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Durham, England

Last modified: 2004-11-20 by rob raeside
Keywords: union jack | durham | washington |
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Durham City

[Durham] by Marcus Schmöger, 24 September 2001

Durham is a city about 30 km south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; it has a really magnificent church (a striking Norman cathedral). The flag is a banner-of-arms and shows a red cross (fimbriated white) on black.
Marcus Schmöger, 24 September 2001

The City of Durham has a simple and attractive shield which is widely seen on official notices, sign-posts, litter bins and other street furniture, etc. It is a red cross on a black field, fimbriated white. There is at least one place where this appears as a flag, in the market place outside the Council offices. The flag is severely tattered, being little more than half its original length, but it looks as though it is 1:2.

Note that Durham also gives its name to the county of which it is the 'capital'. The county has a coat of arms which incorporates what is known as the 'St Cuthbert's Cross'. This also appears in other coats of arms, but not in any flags or banners of arms which I have seen, with the possible exception of a rather unsatisfactory flag which was flying at Durham Castle, which is now part of the University of Durham. It was a maroon field with a coat of arms, including separate a motto, stuck in the middle of it - not at all heraldic.
André Coutanche, 29 October 2004


I have been in touch with both local and county record offices and they know of no flag associated with Sunderland. One possible reason, is that unlike Durham and Newcastle which were centres of Norman power, the area which is now  known as Sunderland had been an established English settlement since the 7th century. However, a number of coats of arms have been granted since the 12th century.
Michael Brown
, 25 April 2003


The small town of Washington lies 6.5 miles (10 km) west of Sunderland, 8 miles (13 km) south of Newcastle, and 10 miles (16 km) north of Durham. It is the place where the Washington family with all its branches (including the one leading to George W.) lived for several hundred years (ca. 1180-1452). I visited the "Washington Old Hall" there which is, however, mostly originating from the 17th century. Of course there are many memorabilia of George Washington (and the USA) there:
  • In the staircase there is a 13 stars US flag of Cowpens design, a gift by an American.
  • There are of course many depictions of the Washington coat of arms (which formed the basis of the flag for the District of Columbia).
  • There is a water colour painting showing the presentation of the first "stars and stripes" (Betsy Ross design) to George Washington. The painting is signed "J.N." and has the inscription "Birth of the American Flag". The accompanying label says that is was "presented by the family of the late Mrs. Johnson". I asked for more info from the museum staff there, but they did not have any more information.
  • There is also a newspaper clipping on display, that reports on the exchange of flags between Washington, D.C. and Washington (Durham County). On 20 February 1933 children from the two Washingtons exchanged five Union Jacks for five "stars and stripes".
  • The little booklet "The Washington family in Britain" which was for sale at Washington Old Hall, correctly states: "The Washington coat of arms is often imagined to have inspired the 'stars and stripes', a description making nonsense of the correct heraldic blazon: Argent (silver) two bars and in chief three molets (spur rowels) gules (red)." A short description of the early history of US flags follows this text.

Marcus E.V. Schmöger 24 September 2001

The word molet (more usually spelled mullet) means a star, and in Britain usually a five-pointed star. (Any other number of points is specified.) A mullet with a hole in the middle (pierced) is called a spur rowel, so the explanation in brackets is incorrect, since the mullets in both the Washington family arms and the District of Columbia flag are whole, not pierced.

Mike Oettle, 13 January 2002