Thursday, 25 April 2019

The Flag of England; A brief history

Posting this in the week following St George's Day I think it might be a good idea to look at the history of the flag of England. Now first off I do not mean the Union Jack as that is not the flag of England but of the United Kingdom, of which England is only a part.
The historic and defacto Flag of England is the St George's Cross. A red latin cross of a white field. Before we look at this flag it might be a good idea to quickly look at it's namesake.
There is much said and resaid about St George as well as many claims regarding his origins. What is probably safe to say is that he was not English he was probably of Greek origin. What we do know is that he was an officer in the Roman army possibly even in the Emperor's Guard and that he was executed by the Emperor Diocletian for his Christian faith on 23rd April 303AD, and this day is celebrated as St George's Day. Myth credits St George with many great deeds including healing the sick and slaying a dragon. Due to his military background St George is seen as the Warrior Saint and thus particularly patronised by soldiers as well as the scouting movement and sufferers of certain skin diseases.
It is important to note that the St George cross was not always the banner of England, there were many flags often associated with a variety of saints that were used by English kings, English ships and English armies since the kingdom was formed in the 10th Century . Dragon standards were used by the Anglo-Saxons and continued to be used post Norman conquest and throughout the middle ages.
St George depicted on the Great War memorial
windows in the Guildhall, Londonderry, N.Ireland
St George’s patronage of England dates to the time of the Crusades. The word crusade literally meaning to take up the cross. This may be because crusaders distinguished themselves by wearing crosses over their armour and on their shields. As a warrior saint, George naturally appealed to the soldiers who believed they were fighting to defend Christendom. There are reports of various miraculous appearances and manifestations of the saint during the crusades, most notably at the battle of Antioch in 1098. In most of these appearances he was said to have been clad in armour emblazoned with the cross. This is why despite being a Roman soldier St George is often depicted as a Crusader in armour appropriate to that era. This could also be where the red cross is attributed to him. It is notable that St George in all likelihood did not use a red cross on white field either on a shield or in a flag in his lifetime, having lived before the advent of heraldry, but that these symbols were attributed to him by later generations. Most likely by the Crusaders for the above mentioned reasons and like the image of St George himself in medieval armour they have stuck to the present day. 
Of the English Crusades the one organised by Henry II and Philip II of France is interesting as in this the English and French distinguished themselves by the colour of their crosses. However it was the French who wore a red cross on white whereas the English wore a white cross on red. Popular belief is that English use of St George's Cross originates from when Richard I the Lionheart, adopted the flag of the Italian state of Genoa and Saint George as his patron saint in 1191 during the Third Crusade. 13th Century English ships in the Mediterranean may have also flew the Genoa flag as a deterrent to pirates (Genoa was a powerful naval power), for this England payed a fee to Genoa. In fact this resurfaced in 2018 when Mayor of Genoa Marco Bucci was reported stating that the last payment was in 1746, and Her Majesty’s Government owed Genoa over 250 years back payments! He further said that he was considering writing to HM the Queen and suggested that payment could be in the form of a large charity donation or the restoration of historic buildings. Buckingham Palace responded by saying it would consider a royal visit to Genoa, and indeed representatives of the UK's Flag Institute were present in Genoa this St George's Day to celebrate Genoa and England's shared use of the flag. 
Badge of the Order of the Garter 
When exactly England adopted St George and his cross is not exactly known, however it seems English soldiers have used the red cross on white as an identifying symbol since at least Edward I; for accounts from 1277 describe cloth for pennons and braces “of the arms of Saint George” for the King’s soldiers.
As already mentioned there were other symbols associated with other Saints used before St George and these didn't disappear but continued to be used alongside St George's Cross. . St George’s dominant position as patron saint may stem from Edward III who founded the Chapel of St George in Windsor, and the founding of the Most Noble Order of the Garter on St Georges’ Day in 1348. 
There are decrees describe how English soldiers should dress throughout the Middle Ages, which often include the wearing of St George's Cross on their Jackets. 
In regard to use on flags in 1370 the Clerk of the armour and artillery of the King’s ships acknowledged receipt of a number of flags which did include “Banners of Saint George” amongst others.

