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Birmingham, England

West Midlands

Last modified: 2012-01-20 by rob raeside
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[Flag of Birmingham] image by Chris Hancox

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About the Flag

The city flag of Birmingham (England) as flown from the council buildings which I observed on a recent shopping excursion.
Chris Hancox, 24 December 2006

Birmingham City Council flies daily from the main flagpole at Council House, Victoria Square in the centre of Birmingham, a flag representing its arms, known as a banner of arms. There is a secondary flagpole, lower down the main frontage, on which it tends to fly the Union Flag. The banner of arms is blazoned by the city council as follows:

"Quarterly first and fourth Azure a Bend of five Lozenges conjoined Or second and third per pale indented Or and Gules over all a Cross Ermine thereon a Mitre Proper."

It is a flag divided into quarters. In the top left (first) and bottom right (fourth) quarters is a diagonal line of five yellow diamonds on a blue background. These symbolise the arms of the de Bermingham family, former Lords of the Manor and are probably taken from the effigy of Sir William de Bermingham dated 1325 and extant in the Victorian church of St Martins in the Bullring, in Birmingham city centre. The top right (second) and bottom left (third) quarters are divided vertically with a zig-zag (indented in the blazon) line, yellow on the left and red on the right. These originate from the arms of another branch of the same Bermingham family, but have been coloured differently by the city council.

Over all is a cross of ermine. Ermine was first included in a previous version of the city's arms, to mark the incorporation of Edgbaston into the city and is taken from the arms of the Calthorpe family, lords of the manor of Edgbaston. Following local government reorganisation in 1974, the Borough of Sutton Coldfield was incorporated into Birmingham and the arms were subsequently amended. A cross, representing Sutton Coldfield and taken from its arms, was added to the arms, but it was depicted in ermine. Thus, the ermine cross represents Edgbaston and Sutton Coldfield, two very well-off areas of the city.

Superimposed in the centre of the ermine cross is a mitre, the traditional head wear of a bishop and represents John Harmanor Vesey, Bishop of Exeter in the sixteenth century, who was born in Sutton Coldfield and is said to have procured Sutton Coldfield's charter from Henry VIII, as well as other advantages for the town.

The council's web site contains a depiction of the full achievement of its arms and separate badge, together with a helpful description of heraldic terms used here: http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/arms. For further information, including original sources, please see the links below.

Sources:
(1) Personal observations, 1994 to date
(2) Birmingham City Council, web site, http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/arms, stated to be last updated Friday, 9 June 2006 and consulted 27 December 2006
(3) National Library of Ireland, Office of the Chief Herald, web site, http://www.nli.ie, consulted 29 December 2006
(4) Catalogue of Metallic Lapel Ringing Badges, St Martin's Guild for the Diocesan [sic] of Birmingham, consulted 27 December 2006
(5) Birmingham City Council, Photo Gallery: Images of Birmingham, web site, http://www.birmingham.gov.uk, stated to be last updated Tuesday, 28 March 2006 and consulted 27 December 2006
(6) Birmingham City Council, The Armorial Bearings of the City of Birmingham 1889-1977 as depicted on Spring Hill Branch Library" (abridged and amended), A. P. S. de Redman, Honorary City Armorist, as consulted web site, http://www.birmingham.gov.uk, stated to be last updated Wednesday, 15 November 2006 and consulted 27 December 2006
(7) Birmingham City Council, City Council - Coat of Arms Heraldry, A. P. S. de Redman, Honorary City Armorist, as consulted web site, http://www.birmingham.gov.uk, stated to be last updated Monday, 15 July 2002 and consulted 27 December 2006

Colin Dobson, 31 December 2006