Upholland is a parish of West Lancashire, which has a history that goes back before the Domesday Book was created in 1086. In 2011, Upholland had a population of little under 7500 people.
The parish is noted for its church named for St Thomas the Martyr, otherwise known as Thomas Plantagenet, who was the 2nd Earl of Lancaster (c. 1278 – 22 March 1322). Upon his death, miracles were said to have occurred near his tomb in Pontefract, Yorkshire, and he was canonised after petitions from the commoners. The church was commissioned by the Baron Robert de Holland, whose fief was Upholland at that time, and was also the secretary to Thomas Plantagenet.
St Thomas Plantagenet and the church dedicated to him are central to Upholland’s identity. The church itself appears on the emblem of Upholland Parish Council, which can be seen below.
In the picture above we can see four key features. In the top corner, we see a sketch of the Church of St. Thomas the Martyr. Across the centre in the bend there are three fleurs-de-lis. In the bottom-right, there is a lion rampant guardant Argent (which is heraldic terminology for ‘a silver or white lion on its hind legs facing the viewer’, as opposed to facing left or right). Given that even the Upholland Parish Council website has this icon in black and white, we can only guess the colours, although it is pretty easy to examine.
The origins of this emblem are quite simple to decipher. The church is of course the Church of Saint Thomas the Martyr. The rampant lion comes from the coat of arms of the Holland family which ruled Upholland until the 1500s. The fleurs-de-lis could come from two places. It could be rooted in the arms of Saint Thomas Plantagenet, whose personal arms carried three columns of three fleurs-de-lis. However it could also come from the arms of the de Holland family again, which had a pattern of fleurs-de-lis in the background. It should be noted that both the lion and the fleurs-de-lis appear on the coat of arms of West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) in the blue portion. The fourth feature is the text which says “UP HOLLAND PARISH COUNCIL”.
Some coats of arms very easily translate to flags. The most obvious flag with this origin is Amsterdam’s which came from the city’s coat of arms. However Upholland is not quite like the Dutch capital as its name might suggest. As a result a bit of tweaking had to take place to modify this design into an appropriate flag.
It is generally understood that buildings, particularly sketches of buildings, are not pleasant features on a flag. There are a couple of exceptions, such as Gibraltar’s flag, but that is stylised heavily. We’ve already learned that St. Thomas Plantagenet’s church is a crucial element of Upholland’s local identity, however, and thus it would be in poor taste to erase any element of it from this hypothetical flag. Text however, must never ever (ever) appear on a flag – just look at all those ghastly American state flags – and thus writing should never, and will never, appear on any flags or emblems that I design. The lion, however, will stay, although it will have to stand out a wee bit more than it has in the past.
So it is already decided that the church will have to go. This is sad, because like I said, it is quintessential to Upholland’s heritage. However, it can very easily be substituted and tributes to St Thomas the Martyr can take its place. The most obvious of this is the symbol of his household, the Plantagenet dynasty, which ruled as the House of Lancaster in English history. That symbol is the red rose of Lancaster, which now appears as the central element of the Lancashire county flag, and was made famous by the Wars of the Roses, named for such symbols. As a result including the red rose has a double effect – representing both the sainted Thomas, Earl of Lancaster as well as Upholland’s location in Lancashire.
So let’s get to work.
The lion on the arms of the de Holland family frankly looks awful, from any representation that I can see. Thankfully, I was able to find an appropriate substitute on Google Images by simply searching for ‘Lion rampant guardant‘. What I found was this ferocious looking beast (right).
It looks heraldic enough, although he needs to be silver. Fear not. I have Paint.NET to hand to change this into a more appropriate lion worthy of the Parish of Upholland.
Whilst the house of Holland had this lion as silver in its arms, in heraldic terminology the term ‘Argent’ can mean either white or silver. WLBC decided to go with white when they formed their coat of arms, and I applaud them. On flags, white is always a much better option than silver, which frankly just comes off as looking grey.
I experimented with several designs using the parish council coat of arms as a template, and I ended up narrowing it down to these two:
The blue came from the Holland coat of arms, and is the same shade of blue that is on the WLBC emblem. The yellow is from the flag of Lancashire. A major problem with these flags is that they are exceptionally busy. The three fleurs-de-lis, the lion and the rose make it hard for your eye to centre on just one place. Also, the three colours of the background are unpleasant for ones eyes. I pondered if this was a problem with the diagonal design itself, and so I attempted some alternatives. Well, many alternatives.
I concluded that a larger lion was better, since it drew focus and was big enough to be seen far away with and be recognisable. I wanted all the elements (Lancaster rose, Holland lion, and three fleurs-de-lis) to be represented. Three colours, rather than two, made it more distinctive as well. As a result I decided to go with a rather unconventional, asymmetrical design. First, I put the yellow and rose on the hoist, to demonstrate that this is a flag from WEST Lancashire. Next, I put a pale of black across it to separate the butter-coloured Lancastrian flag from the blue field of the de Holland portion of the flag. Then, I made the lion much bigger than it had been prior. Consequently, what I got was this:
Much better, yes?
What do you think? Could it have been done better? Please leave your comments below.
Thank you very much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my post.