Lord Bath and fellow enthusiasts for the historic region of Wessex can fly its distinctive red and gold flag freely from Friday, without fear of breaking planning rules.
But ironically anyone who flies the scarlet rectangle emblazoned with a golden wyvern may want to take it down to half-mast just two days later when the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings brings its grim reminder of the death of Harold II, last Saxon king and former Earl of Wessex.
When the West Saxon kingdom was in its pomp such planning rules would have been scythed through, probably with a sharp pattern-welded sword. But in 21st century Britain there are stringent laws governing the types of flags that can be flown.
Eric Pickles, Communities and Local Government Secretary, has reviewed the 2007 regulations and decided that more community, regional, national and international flags should be allowed to fly freely. They will now include: “The flag of any island, county, district, borough, burgh, parish, city, town or village within the United Kingdom; and the flag of the Black Country, East Anglia, Wessex, any Part of Lincolnshire, any Riding of Yorkshire or any historic county within the United Kingdom.”
Lord Bath, who stood as a Wessex Regionalist in the February 1974 general election and was later one of the founders of the Wessex Regionalist Party is a patron of the Wessex Society which is celebrating the news of the rule change by advising the public of especially important dates in the history of Wessex when supporters may wish to fly the flag.
The Wessex Society is a cultural organisation dedicated to promoting a distinctive identity for Wessex, which is defined as the pre-1974 counties of Devon, Berkshire, Bristol, Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, the Isle of Wight, and Oxfordshire,
Dates suggested include St Aldhem’s Day, May 25, the anniversary of the death of the great West Saxon saint and unofficial patron saint of Wessex, who died at Doulting, near Shepton Mallet; King Alfred’s Day, October 26; and the birthdays of the Earl and Countess of Wessex, on March 10 and January 20.
“The relaxation of the various somewhat intricate flag flying laws is to be most heartily welcomed, allowing people of diverse areas to proclaim and express freely their love of regional identity”, said the Wessex Society’s chairman Derek Pickett.
Bristol-born society member Nick Xylas, 45, said: “It is very welcome news. I joined the society because I have always been interested in Anglo Saxon history and wanted to express my loyalty to my little patch of Bristol.”
The flag of Wessex is first recorded as being flown at the battle of Burford in 752AD.
Wessex flags are offered for sale by a number of manufacturers and the society recommends the Hampshire Flag Company in Waterloovile as a good supplier.