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29 October 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > History > Local History > A beginner's guide to the Stafford Knot

The Stafford Knot

A beginner's guide to the Stafford Knot

It's the symbol for the county, it appears everywhere from road signs to football club crests - so where did the Stafford Knot come from? Find out this and more with our handy history...

Bloody means of multiple execution or the joining of three geographical areas? What exactly are the origins of the famous symbol?
You can see it everywhere in Staffordshire too (see our Spot The Knot Gallery link - on the right of this page).

In fact, the Stafford Knot has been the proud insignia of many coats of arms, police helmets and army regiments in the Staffordshire region for many years.
The origin of the three-looped knot that represents the county, however, has long been shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

Some believe its first appearance to be on the heraldic shield of the Stafford family in 1583. Others believe its first appearance was on the family seal of Joan Stafford, Lady of Wake, who died childless in 1443, and which can be seen in the British Museum.

However, others believe...

Death by Stafford Knot

One of the most popular stories of the knot originated following the sentencing of three criminals to death by hanging in Stafford.

However, when the executioner arrived to commit the grisly task, he came across a problem. He only had one piece of rope. He could not just hang one of the criminals.

It would be unfair to the other two to give precedence to only one of the condemned. He therefore tied his single rope into three loops and dispatched of all three criminals at the same time.

A variation of this story was that one of the criminals invented the knot, and this ultimately saved him from his execution.

‘The Knot Unites’

Another story of the knot stems from its motto: “The Knot Unites”. The knot was said to symbolically bind three different local areas which joined to form what is now known as Staffordshire.

A more detailed account tells us of Ethelfleda, eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, who, over a thousand years ago, defended a stronghold at Stafford.

She symbolically took off her girdle and said to the local lords: “With this girdle, I bind us all as one”, and the three areas became Staffordshire.

The anniversary of this event was celebrated in 1913, a thousand years after it was said to have happened.

Another theory on the origin of the knot is that it forms the shape of a double ‘S’ which represents "Staffordshire".

Dance the Stafford Knot

As well as being the symbol for Staffordshire, the Stafford Knot has evolved into a dance. The dancers move in formation to the shape of the knot.

Eat your heart out Michael Flatley!

last updated: 11/03/2008 at 14:59
created: 09/08/2005

Have Your Say

What do you think of the knot as a symbol of our county? Too old-fashioned? Do we need a 21st century symbol? What symbol would you have instead?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Peter Craig
A recent find called the Staffordshire Hoard (why I don't know - when it was found at Burntwood Staffordshire). Features the largest and most valuable collection world wide of Anglo Saxon battle spoils from the period 650 - 700 AD. Several of these artifacts are engraved with a 'Staffordshire Knot'

Keith-The Ferret Man
We must at all costs keep our knot it is a symbol of Staffordshire history. Are Londoners going to get rid of Big Ben? I think not. If you want change go elsewhere and leave us alone.

Carol J, Keith
Hands off our Knot!! It's a proud and meaningful symbol that roots us all to the area we come from. Why on earth would we need or want anything else?? Get real.

Albert Hopkins-Shirley.
After many months of not looking at this site I have come back to have a look.It is really Heart warming to see people from all around the world, Standing up for the Stafford Knot.Thank you all, as it means so much to our family, and as you all have said the same feeling you all have. I will let you all in to some thing.The Stafford Knot is the first Knot, Back to king David the First.The word Stafford comes from the family tree of King David, also known as The Staff of Davidof Israel.The Crown of England is the Crown of David of Israel.If you walk around Alton of Staffordshire you can say you have been to Alvelon-Avalon and if you go to St Johns Church and look across to the Castle Keep you can say you have looked at Camelot as when the Churnet vally mist comes down the Vally it surround,s the the keep and is some times that thick you feel as though you can walk across it to the Castle of the Clouds.Its the only place in Britain where it happens.The cut out is one of only a few that had a double drawbridge to.One on the keep side and one on the Town side as Alton is not a village but a TOWN.My family have lived in the area of Alvelon-Alton since before the Doomsday book.My family are recorded in it.Albert Hopkins-Shirley.

