).

Seal is "a design resembling a seal embossed in paper as a guarantee of authenticity, or an engraved device used for stamping a seal" (Google). Examples of Bristol seals.

Logo is "a symbol or other small design adopted by an organization to identify its products" (Google).

Banner is "a long strip of cloth bearing a slogan or design, carried in a demonstration or procession or hung in a public place" (Google).

Standard is "a military or ceremonial flag carried on a pole or hoisted on a rope" (Google).

Banderole is "a long, narrow flag with a cleft end, flown at a masthead" (Google).

Ensign is "a flag or standard, especially a military or naval one indicating nationality" (Google).

Jack is "a small version of a national flag flown at the bow of a vessel in harbour to indicate its nationality" (Google).

See also other synonyms for 'flag' and 'symbol'.

Considerations when designing a flag

Roman Mars and the Flag institute described above suggest a flag should be: simple, meaningful, limited use of colours, no lettering or seals and relate to what it represents...

A flag is symbolic representation...but of what? It could be based on many things, such as:

Geography: in Bristol we are on the Severn Estuary, astride the river Avon with an unusually high tidal range, and we have the Avon Gorge. The urban area of Bristol includes the City of Bristol (equates to the County of Bristol), as well as extending into the counties of: North Somerset; Bath and North East Somerset; and South Gloucestershire. Map. Somerset and Gloucestershire have flags, whereas Bristol and Bath do not.

Biology: e.g. Bristol has a unique species of tree, a Whitebeam Sorbus bristoliensis.

Religion: e.g. the Anglican Diocese of Bristol has a blazon of three ducal coronets.

History: Bristol, founded in Saxon times, has a lot of history...

Historic governance: Bristol was within the kingdom of the West Saxons, aka Wessex, which had a dragon (Wyvern) on its flag. Bristol was located within the county of Avon.

Current governance: Bristol is within the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) which has a logo, but no flag. Bristol City Council Local Authority has a logo, as well as an emblem as above. The City of Bristol has 4 parliamentary constituencies, 35 polling wards and these are subdivided into polling distritcts. The County of Bristol, a ceremonial county, shares its borders with the City of Bristol.

What we do: achievements in science, industries such as engineering, animation and glass, as well as historic discovery and world trade.

What we have created: e.g. achievements such as Clifton Suspension Bridge, SS Great Britain and Concorde.

What we are know for: e.g. street art, multiculrualism.

People: e.g. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Banksy, Cary Grant; a population of ca. 500K.

Military: the armed forces have various flags.

Local sport: e.g. Bristol City FC and Bristol Rovers FC.

Traditions (graphic): e.g. street art styles, or heraldic Tincture.

Values, such as courage, strengh, virtue etc. These are often represented by images of (mystical) creatures, objects and more e.g. hallofnames, genesreunited, vandenart, or the form and colours of the flag are representative of values, e.g. white for peace.

What will people identify with?

Identity is complex, layered and nuanced.

For example, in Bristol, you can identify with being part of a family, community, city, England, Great Britain and Europe. You could also include your identity as a football club supporter, relate to historic buildings and support natural wildlife. A flag curates and represents these identities into a symbolic and attractive form.

What shape is the canvas?

A flag is hung from a flag pole and is viewed from both sides. Therefore, rather than reading a flag left-to-right, it is read from pole-outwards.

A recommended proportion for the canvas is 3:5 rectangle, see discussion. However, banners, pennants, banderoles, streamers etc. have different uses and therefore different shapes. Very occasionally, flags are not rectangular e.g. Nepal.