A roll of ship’s flags from the reign of Henry VI describes flags of various saints including St George, St Edward and St Katherine. This type of practice continued until the reformation, put saintly banners out of favour. 
St George was well truly and unquestionably the patron of England by the time of the reformation, as all saintly banners except that of St George disappeared.
Detail from the Anthony Roll depicting
English Warships flying the St George Cross. Public Domain
Henry VIII commissioned many ships during his reign. Although in the early years of his reign ships displayed all sorts of emblems on flags including portcullises, roses, dragons and even greyhounds, later on it appears that the St George’s Cross is the dominant flag. The Anthony Roll records the ships of Henry’s fleet and shows them depicted in great detail. From the rolls we see a more uniform approach to the flags of the fleet. Although royal banners, green and white striped flags (Tudor colours), and flags bearing Henry’s cypher are used, the cross of St George is clearly the ‘national’ flag. The Cross of St George flies prominently from the masts.
During the reign of Elizabeth I we see the appearance of ensigns for the first time. A portrait of the Queen painted to commemorate the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, shows not only the Spanish ships foundering off the stormy coast of the British Isles, but the triumphant English ships identified by the flag of the St George’s Cross.
It is clear that by the 16th Century the Cross of St George had become the lead flag for identifying English ships both merchant and naval. Through this use at sea it was therefore well established as the national flag by 1606 when the Union Flag was first introduced. This flag was introduced by James I who was also King of Scotland to demonstrate his reign over both kingdoms. It combined the Cross of St George representing England with the Cross of St Andrew representing Scotland. 
However this new flag did not replace the Cross of St George for James ordered that British ships fly it alongside their pre existing flags (Cross of St George for the English and St Andrew's Cross from the Scottish). The Union Jack would later be restricted an an ornament for the King's ships (which is still the case today) leaving the St George Cross free reign on land and sea. 
St George's Cross was a prominent symbol in the flags of both sides of the English Civil Wars although it was not featured in all flags. 
 The Navy was at this time colour coded into red, white and blue fleets, with each fleet flying flags corresponding with that colour. Each ship would fly the appropriate coloured ensign with St George's Cross in the Canton, and Admirals flew a flag of the said colour from their flagship. In 1702 the white flags of the Royal Navy emblazoned with the red cross for easier identification. Merchant ships also fell into this scheme being permitted to use the red ensign.In 1702 the white flags of the Royal Navy emblazoned with the red cross for easier identification. This has ramifications to this day as this meant at sea the Cross of St George was the distinct flag of an Admiral and this is still the case today, meaning private craft that display the flag are technically breaking the law. This is also why the modern British naval ensign features a large St George Cross, the Royal Navy dropping the red and blue ensigns and flags in 1864.
Flag of England flying from Leeds Town Hall
Mtaylor848  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
It continued to be used in the Company flags of English regiments and in the canton of English maritime ensigns until the Treaty of Union in 1707 when England & Scotland united to form Great Britain. After this the Union Jack replaced the St George Cross in these flags. Although the symbol was still in use for most of the three centuries of Union the St George Cross was a minor flag in the shadow of the Union Jack. However that is not the case today with the flag in resurgence possibly being more popular with private English citizens than the Union Flag and even flying form many public buildings of local authorities either alongside the Union Jack or in place of it on non designated days. 
This is probably at least in part mirroring the use of Scottish and Welsh flags in those parts of the United Kingdom which have regained popularity in the late 20th Century particularly through sport where the British Home Nations compete separately, although by the 21st Century the popularity of these flags have spread beyond sport to the general public sport fan and non sport fan alike.
By and large the English flag is not seen as a political emblem and is used by members of the public in England for many reasons chief of which is an expression of national identity even if it is not a unique symbol of England.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

A heraldic walk in Derry

As yesterday was a nice day I decided to take a walk around the city centre of Londonderry, Northern Ireland's second city but in my opinion its capital in terms of history.
It might be useful to read this post before from 2012 before reading here as I will reference a few points in it. Starting in the waterside I walked over the double deck blue and white Craigavon Bridge, the top deck features the city coat of arms every few feet.
Towards the end of the bridge is the plaque commemorating its opening
On this plaque is old arms of Northern Ireland and those of the city:

Moving into the old walled city I passed the courthouse featuring the Royal coat of arms from 1801-1816.
Next to the building you can see behind, St Columb's Cathedral

Before the gates of the Cathedral's main drive and on the gate itself (the pic here was taken from inside the gate in order to avoid the sun) are the arms of the former Church of Ireland diocese of Derry (currently paired with Raphoe) on either side of the gate are the city's arms
 and the arms of the Honourable the Irish Society who originally built the church
Inside the gate is the notice board with times for both worshipers and visitors again featuring the diacoses arms
aswell as the Cathedral's seal still in use:
a quick walk in some of the adjourning streets of the walled city and we notice the street name signs feature the city arms.