Andy
So what Muppet came up with the idea of needing a new symbol for Staffordshire? The same kind of twit that sees nothing of worth unless its glittering, someone else has it, or they have to chase after it; and once they have it, Oooo….. the next thing that sparkles, must have that now!! Next it will be – so what does Staffordshire mean to you this year? What….another opportunity for another new twinkling, ‘symbolic’, symbol - fantastic! I hope that to most the knot is not about the trivialities of fashion and the whims of PR or marketing agents. The knot actually means something to me and represents something special. Importantly, it has also represented something that is special too generations before us. Generations who have actually given something of them selves to this county, and country, in way’s very few of us have in recent years – including their lives, and a choice to care for things other than themselves. The knot is about ‘place’ and ‘home’, and people who I am proud to call friends. It’s about unity – the knot unites - and for those (insert word of choice hear!) who came up with this idea, and who forget to learn from our shared past – they should note that what little strength humanity has for humanity comes from unity - from kinship, friendship, shared understanding, and being apart of, even if ‘we’ are, and choose to be, different.So please, leave the knot at the heart of Staffordshire, and recognise we already have a place of worth and meaning – all Staffordshire needs is our support, care and understanding, - not a new logo!Andy

william griffiths
please keep the knot ! and it's ancient history !

JW
To be or knot to be...that is the question?

JW
Did you know that one can also find the Stafford Knot on the arms and flag of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia?Sir Thomas Brisbane was Governor of New South Wales 1821-25, and during this time the settlement evolved from a penal colony at nearby Moreton Bay. Both the river and settlement were named for him.His colonial administrative talents notwithstanding, Sir Thomas was also a very learned astronomer and had distinguished as an army officer under the Duke of Wellington. Although a Scotsman, the first regiment he joined was the 38th Foot, Staffordshire Regiment.........and that is why, the coat-of-arms of the city of Brisbane has a Stafford Knot fairly prominently displayed in its field. There is also a suburb of Brisbane called Stafford.

donna simmill
i heard the hanging story but it had a slightly different tqist, while waiting to be hung, th three were told if they came up with a noose that could hang three people at the same time, they would go free, the staffordshire knot was created and the three men were hung with it, at the end, the executoner cut them down and proclaimed they were now free

dave lewis
I loved the idea of the hanging three persons at the same time, which is the story I was told when I lived in Stoke in the 1960s. Stoke will always have a place in my heart eventhough I'm from south Wales. A very friendly people!

Betty From Canada
The stafford knot means a lot to me .we spent a lot of time at the old Staffordshire Knot pub in Hanford,what would Staffordshire be with out the Knot

Timothy Stretton
I was born in Lichfield and I am proud to have been as Staffordshire is a lovely and beautiful county. I know that it's the Stafford Knot, not the Staffordshire Knot, but to be rid of it would be to rid of Staffordshire's identity and, I think, too much of it's history. It's a bit like Warwick loosing it's Bear and Ragged Staff or Yorkshire and Lancashire loosing their White and Red Roses! Unthinkable, and steeped in too much history to be rid of.

nigel hunter
they should who ever they are leave the staffordshire knot well alone is ours having lived in staffordshire for 45 years and proud of it

Albert Hopkins-Shirley
I can not believe that some people want to get rid of the Stafford Knot. May be because they do not know what it stands for, or some of its history.It is the oldest Knot in the world, as it is the first knot used because it is the simplest knot. It is the first Knot a child makes with a bit of string.I come from Alton Staffs and now live in Melbourne Australia.My family have lived in the area of Alton since before the Norman came in 1066.We also have a blood line of the Stafford,s,The Dukes of Buckingham. who use to stay-live in the White House of Alton and before that in the Pink House of Alton called The Old Grove.The Stafford Knot is the only Knot that is on every one of the American Dollar Notes that have been printed. The reason is that Washington DC Virginia U.S.A and is in the old county of Stafford. The first White White House built in Washington DC was modeled on the White House in Alton as the same Irish builder was used, before it got burnt down in 1812 in the British American war of 1812.The name of Stafford County was used for that area because of the family connection to the Earl of Essex and Ewe surname Devereux of Chartley Castle Staffs.This comes from Robert Devereux who was granted-given by purchase these lands, as Queen Elizabeth 1st needed money to build ships to fight the Spanish Armada.These lands became known as the lands of Virginia America, in the 1500s by his cousin Queen Elizabeth the 1st by this we now have America we know today.His daughter Dorothy Devereux married on May 18 1615 Sir Henry Shirley-Ferrers from the lines of Earls of Chester, Derby and Earls of Huntingdon.This is why my family had a family reunion at Alton Village hall in June 2006. A Betty Shirley of the, Shirley association.com came to the meeting to give a talk on the family and the connection to America.She lives in California U.S.A.My family brought up this item at the meeting and that is because the Devereux family started the West India trading company and the flag they used then, which today is the flag of the U.S.A of America today.The only difference is instead of the Cross of St George in the canton, they took that out and put in the stars of the 13 States of America in a circle which it was at the start. Oh another thing which i have been told by my grandma is thatthe word America comes from the Kingdom of Mercia which Stafford shire was the center of.Mercia=Amercia=America makes me think.When I know the other information is true which my old family members us to tell me about.So why should we loose our identity as it is every ones who come from Staffordshire not just my family,s. Albert Hopkins-Shirley.

