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Oxford University (United Kingdom)

Last modified: 2008-08-16 by
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Balliol College

[Flag of Balliol College] image located by Jan Mertens, 20 July 2008
Source:[email protected]/2077284163

The flag of Balliol College of Oxford University is seen at[email protected]/2077284163 where it is being flown on the last day of Michaelmas Term 2007. Another photo can be found at The college home page also shows the arms and the flag.
The blazon, from the University Calendar is "Azure, a lion rampant argent, crowned or, impaling gules, an orle argent." An old rendering of the arms can be seen at the page. From we learn that the lion represents Galloway, and the orle Balliol proper.
Jan Mertens, 20 July 2008

Exeter College

[Flag of Exeter College] image by Colin Dobson, 22 July 2008

The flag of Exeter College of Oxford University is seen at . The college home page also shows the arms and the flag. A large image of the arms can be found on the first page of the pdf file at, which contains an article by Patric Dickinson, Richmond Herald of Arms, about the subject p. 50-52 (dated 1969). His blazon: "Argent two bendlets nebuly within a bordure Sable charged with eight pairs of keys addorsed the bows interlaced and the wands upwards Or". Dickinson mentions a version impaling Stapeldon and Petre, a refounder of the College, but the simple version is preferred. An old rendering can be seen at
Jan Mertens, 20 July 2008

Jesus College

[Flag of Jesus College] image located by Jan Mertens, 10 July 2008

The college website has white deer with golden horns. Perhaps more relevantly, the English Wikipedia page gives the blazon "Vert, three stags trippant argent attired or", citing Oxford University Calendar 2004-2005 (2004) p.255. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-951904-8. It also says that the arms appear to be those of the Green family, citing the Oxford Dictionary of Biography entry for a Hugh Price. Jonathan Dixon, 11 July 2008

Quote: "The source of Jesus College's coat of arms is unknown. The arms were in use at the college by 1590, but unlike those of most Oxford colleges they are not known to have been adapted from those of a significant figure in the early years of the college's existence (for example, the founder). (....) The arms, which originally had a blue field but later began to be used with the present green, depict three stags in profile with their right legs raised. The arms appear to be linked to those of the Green family."

The arms shown feature stags or. The armorial flag in the photo has them "argent attired or" as stated in the text.
Jan Mertens, 10 July 2008

At the stags are golden, while the photographed banner of arms (above) shows white (Argent) stags with golden horns (armed Or). The outline of the Wikimedia illustration seems to be accurate enough, following the background of the official website ( ). The uniforms at do sport silvery/white stags with golden horns; but at the local boat club (, the stags are fully white.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 July 2008

Kellogg College

[Flag of Kellogg College] image by Jonathan Dixon, 25 April 2006

Kellogg College, which is closely associated with the Department for Continuing Education, has a student body currently numbering 350 adult students of the University, the majority of whom are non-resident and study on a part-time basis. They undertake postgraduate taught and research degrees, as well as post-graduate certificates in a number of subjects. The college was first incorporated as a Society of Entitlement at Rewley House, the name of the building in which the department was based, inaugurated in 1990 and took its current name in 1994, following funding from the Kellogg Foundation. It is currently moving its premises from Rewley House to a new estate of buildings in the Norham Manor area of north Oxford.

The flag is a banner of arms. It has a red border and the field is divided vertically with a zigzag line, white to the hoist and blue to the fly. In the white half is a red inverted chevron above a blue open book. In the red half is an head of some sort of grain. As well as flying from Rewley House, the flag is mentioned at (College Newsletter of 30th July, 1999), where it mentions that a flag was presented to the W K Kellogg Foundation Trustees, "to fly from the Foundation flagpole in Battle Creek on appropriate occasions".

Other source:
Jonathan Dixon, 25 April 2006, Colin Dobson, 10 August 2007

Somerville College

[Flag of Somerville College] image by Jonathan Dixon, 25 April 2006

Somerville College was founded as Somerville Hall in 1879 as an educational institution for women, without any religious connections. Its name and arms were taken from the family of the scientist Mary Somerville. It became a mixed college in 1992.
The flag has the shield from the arms (featuring three five pointed stars and 6 crosslets) in black on a yellow background.
Flag observed flying over the main entrance to the college, 26 April 2004 and 11 April 2005.
Other source:
Jonathan Dixon, 25 April 2006

Trinity College

[Flag of Trinity College] image located by Jan Mertens, 12 July 2008

The flag is a banner of arms of the College - see or It is described at as "Party per pale or and azure, on a chevron between three griffins heads erased four fleurs-de-lys, all counterchanged of the field."
Jan Mertens, 12 July 2008

