Back in the 18th century, when Thomas Baldwin built the Guildhall, Bath was very much a city in its own right. The current Bath-stone building replaced a Stuart Guildhall, which itself replaced an earlier Tudor structure.
For centuries this has been the town hall and the residence of the Mayor of Bath. The current one – Cllr Ian Gilchrist – became the 790th mayor of the city when he was elected last June.
Bath was made a County Borough in 1889 and remained a city council until the demise of Avon and the arrival of the B&NES authority in 1996.
The Mayor is just a figurehead now – an ambassador for Bath – a civic leader with no real power but a rallying point for those with pride in their city.
A few months ago l was wonder why Bath didn’t have its own flag. You’ll see a Union flag and a rather limp logo for B&NES fluttering in the breeze above the city but – though there is a spare pole – no city flag.
A bit of digging and l discover there is a flag – bearing the city’s coat of arms – but as the Guildhall is now the town hall for the whole of Bath and North East Somerset – it wouldn’t be appropriate to fly it above the building.
Unofficially, l have been told it is now regarded as the Mayor of Bath’s flag but – as the Mayor’s Parlour is STILL housed in the Guildhall – why can’t it fly on the roof in his ( or her) name?
Asking Bath Abbey to fly it on the day that the Mayor Making ceremony is happening within is also a good idea!
I don’t think it is a bad thing to encourage people to take pride in the city of Bath. Indeed l have set out to fly the flag on my own flagpole at home.
I went to see Mr David Dixon at Minuteman Press in Walcot Street – himself a former councillor and now Honary Alderman – who very kindly ran me a little number from his stored image of the city’s coat of arms.
I am told you can’t copyright this flag because there are so many versions of the city’s coat of arms decorating various parts of the city – but l was also told you need the permission of the Mayor and his fellow Charter Trustees if you want to hoist your own version on high.
I sent an email a few weeks ago and am waiting to hear back.
Many Batb visitors buy souvenir flags when they are in the city. I am also hoping there might be a City of Bath flag on the racks soon for them to take away.
The version l have was featured in a previous article on Bath Newseum. Here is the text.
“You’ll come across various visual interpretations of Bath’s coat of arms around the city but the one l am showing you is based on the earliest depiction from 1568 in William Smith’s Particular Description of England – now in the British Museum.
The ownership of the crest is actually unclear as there is no longer a Bath City Council – the city is now part of a unitary authority which does not display the crest on its documents or website.
Let’s take you through the coat of arms from bottom to top.
The motto – Aqua Sulis or Waters of Sulus – is the Roman name for Bath.
A lion and a bear hold up the shield and stand on oak branches with acorns which are linked to King Bladud – the legendary founder of Bath – and the man feeding his pigs acorns when they ran off to discover the steaming mud and thermal waters of the hot springs.
The lion stands for bravery, valour, strength and royalty. The bear for strength, cunning and ferocity in the protection of one’s kindred.
The shield depicts the town wall, the mineral springs and River Avon and the sword of St Paul – one of the patron saints of Bath Abbey – which is also the town’s parish church.
The lion and bear also display the crossed sword and keys – representing both patron saints. St Peter – who held the keys to the kingdom of Heaven – shares the protection of the Abbey with St Paul.
Above them, the crown of King Edgar – first king of all England – is held aloft by the arms of St Dunstan who performed his coronation in Bath in 973 AD.”