peter waters
the staffordshire knot should stay as it is and what it represents.21 centry will be gone before we know it the the knot will for ever be here.

Ebbo
I have had the privilege of living in Staffordshire for the last 36 years and regard the Knot with as much pride as I do my own county's flag and heritage. It's too easy to change for change's sake. Let the Knot remain the symbol of a proud county!

:)
loooks like a pretzel! :D

Kenneth T. Yale
Today the name of the game is change everything that's over 50years old. Loyalty, heritage & culture has been forgotten by many persons of the last 2 generations,who call me a golden oldie. Some twenty five years ago I had a window dsign of the Stafford Knot built into a new house In Yorkshire!)& a conveyance stating that such a design must remain there in perpetuity - so that's one KNOT they ain't going to change or me: being born & educated in Stafford.

Hannah
I have just been reading about the history of the Staffordshire knot and found it most interesting! I am not from Staffordshire but i think you should definatly keep the knot it is a heritige to be proud of! Plus the history about it is very interesting!

Ian
The Staffordshire Knot is found all over the world and represents our historic English county. many soldiers have died wearing the Knot with pride. It links the modern age with the medieval period and back into Celtic times. it is also found on many Black Country buildings and signs retaining the ancient link between Stafford and the BlacK Country. Leave the symbol alone.

Rob Crockard
It's great to read all the support for the Stafford Knot. I believe it gives the people of Staffordhsire a unique symbol of this county. It represents the strengths and values of the people and is known worldwide.But please BBC, stop calling it the Staffordshire Knot, as our local web pages indeed state it is the Stafford Knot. Twice this morning, and more to come I expect, Midlands Today refered to it as the Staffordshire Knot!

Shelley Howe
i have recently visited Stafford and surrounds.My husband comes from Rugely..and i LOVE the knot and all it means I think it is wonderful to have something to have as your own..having it tattooed on me as i feel like belong there.

lisa
We should keep the staffordshire knot as it not only represents the cuonty that we live in it also represents the staffordshire bull terrier> I have the staffordshire knot as a tatoo and I wear it with pride.

PennyV
I found the following dedication in a book about Staffordshire by Charles Masfield - "To those who are, to the dead who have been, and to the living and the unborn who will be lovers of Staffordshire"The Staffordshire Knot units us all.

TMB
The Staffordshire knot is recognised by many as a symbol for the county, it does not need modernising it is part of the history of the area just like the bottle kiln, we should be proud of it.

kirsty
my teacher has a staffordshire knot ring and i personally think it looks ugly and old fashioned. i think we need a more up-to-date symbol to say we can be modern like the rest of the country

kate m
We use the knot with pride as a symbol of Staffordshire girl guides (which by the way celebrates 90 years this year!) We try to teach all our young women to have pride in their county. The knot gives them a sense of belonging and history - we definately go by "the knot unites" Don't change it!

james simms,
no to much of our history has been lost so why change staffs history,whot right has any one to change the knot look at the mess of it outside staffs col ,so tell them to get knoted

milkey way
powerful,untouchable,bright,out shining,amazing and always to be studtyed. my malcolm is a older pit and a member of our family.. like no other dog i have ever saw. his eyes talk, his devotion is incredible and i am so touched i feel i do not diserve it..i love him before any person . i fel guilty if i skip some time with him ,and miss him every second.... thankyou for your time kelley ann, and my malcolm (staffordshire terrier (colby) mix..happy new year

Imogen
I think v stafford knot SHOULD stay coz ma Dad is v Commandin offica of v staffords!!!

tony gleave
The knot is as much an emblem of this area, as are potbanks.There is too much these days of things being too old fashioned, what is so wrong with the "do-gooders" and "P.C. brigade" of today's society that we have to modernise everything...I'm one who sticks by the old saying, "If it's not broken, then don't mend it". Here's to keeping at least some tradition, in these untraditionalist days.