Oxford University boating flags

In general, most of the college boat clubs fly a banner of arms of the college concerned. The best time to see these flags are during Eights Week, in 5th Week of Trinity term in late May and during Torpids in Hilary term, in February. These are regattas held on the River Thames, featuring crews from most of the colleges and private halls, plus a few other organisations (medical schools & so on) connected with the University. The majority of the college boat houses are located on the Thames in Christ Church Meadow and this is where and when you can see the most colourful display of flags in Oxford, as each boat houses flies at least one flag during Eights Week and Torpids. Many fly more than one as the boat houses are shared between colleges. It is possible that some of the college boat clubs have their own individual flags. You can also see college flags at their own premises elsewhere in the City on other occasions, mainly associated with the University, the death of college Fellows and so on. They tend to fly the Union Flag on national occasions. However, the greatest concentration in a small area is during Torpids and Eights Week.
Colin Dobson, 16 June 2005

We have two sheets of drawing of Oxford and Cambridge club flags amongst a donation at the Library, but there is no source. Further, they have all been redrawn in coloured pencil, so the precise shades are not always apparent. I have corrected some using more general sources on the colleges. The flags are all drawn as 3:2.

This is not all the colleges, obviously. Some might not have a rowing club - this would be true of the all-women's colleges in times gone by. I have found this extra college colours which I include for completeness, rather than saying they actually have rowing flags.

See also:

Ian Sumner, 20 June 2005

The flags you describe are radically different from the flags that are seen nowadays, which are heraldic banners of the college arms or incorporate simple heraldic devices. For example, Christ Church now uses navy blue a cross white. In the lithograph I saw this was the same, except with a swallow tail. From memory, some of the other non-banners now in use are:

Andrew Yong, 20 June 2005

I have three old postcards which have the flags of the Oxford University colleges pictured. They may be of the college boat clubs rather than the colleges themselves:

Card 1: Jesus, Wadham, Pembroke, Worcester, St. Edmund Hall, Hertford, Keble, St. Catherine's
Card 2: University, Marton, Balliol, Exeter, Oriel, Queen's
Card 3: New, Lincoln, Madgalen, Brasenose, Corpus Christi, Christ Church, Trinity, St. John's

Peter Andrew Henry, 11 July 2006

I'm not sure of the provenance of that document - it looks quite old. At least one of them - Merton - does not reflect current usage, I'll try to research this on the occasion of the next regatta, when most of the flags should be displayed, however this will have to wait until the start of the next academic year, which is many months off. Most, but not all, of the Oxford colleges have boat houses, usually shared with one other college or institution, on the River Thames, where it runs through Christ Church Meadow in Oxford. Most of the boathouses have two flag poles, one for each college and they usually fly a flag when regattas are being held. See this photograph, from the University College Boat Club web site:, wherein may be seen (third from right) the St John's Boat Club flag above the St John's College flag on the same flagpole:

The colleges themselves, mostly located in the city centre, have their own range of flag flying days and would typically fly a banner of arms on a day associated with the University, such as Degree Day, and the Union Flag on a national flag flying day. There are 39 colleges and 7 permanent private halls - a total of 46, although not all have boat clubs and there are also a number of other boat clubs associated with the University coming out of institutions such as the medical school.

As pointed out above, some college boat clubs, such as St John's - not in these post card files - have their own flag, which is different from the college flag. Also, there are numerous other eccentricities, such as Christ Church College, which flies a banner of arms of its founder. Ian Sumner wrote about a sheet of Oxford and Cambridge college club flags in the collection of the Flag Institute, which differs from this latest source. Without being able to compare that source with this source fully, it would seem to me that the drawings referred to therein are taking the actual colours of the boat crews - as worn on their clothing - and transposing them to flags, for some reason.

In the third card there is (probably) an error where the Corpus boat flag is shown as a crimson pelican on a blue background, when in fact, it is a yellow or gold pelican on a blue background, as depicted on the link at Second flagpole from the left and also the arms shown on the College web site, from whence it comes: and can also be seen atop the sundial in the middle of the quad. Note also its unusual ratio. It is a very large flag when flown on the flagpole above the Porters Lodge at the entrance to the College.

In summary, some of these flags are quite complex and I would suggest further research is required.
Colin Dobson, 11 July 2006

On eBay at is the same card set but from a different year. It's difficult to tell whether it's older or newer, but there are some differences. I have noticed that the arms of St Catherine's College were incorrect on the other cards, where the arms of St Catherine's Cambridge were actually depicted. This version has the arms of St Catherine's before it became collegiate. That could be an indicator of the year.
Colin Dobson, 30 July 2006

1:1 proportions are supported by this postcard, which I have just found on the internet: It also shows a swallowtail pattern.
Andrew Yong, 12 April 2007

Most boat clubs borrow a banner of arms from the Porter for the day. The postcards [linked above] are historical, rather than a reflection of current practice. I am not sure there are any hard and fast rules in respect of the construction of these flags; if anything it looks rather good that there are some unusual sizes and ratios along that stretch of the river in Christ Church Meadow.
Colin Dobson, 12 April 2007