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Oxfordshire (England)

Traditional English County

Last modified: 2021-09-09 by rob raeside
Keywords: oxfordshire |
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[Flag of Oxfordshire County Council] image by Jason Saber, 13 October 2017

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Introduction: Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire, called "Oxon" by residents, is located in southeast England. Its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon "Oxenaford" meaning a "ford for oxen." It is both a traditional and ceremonial English county. The modern ceremonial county is bordered by six other counties - Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire - and is landlocked because of it. The Thames River runs the length of it. Its main centres of population include the city of Oxford, Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington, Chipping Norton, Carterton, Witney, Thame, Chinnor, Abingdon-on-Thames, Wantage, Didcot, Wallingford, Henley-on-Thames, Thames, and the Vale of White Horse. The modern ceremonial county contains parts of South Oxfordshire and the historic county of Berkshire. Throughout most of its history the county was divided into fourteen "hundreds." They were Bampton, Banbury, Binfield, Bloxham, Bullingdon, Chadlington, Dorchester, Ewelme, Langtree, Lewknor, Pyrton, Ploughley, Thame and Wootton.
The area had been largely ignored by the Romans and did not grow in importance until the formation of the settlement at Oxford in the 8th century. Alfred the Great was born in Wantage across the Thames and traditional Oxfordshire wasn't recorded as a county until the 10th century. The University of Oxford was first founded in 1096 and during the Middle Ages and early modern period the county became a major educational centre. The Cotswolds area developed as a major wool trade centre in the 13th century and generated much wealth for those involved in it. The county's main occupation remained agricultural until the 20th Century. Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912, bringing heavy industry to the otherwise agricultural county. The importance of agriculture as the main employer declined rapidly in the 20th century replaced by car manufacturing, technology companies, and tourist industries.
On the Oxfordshire Flag the dark blue colour is associated with Oxford University; the two broad, white, wavy stripes symbolise the Thames River and the red ox head, the golden oak tree and wheatsheaf (garb) represent the county's woodlands and agriculture.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021


Description of the County Flag

Oxfordshire's flag was registered in May 2017 following a request delivered in February from a collection of county bodies. Registration was secured after several months and the flag appeared on the registry on October 9th.
A flag bearing a red ox head set against two white wavy stripes, running from the top left to the bottom right corner, all placed against a blue background, with a golden oak tree and wheat sheaf in respective bottom left and top right corners, had been popularly and widely flown across the county. Originating as the armorial banner of the shield from the coat of arms awarded to Oxfordshire County Council in 1949, the design included the blue of Oxford University while the white wavy stripes represent the River Thames flowing through the county. In combination with the red ox head, the arrangement punningly alluded to the name of the county town of Oxford, around which the wider county is based. The golden wheat sheaf, top right and golden tree, bottom left, represented the agriculture and woods of the county. The arms were no longer used by any armiger (arms holder) following the 1974 reorganisation of the local authority.
This acknowledged Oxfordshire emblem has been used by county organisations such as the local constabulary, whose badges bore the ox head and wavy stripes; and the county fire brigade; and attesting to its long established local provenance, it further appeared on souvenir items such as a decorative horse brass, a car badge and a stitching pattern map of the county.
The flag has also been much used by the county's scouts both at home and at international gatherings, to represent their county, as seen in a 2016 visit to Iceland, and continues to be proudly used by them in shield shape, as a badge. Oxfordshire Rugby Football Union's badge is also the familiar county emblem whilst the county's rugby players proudly wear the Oxfordshire flag on their sleeves!
The red ox on white wavy stripes and blue field is also the badge of the Oxfordshire county hockey association whilst the county's junior badminton team proudly present the county flag in competition and the design appears on the sign of the Oxfordshire village of Goring.
Most notably the acknowledged county flag appears on the Twitter profile of a county based news service.
Demonstrably, to all intents and purposes already established as the flag of Oxfordshire, in late February 2017 Oxfordshire residents contacted the Flag Institute to request that their de facto county flag be added to its registry. The request was presented by the following seventeen local groups