Karen
The cornish fly their county flag with pride.Our knot is our symbol that we should be proud of

kal
seriously.. the knot doesn't need 2 be taken from staffordshire, it's a symbol many are proud of. It needs a little revamping to move with the times. Comprimise never hurt anyone did it

kal
The knot is fabbo,, simple but still fabbo =D go staffy knot go go :D

sheila mellor.
i was born and bred in the village of stretton in staffordshire, in the days when one highly respected and valued our lot, todays society seems all too keen to make constant changes, ( not always progress as they would have us believe )--- we are expected to allow all this so-called change for the better, but i don't agree with it--- can we leave NOTHING !!!!! alone any more ?????

a crombleholme
keep old father time in lichfield

Alan Keith Johnson
Since I am related to The Staffords please never drop the knot in your county! Just bias here in Texas USA!

Gerry Hinks
Whatever its origins, the Staffordshire Knot has united the people of this Midlands county for centuries in both war and peace. To change the symbol would be like changing the crown of the United Kingdom for a bucket! Today's people are the present; the Knot is the history - and you can't change history!

Laurence Walker
The Knot is our heritage my father wore it in the North Staffs Regiment and did his father before him.It is a part of us all in one way or another. Lichfield Rugby Club wear it with great pride.The Staffs cap badge must never be altered.

Jim of Chesterton.
You can travel anywhere in the country, but as soon as you see the county sign of Staffordshire and the KNOT. You know you are nearly home. Keep our heritage and SAVE THE KNOT !!!

john
The knot like our dialect is part of our history and should be left alone.

carl ball
I was told the story of how the knott came about and being a hang mans tool and I am PROUD its the sign of my home county keep it!

Anila
has anyone actually tried to do the staffs knot. I looks like a standard knot to me

dave knight
not at all this is a symbol of what staffordshire stands for this is what everyone asscociates with staffordshire ... leave it well alone i say

Anila
yes the staffordshire knot is a symbol of heritage and should stay ... but we all nowho the symbol of staffs as he's every where, n when anyone around the country thinks of staffs they think of one guy, Robbie williams! he's more well known than the symbol!

robert
i trained hard in the army cadets to earn my cap badge wich proudly bears the staffs knot,,leave it alone it represents us all in one way or another,,,

G Derricutt Napier New Zealand
It would'nt be SAFFORDSHIRE without the Knot.

Paul Knapper
Replace the Knott, are you mad !!!

Richard
I have not so long moved to Cannock from Walsall, which years ago was part of Staffordshire. When Staffordshire in mentioned I always think of the Knot. I think the knot should stay.

tony smart
it!s our knot

joyce silvester
hands off our knot, we are fast losing a lot of our traditions, its time tostop this nonsense of changing everthing

Drew Colby
Stafford Knot is not old fashion ,we don,t need a new symbol. Thank you.

dale
i think tht we shud keep the staffordshire knot because it is a prt of staffordshire heritage, u cnt just throw away history like that

Dave Kirby
I like the knot

C Jones, Cannock
Keep the Srafford knot. The Staffs Regiment cap badge must never be altered

alf shaw
fantastic symbol leave well alone its my beloved county.

Sue
Keep the Knot, it's a symbol of our Staffordshire heritage, I even had it incorporated into my husbands wedding ring which I had hand made,(where they thought it looked like a pretzel??) I live in the USA now but was married in Hanley Town Hall, the Staffordshire Knot represents Home.

Marianne Brearey
I agree with the previous comments. The knot is an important part of Staffordshire. My Father told me the story of the three nooses from one rope when I was a child in the 1950s. There are enough errosions of local culture these days!

Ann Millington
The knot is ours! It is not old fashioned! Knots are universal and span time! Can't think of anything that could replace it! Keep the knot!

Alex Lawrence
It's a fine and easily distinguishable symbol for the county. Why is a knot old fashioned? Would you prefer a plastic tie?

chris salt
to many people are trying to get rid of our heritage keep the knot its educational for our scouting

IVAN WALCHESTER
WE MUST LEAVE 'SOME' HISTORY WHY ON EARTH CHANGE SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN INSTANTLY RECOGNISEABLE FOR CENTURIES. HANDS OFFF THE KNOT!!

liz
Keep the knot

Sue Cook
The knot should stay. There are too many things these days that people want to change just because of being old fashioned. You can't change history. The knot is unique to Staffordshire.Leave it alone.

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