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Bedfordshire (England)

Traditional English County

Last modified: 2021-07-10 by rob raeside
Keywords: bedfordshire |
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[Flag of Bedfordshire] image by Jason Saber, 13 September 2014

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Introduction: From Traditional to Ceremonial Status

Historical Bedfordshire County ceased to exist as a local government entity on 24 January 1889 when Bedfordshire County Council was created, and some of its previous territory became part of other councils, and the new Bedfordshire County Council got some areas from other obsolete counties. The new Bedfordshire County Council was an upper-tier local government entity, which at various times during this period [1890-1974] consisted of 17 lower-tier local governments.
In 1964 Luton County Borough Council (which is a county-equivalent entity) was created, so the area of Bedfordshire County Council got a little smaller. The Bedfordshire County Council existed until 2009.
Bedfordshire County Council was granted a flag and coat of arms in 1951, and those were the official county council symbols until 2009. The coat of arms was created in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. It became the symbol of the county being placed on many public buildings and signs. The council used the banner of arms as a flag until it was abolished in 2009.
Valentin Poposki, 22 July 2020

Description of the Ceremonial County Flag

Bedfordshire's flag is that used by the council which is now defunct - similar to Middlesex and Westmorland for example. The registered version has been slightly modified by transposing the blue and white wavy lines on the left (form the observer's viewpoint) to ensure that yellow does not touch white and red does not touch blue. The blue is also a lighter hue to stand out better where it touches the black central panel. The three escallops or shells on a black field are from the arms of the Russells, Dukes of Bedford, with the red and yellow (gold) quartered field, 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". Thus, although a relatively recent creation, composed in 1951, the design subsumes centuries of local tradition, with elements that bespeak the county's history, heritage and geography. The same design features in the badges, crests, logos and insignia of a myriad Bedfordshire organisations.
Jason Saber, 13 September 2014

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. (source)

  • Flag Type: County Flag
  • Flag Date: 12th April 1951
  • Flag Designer: College of Arms
  • Adoption Route: Regional Organisation
  • Aspect Ratio: 3:5
  • Pantone© Colours: Yellow 109, Red 485, Blue 300, White, Black
Source: The Flag Institute.
Valentin Poposki, 27 June 2020

Former Bedfordshire County Council Flag

[Flag of Bedfordshire] image by Dirk Schönberger

The flag of Bedfordshire County Council is a simple the banner of arms (obtained from Dirk Schönberger's website).
Falko Schmidt, 25 October 2002

See also the Department for Communities and Local Government stream on flickr where they have a set of county flags. The scallops are more ornate than on the registered flag.
Colin Dobson, 2010

Former Bedfordshire County Council Coat of Arms

[Arms of Bedfordshire CC] image located by Valentin Poposki, 22 July 2020

Official blazon:

  • Arms: Quarterly Or and Gules a Fess wavy barry way of four Argent and Azure surmounted by a Pale Sable charged with three Escallops of the third.
  • Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours issuant from a Wreath of Oak Or a Swan's Head and Neck proper.
  • Supporters: On the dexter side a Lion Gules and on the sinister side a Bull Or.
  • Motto: 'CONSTANT BE'
The arms were officially granted on 12 April 1951. The division of the field quarterly or and gules is derived from the arms of the Beauchamps, Constables of Bedford Castle, the leading family in the county after the Norman Conquest. The Beauchamp of 1215 was one of the promoters of Magna Carta, and their last male was killed at Evesham in 1265. The wavy bar denotes the river Ouse. The pale charged with three escallops commemorates the services of the House of Russell to the State, the County and the County Council, and is taken from the arms of that family. The crest is a swan's head and neck and again refers to the Ouse. The lion supporter is taken from a similar supporter to the Russell coat of arms. The bull supporter stands for the importance of agriculture in the county. The motto "Constant be" is taken from Bunyan's hymn: "Who would true valour see, let him come hither, One here will constant be, come wind, come weather") taken from Wikipedia.
Valentin Poposki, 22 July 2020

Entities formerly part of Bedfordshire County Council
between 1890-1974

Here is the list of all entities that were part of Bedfordshire County Council in this researched period (1890-1974). The dates in parentheses are the years of existence of the entity and a star (*) means there is a coat of arms.

Former Bedfordshire County (1890-1974)

County Councils:

1. Bedfordshire County Council [1890-1974] * [arms]
2. Luton County Borough Council [1964-1974] * [arms re-granted from the Luton Municipal Borough Council arms when it became a County Borough Council in 1964.

District Councils:

1. Ampthill Rural District Council [1894-1974] * [arms granted in 1957]
2. Ampthill Urban District Council [1894-1974]
3. Bedford Municipal Borough Council [1890-1974] * [arms]
4. Bedford Rural District Council [1894-1974]
5. Biggleswade Rural District Council [1894-1974]
6. Biggleswade Urban District Council [1894-1974]
7. Dunstable Municipal Borough Council [1890-1974] * [arms]
8. Eaton Bray Rural District Council [1894-1933]
9. Eaton Socon Rural District Council [1894-1934]
10. Holwell Rural District Council [1894-1897]
11. Kempston Urban District Council [1896-1974]
12. Leighton Buzzard Urban District Council [1894-1965]
13. Leighton-Linslade Urban District Council [1965-1974] * [arms granted 1966]
14. Luton Municipal Borough Council [1890-1964] * [arms granted 1876]
15. Luton Rural District Council [1894-1974] * [arms granted 1959]
16. Sandy Urban District Council [1927-1974]
17. Woburn Rural District Council [1894-1900]

The only entity I found that had a flag is Bedfordshire County Council. It is very similar to the modern flag for traditional/historical Bedfordshire County. The main differences are that the wavy bars on both sides start with white wave, and has different shells.
The Coat of arms for Bedford MBC was granted before 1890 as municipal boroughs in general were created in 1830s and 1860s. The same situation exists for Dunstable MBC.
Source of the coats of arms: Wiki Heraldry of the World
Valentin Poposki, 22 July 2020