  1. Oxfordshire CCC Play Cricket
  2. Army Cadets Going Further
  3. Oxfordshire Home Guard
  4. Oxfordshire Hockey
  5. Oxfordshire County Pool
  6. Oxford & District Anglers Association
  7. Oxford Riding Club
  8. Berks Bucks & Oxon Golf
  9. Bicester Local History Society
  10. Bampton Community Archive
  11. Hook Norton Local History Group
  12. Cowley Local History Society
  13. Bensington Society Historical Group
  14. Bartons History Group
  15. Weston On The Green Memorial Village Hall
  16. Sibfords History Society
  17. Thame Historical Society
The Flag Institute required further revision of the existing design which led to the current version created by Charles Ashburner, chief executive of the flag manufacturer, Mr. Flag. Following its registration the Oxfordshire flag began to fly.
Jason Saber, 13 October 2017

As far as I am aware, this is a banner of the arms and is seen at the Headquarters of Oxfordshire County Council flying alongside the Union Flag.
Michael Carchrie Campbell, 11 February 2005

Whilst in Oxford on 05 February 2005, I noticed that County Hall, New Road, Oxford (the aforementioned headquarters of Oxfordshire County Council), was indeed flying the flags as described in Michael's email. However, there is no fringe on the banner of arms. Further, County Hall, Oxford usually only flies flags on so-called "Red Letter Days"; it does not make a practice of flying a flag every day and moreover, the other flagpole often flies the European Union flag, instead of the Union Flag or sometimes, the flag of Saint George (Queen's Jubilee 2002). Given the special national nature of the day (anniversary of The Queen's accession to the throne), it can only be assumed that the county council - along with many colleges of the university and even churches of the Church of England situated in the city - were choosing to fly the Union Flag.
The banner of arms flown at County Hall, Oxford is of the same proportion as the Union Flag, which makes it slightly unusual locally, as those of the individual colleges of the university, when they fly their banners of arms, are of different proportions to each other.
Colin Dobson, 13 February 2005

County Hall has been flying both the Union Flag and the County's Banner every day since I got here in September (2004).
Michael Carchrie Campbell, 18 February 2005

The flag displays a banner of arms of the former Oxfordshire County Council. These were first granted in 1949 and many local organisations use them. On a field of Oxford blue, two broad white diagonal waves represent the rivers Thames and Ox. Placed centrally upon them is an Oxford ox head in red. A wheat sheaf (upper right) and tree (lower left) - both in yellow - evoke the county's agriculture and woodland.

  • Flag Type: County Flag
  • Flag Date: 1949
  • Flag Designer: College of Arms
  • Adoption Route: Traditional
  • UK Design Code: UNKG7457
  • Aspect Ratio: 3:5
  • Pantone®Colours: Blue 282, White, Red 186, Yellow 116
Source: Flag Institute Registry: Oxfordshire.
Valentin Poposki, 2 July 2020


Oxfordshire Flag
Proposals and Commercial Variants

[Oxfordshire County Council - variant #1]     [Oxfordshire County Council - variant #2]
images located by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021

These proposals where predecessors of the current county flag. Their designs differ a bit from the design finally registered on the Flag Institute registry. The width of the white wavy lines vary in size, but that bull always seems angry on all the flags.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021

[Oxfordshire County Council - variant #1] image by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021
Based on this photo of the actual flag.

"Two versions of the established county emblem had been rendered as flags, one with superior artistry and a more poorly rendered one which better matched the high standard of existing designs of flags on the Flag Institute's registry and reflected the advice on flag design which the Flag Institute promotes." (source) This manufacturer's variant with its almost skull-like bull and rather crudely drawn elements appears to have be been popular. Kinda' spooky.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021


Oxfordshire County Council Logos

[Oxfordshire County Council Logos]     detail of shield ⇒ [Oxfordshire County Council Arms Logo]
images located by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021

The Oxfordshire County Council Logos are usually green on a white background and features a rounded stylized shield loosely based on their arms.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021


Oxford County Council
Commercial Variant

[Commercial Flag of Oxfordshire County Council] Image by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021
Based on this image located by Dirk Schoenberger (Source: Newton/Newton Flags)

Newton Newton flags shows a second flag also labeled "Oxfordshire County Council". This appears to be a dark green field with a circular coat of arms in white on it. The stylized version of the Coat of Arms contains within the capital letter "O" for Oxfordshire - in white on the dark green flag. However, I have never seen this flag actually on display anywhere in the county, although this of course, does not mean that it does not exist.
Colin Dobson, 13 February 2005

This is the flag of the Oxford County Council.

