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Sussex (England)

Traditional English County

Last modified: 2021-05-08 by rob raeside
Keywords: sussex | worthing | east sussex |
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[flag for Sussex] image located by Jason Saber, 21 May 2011 (The Flag Institute: Sussex)

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Introduction: The Traditional County of Sussex

The Traditional County of Sussex is a good example of one of the 39 historical, or ancient English counties, that have been displaced "officially" by legislative action and divided into newer ceremonial entities. Sussex county hasn't had an administrative body since the Domesday Book was published in 1086. Its ancient lands are bordered by Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, and the English Channel. Today it is not even listed as one of the 48 modern English counties. Sussex, whose name comes from the name "South Saxons," was once an independent medieval kingdom but its traditional lands are now officially parts of the counties of West Sussex and East Sussex.
That said Sussex is still very real in the minds of its inhabitants and many generations of British students of history. The county has a colorful history dating back to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Prior to the Roman invasions it was ruled by a Belgic tribe called the Atrebates. During the Roman occupation Sussex county was the heartland of the Roman Britain. The Roman capital was Noviomagus Reginorum, known today as Chichester in modern West Sussex county.
When the Roman forces retreated in the 5th century they left their lands, especially the future Kingdom of Sussex, open to the Anglo-Saxon tribes who created the kingdom of the South Saxons under King Ælle, who was the first Bretwalda (British ruler). Later the efforts of Saint Wilfrid converted Sussex to became the last of the seven traditional kingdoms of the heptarchy to undergo Christianisation. Around 827 the Kingdom of Sussex was annexed by the Kingdom of Wessex (West Saxons), which was destined eventually to became the Kingdom of England.
In 1066 Norman forces overran Sussex, then the heartland of King Harold Godwinson kingdom. The Battle of Hastings saw his defeat and William the Conqueror went on to establishing six semi-independent territories in Sussex known as rapes. Sussex as a kingdom or even a county ceased to exist with any sort of local control at this time. It didn't physically disappear but would never again become a separately administrated area.
Sussex has always been in the centre of things in England. Castles were built, many the subject of sieges in the High Middle Ages. Many Sussex ports, especially the Cinque Ports, provided the ships for the Royal Navy. During the Hundred Years War Sussex was entangled as the place of first contact, and in all the various rebellions that followed in the late medieval period such as the Peasants' Revolt, Cade's rebellion and others. This included religious intolerance, when under Henry VIII the church in England split from Roman Catholicism. Mary I returned England to supporting Catholicism and in Sussex 41 Protestants were burned to death. Under Elizabeth I it was the Catholics' turn to loose their lives.
In 1974, the Lord-Lieutenant of Sussex was replaced with one each for East Sussex and West Sussex, which became separate ceremonial counties. In the 21st century a Sussex county day and a county flag were created and a National Park was established for the South Downs. The traditional Sussex only exists in the memories of its people.
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

The Sussex Flag

"The flag displays the traditional emblem of Sussex (six gold martlets on an azure field). Its origins are now thought to lie in personal heraldry of the high Middle Ages. However, its first recorded use to represent the county dates back to 1611-1612. On a map depicting the seven kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy, cartographer John Speed twice deployed the device to indicate the kingdom of the South Saxons."

  • Flag Type: County Flag
  • Flag Date: C17th
  • Flag Designer: Traditional
  • Adoption Route: Traditional
  • UK Design Code: UNKG7424
  • Aspect Ratio: 3:5
  • Pantone® Colours: Blue 286, Yellow 109
  • Certification: Graham Bartram, Flag Institute Chief Vexillologist
Source: Flag Institute: Sussex
Valentin Poposki, 1 July 2020

Sussex Flag Competition

[BBC Winner flag for Sussex Flag] BBC radio Entry    [Traditional St Richard's Flag] "St Richard" flag
images located by Andrew Whitnall, 22 May 2009 and Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

There has been a local BBC radio competition to design a flag for Sussex. The winning entry can be seen at Wikipedia: Sussex_flag.
Andrew Whitnall, 22 May 2009

The was the proposal for a flag for the traditional county of Sussex; Saint Richard's Flag, named after the Sussex's county patron saint, Saint Richard of Chichester. The flag displays six martlets on a blue field (background), which comes directly from the emblem of Sussex, which is a symbol which is used to represent the County of Sussex today. The flag is meaningful, distinctive, simple and eye-catching, and we believed this proposal represents Good old Sussex by the Sea."
Source: Flag of Sussex web page.
Jason Saber, 9 December 2010

The BBC Radio Flag was later re-purposed as the "Commemorative Sussex Day" flag. The Saint Richard's flag would be the eventual winner of the flag design competition. It was the result of a vigorous grass-roots campaign started in August of 2010 by Sussex residents Brady and David Ells. This flag was registered by the Flag Institute on Friday, May 20, 2011, as the official Sussex County flag with a slightly darker blue field.
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

Traditional Sussex County Arms

[traditional Sussex Arms] image by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

Like everything about Sussex County, the "traditional" arms - that of six gold martlets on a blue shield - is almost impossible to research. The shield has been associated with the historic county of Sussex since the early 1600s, but in reality Sussex as a recognized county hasn't had an administrative body since 1086, the year of the Domesday Book. The Local Government Act of 1888 did introduce the concept of administrative counties to be governed by elected county councils, and reintroduced Sussex but divided it into the two separate administrative counties, those of East and West Sussex. Somehow in the process the traditional arms were strangely never officially recognized.
Today, it is believed that the six gold martlets on a blue shield originated from the coat of arms of the 14th century Knight of the Shire, Sir John de Radynden. Basically it have been around for years and is now firmly regarded as the traditional county Heraldic shield, and it forms the basis of the current registered flag of Sussex.
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

Sussex Armorial Flags
Commercial Variants

[Sussex County Flag - Commercial Variant]      [Sussex Armorial Flag - Commercial]
images by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

Both of the above commercially produced flags have been offered up as Sussex County armorial flags by manufacturers prior to the Sussex County flag being registered with the Flag Institute.
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

Sussex County Police Flag

[Sussex County Police Flag] Flag      [Sussex County Police Badge] SCP Badge and Logo
images by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021
Based on this photo.