Onto the city walls themselves, and you will notice a fine collection of 17th & 18th century cannon. Most of these were at various stages provided by the City of London livery companies who financed the plantation city. while the later guns of this period were simply inscribed with the company name the earlier ones bore the London coat of arms, which is still recognisable.

Nxt stop along the walls is the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall. Here there are two versions of the city arms. One on the balcony with the date of the hall's extension
And higher up the arms appear in a roundel with the text "Apprentice Boys of Derry - No Surrender" around it. Note that on this variant of the arms only half of the St George Cross is used.

heading down the walls to between Magazine Gate and Shipquay Gate overlooking the Guildhall are more cannon with the London arms, however two here are significantly older dating from around 1590 and are distinguished by the Tudor rose and crown, although on both this badge is much faded and worn, however the outline of it can still be traced.

The next and last great building we come to is the Guildhall where the council meets and where civic functions are held. From the walls we see that the building is crested with a crowned lion holding the shield of the Kingdom of Ireland. Below this side by side are the city arms and those of the Irish Society
At the base of the adjoining clock tower is the main entrance featuring a very ornate version of the city coat of arms

I confess to not really knowing what the other shields are. The very top one appears to be the arms of the City of London impaled with the Carpenters Guild, the bottom left looks like a variant of the Sherwood arms of which I am not entirely clear on the city connection. The far right is either a cross of St George possibly from the London arms but with the sword worn away or the De Burgh arms who were the Norman Earls of Ulster. 
Along the top of the ground floor windows is a ring of carved oak leaves with three shields, bearing the arms of Ireland, Londonderry and Ulster. 
arms of the city

arms of the kingdom

arms of the province 
I didn't go into any of the buildings mentioned here maybe I'll do that another time as I know they all have heraldry and other symbols on the inside too

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Shelvetop Shed Model Railway

One of my great passions is rail transport and so it is not surprising that one of my hobbies is railway modeling. So here is a post about my model railway 'Shelvetop Shed' which some readers might find of interest. Now my layout is not a very big one in fact it can comfortably occupy the top of a large bookshelf (hence the name), however its present location is currently on top of the dining room table.
The layout is a 00 scale inglenook shunting puzzle, measuring 118cm x 31cm.
The theme is some country sidings on the British Railways network some time in the 1950s/early 1960s, that is in the process of being run down although still being relatively busy. Most of the stock I use on the layout is naturally British Railways stock however I am not terribly strict on the theme and often use private owner and Irish stock as well as some pre nationalisation locomotives on it from time to time.
The main aim of the layout is not to recreate a region or period in time but rather provide an amusing platform to conduct shunting (or switching to use the American term).
The layout is self contained in a homemade plywood box that is open on one side to allow viewing and at the top to allow light in as well as the physical placement of motivepower and rolling stock onto the tracks as there is no off scene fiddle yard.
Birds Eye view of Shelvetop Shed layout
The 'surface' on the layout is constructed on plywood and sits on top of a layer of polystyrene insulation. Power is provided to directly to two lines, the headshunt on the top left of the above picture and the headshunt on the bottom right. The points (switch) in the centre is electrically isolated from the top track connecting the engine shed and headshunt. The points are not powered but operated manually via craft wire that connects to the points through holes drilled in the wood.
A Tri-Ang dock shunter and kitbashed Irish J15 0-6-0 shunting. Note the switches for the points protruding from the side of the layout itself.
 Also of importance are three Pecco shunting ramps which are used to uncouple waggons without the need to handle them.
View of the workmans hut & shed (formerly a coach) note the view of the uncoupling ramps (the one in the background by the old coach has since been removed). 

The trees are homemade as is the back wall, most of the ballast and scatter is from woodland scenics as is most of the foliage, The track is pecco but has been carefully coloured in to look more realistic. The British Railways land rover is from Oxford Diecast and the former coach now shed is a cheap HO scale Lima coach which I bought on ebay for the principle some of 99p (most of my stuff is second hand off ebay and bought on the cheap). The buffersops are tri ang ones I got cheap on ebay, although they required the grips to be sanded down a bit to fit my pecco track, the water crane outside the shed is also a second hand tri ang item.
Tri-ang buffer stops in front of a wargame scenery fence adapted for the layout

A Mainline J72 tank engine rests outside the engine shed, Note the water crane
There are no buffer stops at the shed end of the layout the rail end carefully hidden by foliage to give the impression that the track continues on through the trees.
An 8F and a Jinty at work shunting

An 8F couples onto a train