Next time you are out and about around our region, keep your eyes peeled for two symbols of the local area. The Cambridgeshire and Fenland Flags are becoming a common sight, proudly flying high wherever you go.
The Cambridgeshire Flag
It’s surprising to hear that Cambridgeshire only got its own flag in 2015. But in fact, there isn’t a long tradition of British counties having flags. Many have had coats of arms dating back for centuries, but the idea of county flags is a relatively new one.
The Cambridgeshire Flag was created by Brady Ells as the winning design in a competition organised by the Flag Institute. A selection panel that included Cambridgeshire County Council councillors shortlisted six finalists before Brady was announced as the winner after a public vote. The Flag Institute then gave it their official recognition as the county’s flag.
What does the Cambridgeshire Flag mean?
The Cambridgeshire Flag comprises three gold crowns, a blue background (known as a ‘field’ in the flag world) and three wavy lines. So just what do these visual elements symbolise?
Three gold crowns represent East Anglia. This imagery dates back several centuries and can be found on the coat of arms of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia. You can find shields bearing this imagery in Suffolk at the medieval churches of Saxmundham and Woolpit. It also crops up in a 1611 atlas of Great Britain.
You’ll see three crowns many times in East Anglia. They are at the centre of the East Anglia Flag, on the coats of arms of the diocese of Ely, the borough of Bury Saint Edmunds and the University of East Anglia, and in several other emblems.
In fact, there’s a whole story to tell about these three gold crowns. The same imagery crops up often in Swedish history. When you consider the fact that East Anglia’s rulers once hailed from Sweden (the Wuffingas dynasty), this starts to make sense.
Three wavy lines represent the River Cam and are in the ‘Cambridge Blue’ colour of the university’s sports teams.
A blue background echoes that of the shield at the centre of the East Anglia Flag.
The Cambridgeshire Flag is now a common sight across the county, flying over homes, businesses and public places. It can be seen alongside the Suffolk Flag on the footbridge over the River Lark at Isleham Marina, marking the fact that the river is a boundary between the two counties. It’s even sewn into the official shirts of the Cambridgeshire County Darts Team!
The Fenland Flag
The Fenland Flag is even newer than the Cambridgeshire Flag. Created in 2017 by Ely-based writer and historian James Bowman, it’s a flag that is already acting as a symbol of pride for local people.
Although the flag does not yet have official recognition from the Flag Institute, James’s campaign to gain this has gathered plenty of momentum. South East Cambridgeshire MP Lucy Frazer sent a letter of support to the institute, and several East Cambridgeshire and Fenland district councillors have also expressed their enthusiasm for the flag. A formal application for official recognition will be made soon.
Perhaps more importantly, people across the region are getting behind it. You can see it flying over many homes and businesses. You’ll find it in local schools, too, and dozens of narrowboats also fly the flag. Stickers have been produced, and countless shops and pubs are displaying one on their premises. In fact, pictures of the flag flying across the world have been sent into the Fenland Flag Facebook page.
What does the Fenland Flag mean?
Like the Cambridgeshire Flag, the Fenland Flag has three visual elements:
The central yellow band represents agricultural prosperity, echoing fields of wheat that are such an important part of the Fenland landscape and economy.
The blue outer bands represent the natural and man-made waterways that keep the region dry – most of the time!
The red tiger represents the Fen Tigers, who were protestors opposed to the drainage of the Fens. It also symbolises the strength and determination of local people in general.
You can find out more about the flag and the campaign for official recognition on the flag’s Facebook page. Just search ‘Fenland Flag’ on Facebook. You’ll also find information on how you can get hold of your own Fenland Flag.
WORDS Richard Groom