The previous Penarth flag had the three bears on a b;ue background. The new one has a white background - and no one seems to know why it's changed.

The previous Penarth flag had the three bears on a blue background. The new one (right) has a white background – and no one seems to know why it’s changed. The new flag also omits the name of Penarth Town Council

A vexillological issue arose in Penarth Town Council ‘s policy and finance committee last night when it was revealed that the council had been – apparently inadvertently –  supplied with a Penarth Town Flag in the wrong colours.

The revelation was made at the outset of the meeting by  Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)   .

The replacement flag should have looked like this one

The replacement flag should have looked like this one

Cllr Anthony Ernest, Conservative Plymouth Ward

Cllr Anthony Ernest, Conservative Plymouth Ward

Cllr Ernest asked the chairman, Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines), if he could raise a “slightly controversial” matter regarding the payments of council accounts. He noted there had been a payment to “Mr Flag” for £87.36 for the supply of a replacement Penarth Flag – but that the new flag appeared to have a white background [ PDN Note: the correct vexillological term is “field” ] 

Cllr Ernest said “The town council flag used to have a blue background – together with the shield/coat of arms – but now has a white background.” He wondered how that “fundamental change of design” had come about.

Deputy Town Clerk of Penarth Keri Hutchings

Deputy Town Clerk of Penarth Keri Hutchings

There was puzzled silence from the committee. Deputy Town Clerk Keri Hutchings said he didn’t really know how this had happened.

Cllr Ernest said the flag should comprise the familiar traditional emblem of the “three bears” against a background of blue .

The Town Clerk Emma Boyden said the council had not used a different flag-supplier.

Mayor of Penarth Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines)

Mayor of Penarth Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines)

From the chair the Mayor Cllr Mike Cuddy said the council had once considered going to the College of Heralds for their advice   but it would have cost so much it had been decided to continue with the existing design. He was, however unable to throw any light on the change of colour to white and would “raise the issue” with the suppliers.

Cllr Ernest  – who said he was “a bit of a traditionalist” – said he hadn’t intended to suggest challenging the payment, but if the flag was wrong perhaps the suppliers could correct it .


The Penarth Town Flag disappeared from the five flagstaffs outside the Council Offices in June. The now-irrelevent European Union flag however was flown.

The Penarth Town Flag disappeared from the five flagstaffs outside the Council Offices in June this year – but despite the outcome of the EU Referendum, space was found for the now-irrelevent European Union flag. The red chevron flag is that of the Vale of Glamorgan. The one on the right is for Commonwealth Day

The official Penarth Town Flag design carries the Town Crest –  comprising a bear’s head above a shield emblazoned with a Welsh Dragon and a sailing ship.

Two further bears obligingly stand on their hind legs on either side of the shield, supporting it. Beneath is the Welsh inscription “Cynghori er Llesiant(Counselling for the Common Good).

The original crest of Penarth Urban District Council is displayed in the Council Chamber

The original crest of Penarth Urban District Council is displayed in the Council Chamber

The original 140 year old embroidered crest of Penarth Urban District Council is displayed in the Council Chamber –  but there are  varying accounts of quite how the design came to be conceived.

One version says it was originally drafted by “the town’s architect in 1875 from a detailed brief prepared by the Town Board”  (the Penarth Local Board of Health – established in 1875 –  was a forerunner of the Penarth Urban District Council and later the present Town Council).

The Penarth Town Council's official crest

The Penarth Town Council’s official crest

Another version of the story also says the Penarth Board originally instructed its “surveyor” to design a seal which was to include a bear’s head.

Welsh purists claim the inclusion of the bear (in fact all three bears) is a gross and perverse mistake – and came about because the name “Penarth” was “wilfully mis-translated” as “Pen” ( meaning “head” or “top”  ) and “arth“ – the Welsh word for “bear” – whereas in fact the actual derivation is from “Pen” (meaning “top”), and “garth” (meaning “promontory” or “ridge”) . The “g” of “garth” disappeared over time, through usage ,– hence we’re left with “Penarth”.

However it seems the Victorians, or Edwardians, or whoever concocted the crest, may have actually been pulling everyone’s leg.

Cllr Janice Birch (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Janice Birch (Labour Stanwell)

Veteran Cllr Janice Birch (Labour Cornerswell) recalls being told many years ago that the  design might been the result of a late-night after-dinner “jest” when there was a competition of sorts to come up with an amusing design, conceived as something of a joke, or play-on-words.

The controversial proposed "souvenir" version of Penarth's Town Crest

The controversial proposed “souvenir” version of Penarth’s Town Crest

In 2014 the Town Council refused permission to a souvenir manufacturer who had applied for permission to “re-work” the design of the crest

That depicted only two bears  – sticking-it to each other with lances . It also replaced the central  “bear’s head” with a mediaeval armour helmet surmounted by a Welsh dragon.

Councillors rejected the design because it was thought to be  “too aggressive”.

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  1. Well I have always thought that most of the behaviour of the ‘powers that be ‘ in Penarth was something akin to a fairy story and heres the proof , the story of the 3 bears used on the town flag . Apart from that it looks like ‘the teddy bears picnic’ with the two bears laying a tablecloth out before beginning . Its an awful design looks amateurish and too much is made of the bears head idea , which no one nowadays would really point to the headland as it takes a big leap of the imagination to recognise the so called bears head , maybe it did resemble one at the start of the 20 th century???? I would put it to the people to submit more suitable designs befitting the modern age.

  2. Ivor Bagman says:

    They used to say bald headed
    These bear headed bustards
    Are far more amusing !

  3. whatsoccurin says:

    Thank you for “flagging this up” and for keeping us up to date with issues such as the dodgy viewing platform, “ice cream gate”, the quirky Vale Council and many more. Hope you have a great Christmas.

  4. This Council and the other powers that be have excelled themselves this year , cutting down trees in Summer planting things on the roundabout in Autumn rather than spring , cutting down trees that restricted the view from Penarth Heights , building an uncalled for viewing platform without seeking advice before hand and ignoring or not seeking public approval or objections , ignoring pot holes or doing a sticking plaster action only, and im sure we can look forward to this excellence in the coming year.

  5. Harry says:

    Surely someone in the Council would have checked it onn arrival and realised not the correct design/colour
    Bet there is someone in charge of flags – maybe Liz?

  6. penarthblog says:

    Many of the concerns expressed here are the responsibility of VOG and not PTC.

  7. I don’t care who’s responsible for the concerns I did say the ‘powers that be’ to cover any authority , i’m not playing ping pong over who’s responsible as both are lacking and not up to the job in man areas. They have yet to appoint a Flag Spotting Officer YET??? wouldn’t surprise me if one was put in place .And its not grumpy old men its people who ‘put the blame where the blame belongs’ and criticise when the job is not done or not done properly , I for one,’ give praise where praise is due’ , you don’t automatically get respect you earn it , something the powers that be it seems will never enjoy the pleasure of . But as long as they are getting paid what does that matter and who cares about satisfaction and a job well done , its apparent its not a priority or on the agenda.

  8. RetailGuru says:

    … Yet again a strong demonstration of how our councillors use their time proactively (sarcastic). For goodness sake someone give them a prod and wake them up lol! You’ve gotta feel sorry for the poor Town Clerk, having to work with these old stuffies!

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