||A flag for Bristol?
The City of Bristol, in the west of England, straddles two of England’s historic counties – Gloucestershire and Somerset, although the extension into Somerset (south of the River Avon) only occurred in the late 19th century. However, it has been a City and County in its own right since 1373, except for the 22 years between 1974 and 1996 when it was part of the now-departed and unlamented County of Avon.
For centuries, Bristol competed with Norwich for the status of England’s second city, until both were overtaken by rapidly-expanding industrial cities further north (Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool …). It was a major port, accessing the Atlantic Ocean via the River Avon, which flows through the city and into the Severn Estuary. Bristol has the honour of being the home port of John Cabot, who, in 1497 set sail in his ship The Matthew to become the first European since the Vikings to set foot on the North American mainland. The city also has the dishonour of having been heavily involved in the slave trade, from which much of its wealth emanated.
Bristol has a history of innovative engineering achievements, such as the SS Great Britain, which was the World’s largest ship when it was launched in 1843, and the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, wrought iron ship. The same engineer who designed the Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was also responsible for the Great Western railway which ran from London to Bristol, and for the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge in the west of the city. In the 20th century, Bristol developed an aircraft industry, producing aircraft for use in both World Wars and later becoming the British centre for the construction and testing of the World’s first supersonic passenger airliner, Concorde. It is now involved in the construction of the Airbus A380, the World’s largest passenger airplane.
The shield of Bristol’s coat of arms dates from the 14th century, and the full arms were granted in 1569. They reflect medieval Bristol’s status as a well-fortified city and a port. These arms now belong to Bristol City Council, and I think I have seen the banner of arms in use by the council.
For a city (as opposed to Council) flag, I opted for simple representations of the city’s maritime and engineering heritage. Maritime activity has to be represented by a ship, as it is in the coat of arms, although I have chosen to use Cabot’s Matthew rather than the medieval vessel in the arms. For engineering and innovation, in the interests of keeping things simple, I opted for nothing more than an inverted arch, indicative of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The colours – red, white and blue – are from the coat of arms.
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