"The present council's own arms in banner form are commercially available in some outlets, mistakenly marketed as Oxfordshire Flag. This design derives from the above original form of the arms but was specifically altered to represent the modern authority and accordingly differs markedly from the original design, principally with the absence of the distinctively Oxfordshire element of the red ox head and also on its specific stylisation. This armorial banner and the arms from which it derives, as dictated by the rules of heraldry, represent only Oxfordshire County Council and no one else has any right to use them. This is not the county flag of Oxfordshire but ONLY the banner of arms of the modern day Oxfordshire County Council." Source: British County Flags: Oxfordshire.
Richard Munro, 1 December 2011


Oxfordshire Coat of Arms

[Oxfordshire Coat of Arms 1949] granted 1949    [Oxfordshire Coat of Arms 1949] granted 1976
1949 image located by Jason Saber, 13 October 2017 (source), 1976 image located by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021 (source)

The newer arms were officially granted in 1976 replacing older arms that had been granted back in 1949. The wavy bent white lines represent the Thames river and the blue background is associated with the colors of Oxford University. The garb and the tree represent nature and the agricultural character of the county. The crest shows an Oxford Down Ram on the mound of Oxford Castle. The castle dates back to 1071 and has long been the seat of government of Oxfordshire. The modern County Hall is located there where the ancient shire hall had been. The ram motif indicates the importance of the wool industry to the area. The red ox supporter on the newer coat of arms is taken from the arms of Oxford city and the white horse supporter is taken from the old arms of the Berkshire County Council.
The main part of design is similar because the newer arms were largely based on the old arms. The main difference is the ox in the center (representing ox-ford) and the two rams as supporters.

Official Blazons

  • 1949 Arms: Azure two Bendlets wavy Argent between in chief a Garb and in base an Oak Tree eradicated and fructed Or in the fess point an Ox's Head caboshed Gules.
  • 1976 Arms: Azure two Bendlets wavy Argent between in chief a Garb Or and in base an Oak Tree fructed Or.
  • 1949 Crest: Issuing from a Mural Coronet Gules a Mount Vert thereon a representation of St. George's Tower Oxford Castle proper; Mantled Azure, doubled Argent.
  • 1976 Crest: Issuant from a Mural Crown Gules a Grassy Mount proper thereon an Oxford Down Ram proper gorged with a Collar Azure charged with a Barrulet wavy fesswise Argent; Mantled Azure doubled Argent.
  • 1949 Supporters: On either side an Oxford Down Ram proper gorged with a Collar Azure thereon a Bar wavy Argent.
  • 1976 Supporters: On the dexter an Ox guardant Gules gorged with a Collar Azure charged with a Barrulet wavy Argent and on the sinister a Horse Argent gorged with a like Collar on a Compartment comprising a Grassy Mound furrowed per pale and the lower edge excavated proper.
  • 1949 Motto: Sapere aude The motto means "Dare to be wise" and is that of Lord Macclesfield, Chairman of the County Council when the arms were granted.
Source: Heraldry of the World: Oxfordshire.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021


Oxfordshire Arms/Shields

[Flag of Oxfordshire County Council] 1949 shield with ox head    [Flag of Oxfordshire County Council] 1976 shield without ox head.
images by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021

Oxfordshire has two shields based on their 1949 and 1976 County Coat of Arms. Both remain in use. The County County shield containing the ox head has been in use since 1949 and seems to have been favoured as source over the newer 1976 design on the county flag.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021


Oxfordshire Variants
Without Ox Head based on 1976 Coat of Arms

    images by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021
Both images based partly on this image located by Dirk Schoenberger. (Source: Newton/Newton Flags)

On eBay was posted the same flag but lacking a red ox head in the centre. I've no idea if this was an unofficial variant. Using the ox head gives the flag a more local identity, and gives it some sort of relationship with the city crest (and those of Oxford United and Oxford City FC).
Martin Brodetsky, 14 February 2008

This is not the county flag of Oxfordshire but only the banner of arms of the modern day Oxfordshire County Council. Another version of the modern council's armorial banner unaccountably uses a green background field without the ox head as illustrated above.
Source: British County Flags.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021


St. Frideswide Cross Flag
Proposed Flag for Oxfordshire

[A Flag for Oxfordshire] image by Jason Saber, 2 August 2010

This flag for Oxfordshire was being promoted. This is being named the Saint Frideswide Cross, a white cross on a quartered green and blue field. It is the suggestion of the Oxfordshire Association.
Jason Saber, 2 August 2010


Thames Valley Police

[Flag of Thames Valley Police Type #1]       [Flag of Thames Valley Police Type #2]
images by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021
Based on this illustration and this photo.