Like everything in traditional Sussex County even law enforcement is hard to trace. Before 1830 there were just local watchmen who provided some degree of law enforcement in the area. They were replaced by the Brighton Borough Police in 1830. After that various law enforcement services were established in the counties of East Sussex and West Sussex, including separate forces in the larger boroughs of Brighton, Hove, Eastbourne and Hastings. During the Second World War years (1943-1947) they were all temporarily combined under one command, but afterward reverted to the old system. Hove even became part of East Sussex Constabulary. This all changed in 1968 when the territorial Sussex Constabulary combining the Brighton Borough Police, Eastbourne Borough Police, Hastings Borough Police, West Sussex Constabulary and East Sussex Constabulary into one body. In 1974 they were renamed the Sussex Police. Today the Sussex Police is the territorial police force responsible for policing both the counties of East Sussex and West Sussex. They are headquartered in Lewes, East Sussex.
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

Sussex Police Logos

[Sussex County Police Flag]     [Sussex County Police Flag]
images located by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

The Six Rapes of Sussex

    Sussex has a set of unique internal territorial divisions named "Rapes." The origin of the Rapes is unknown however it is strongly believed that four of them predate the Norman Conquest and are possibly Saxon in origin, with the Rape of Bramber being founded by 1086, and the Rape of Chichester being founded by 1275.
    In the second decade of the 21st century, flags for the Sussex rapes were created by county based vexillographer (flag designer) Brady Ells. The designs have a universal look and feel to them to indicate that they represent the Rapes of Sussex, rather than the individual towns or cities from which they take their names. A blue triangle with six gold martlets is placed against the hoist to represent the county and maintains the 3,2,1 pattern of the martlets at all angles. Whilst to date, the flags have not been included by the Flag Institute on its registry, there are de facto circumstances regarding their commercial availability, usage and recognition.
More details at British County Flags: The Rapes of Sussex.
Valentin Poposki, 1 July 2020

Rape of Arundel

[Rape of Arundel, Sussex] image located by Pete Loeser, 30 April 2021

Rape of Bramber

[Rape of Bramber, Sussex] image located by Pete Loeser, 30 April 2021

Rape of Chichester

[Rape of Chichester, Sussex] image located by Pete Loeser, 30 April 2021

Rape of Hastings

[Rape of Hastings, Sussex] image located by Pete Loeser, 30 April 2021

Rape of Lewes

[Rape of Lewes, Sussex] image located by Pete Loeser, 30 April 2021

Rape of Pevensey

[Rape of Pevensey, Sussex] image located by Pete Loeser, 30 April 2021

All six flags of the Rapes of Sussex flags are being manufactured as both table flags (4x6") and standard 3x5' flags.
Sources: this photo and this photo.
Pete Loeser, 30 April 2021

Sussex Party Flag

[Sussex Party Flag] image by Steve Sainsbury, 11 March 2004

The design of the flag for Sussex, produced by the Sussex Party which has been formed to put the case for a parliament for Sussex. We work closely with other regionalist movements in the British Isles. The flag is four bands. The top also has a yellow circle in the top left corner. The circle represents the sun. the first band (blue) the sky, the second band (green) the Downs, the third band (yellow) the beaches and the fourth band (blue) the sea.
The flag is a deliberate departure from the rather staid and historic flags adopted by other regionalist movements in Britain. I imagine commercial production of the flag will be started in the not too distant future, once we've done a bit of publicity/marketing!
Steve Sainsbury MA, Chair, The Sussex Party, 11 March 2004

Cross of St Richard Flag
Used on Sussex Day Celebration

[Sussex Party flag for Sussex] image by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021
Based on this photo.

Sussex Day is on the 16th of June. It is the feast day of the local Saint Richard of Sussex. This armorial banner, known as the "Cross of St Richard," has been displayed at Sussex Day celebrations.
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

Royal Sussex Regiment

[Royal Sussex Regiment] image by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021
Based on this photo.

The Royal Sussex Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army between 1881-1966. The regiment saw service in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II. In 1966 they became part of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires).
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

University of Sussex

[University of Sussex] US Flag     [University of Sussex] US Coat of Arms
images by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

The University of Sussex is a public university located in Sussex, and is surrounded by the South Downs National Park making it the only English university to be located in a national park. The University received its Royal Charter in 1961 and is the first of the so-called plate glass research-intensive universities. It is about 3 miles from central Brighton. In an attempt to appeal to a modern audience, the University chose in 2004 to cease using its coat of arms and to replace it with their modern "US" logo.
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

Sussex County Cricket Club
Sussex Sharks

[Sussex Cricket Club] New Logo Flag    [Sussex Cricket Club] Old Logo Flag
image by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021
New Logo Flag based on this photo.

The Sussex County Cricket Club is the oldest of eighteen first-class county clubs in England and Wales. The Sussex Sharks were founded in 1839 as a successor to the various earlier Sussex county cricket teams, including the old Brighton Cricket Club founded in 1720. Their team colors are light blue and white.
Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021

SCCC Logos

[Sussex Cricket Club]     [Sussex Cricket Club] SCCC Logo    [Sussex Cricket Club]
images located by Pete Loeser, 28 April 2021