The Thames Valley Police is the territorial police force responsible for policing the counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire. It is one of the largest territorial police forces in England. Their headquarters are in Kidlington, Oxfordshire.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021

Thames Valley Police Shield and Logos

[Thames Valley Police Shield]     [Thames Valley Police Shield Logo]     [OThames Valley Police Shield Logo]
images located by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021
Shield image based on this medal sign.

The Oxford Constabulary was formed in 1835. They were one of a number of local police forces that would be later amalgamated together to form a larger territorial police force. These early local police forces were the Buckinghamshire Constabulary, the Berkshire Constabulary, the Reading Borough Police, the Oxfordshire Constabulary, and Oxford City Police. Under the Police Act 1964 these five forces were jointed together in 1968 to form the Thames Valley Constabulary.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021

Thames Valley Police Authority Coat of Arms

[Thames Valley Police Authority Coat of Arms] image by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021

The arms used by the Thames Valley Police were officially granted on September 7, 1971. They combine the arms of the five police authorities of the Buckinghamshire Constabulary, Reading Borough Police, Oxfordshire Constabulary, Berkshire Constabulary, and Oxford City Police. The shield depicts the Thames river that runs the length Thames Valley. The five crowns, representing the five councils are the symbol of protection. Tthe swan is a symbol of the county of Buckinghamshire, the Ox a symbol of the county of Oxfordshire and the stag a symbol of the county of Berkshire. The motto means: 'Let there be peace in the Thames Valley'

Official Blazon

  • Arms: Vert, on a pale wavy argent, a pallet wavy azure, over all five crowns palisado in saltire Or.
  • Crest: on a wreath argent and azure, a swan rousant proper, gorged with a Saxon crown gules, supporting by the dexter foot a sword, point upwards, in its scabbard Or.
  • Supporters: (dexter) a stag gules, attired and unguled Or, (sinister) an ox gules, armed Or, each gorged with a collar paly argent and azure, with a chain affixed thereto Or.
  • Motto: Sit pax in Valle Tamesis
Source: Heraldry of the World: Thames Valley Police Authority.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021


Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service

[Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service Flag]      [Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service Flag]
images by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021

The Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is mostly a volunteer on-call fire service, although there is a small full time cadre. The service currently operates out of 25 fire stations, but only three of which are crewed with a full time 24-hour crew. Three more stations are crewed only during the day, and 19 are crewed solely by on-call volunteers. The Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters is in Kidlington, but they are controlled from the Thames Valley Fire Control Center based in Reading, in partnership with Royal Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue services.
Shown here are the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service flag, logo and badge.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021


West Oxfordshire District
West Oxfordshire District Council

[West Oxfordshire District Council] image by Pete Loeser, 7 September 2021

West Oxfordshire is a local government district in northwest Oxfordshire. The district headquarters are located in the town of Witney. The area is mainly rural Downs land and forest, the main activities being farming and associated trades. It includes the towns of Woodstock, Burford, Chipping Norton, Charlbury, Carterton and Witney and was created by the Local Government Act of 1972.
Pete Loeser, 7 September 2021

West Oxfordshire District Logos

[West Oxfordshire District Council Logo #1]     [West Oxfordshire District Council Logo #1]
images located by Pete Loeser, 7 September 2021


Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Regiment

[Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Flag - commerical] image by Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021
Image based on this commercially sold flag ©.

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was based at Cowley Barracks on Bullingdon Green, Cowley. It was a light infantry regiment of the British Army that existed from 1881 until 1958, serving in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II. The Ox and Bucks Light Infantry was in 1948 reduced to a single Regular Army battalion and in 1958, renamed the 1st Green Jackets Brigade.
This flag is not their official colours, but a commercially marketed flag for those wishing to honor the unit and its history.
Pete Loeser, 4 January 2021