Penrith flies the flag to celebrate historic dates

image copyrightPhillip Tibbetts
image captionThe Penrith flag depicts the town's ancient seal

A town in Cumbria will be flying its own flag to celebrate anniversaries of important local occasions.

The Penrith emblem will be hoisted outside the town hall to mark historically significant dates.

Community vexillologist Philip Tibbetts has worked with the local civic society to create a list.

This includes the anniversary of the 1804 "Great False Alarm", when the town beacon was lit by mistake, sparking fears of a Napoleonic invasion.

Mr Tibbetts, who lives in Penrith and is the Flag Institute's advisor to the Parliamentary Flags and Heraldry Committee, said the aim was to come up with about 10 or 12 occasions annually, as flying a flag too often can damage it.

"When a flag flicks in the wind, the tips can hit almost supersonic speed." he said.

"This heats the end up and breaks down the material so it starts to fray."

'Lit in anger'

Eden District Council wanted to fly the flag on appropriate days, and installed a second flagpole so it could fly alongside the union jack, if the date was also one of national importance.

Mr Tibbetts said: "One of the more fun dates is the last time the Penrith beacon was lit in anger.

image copyrightPhillip Tibbets
image captionThe Cumberland and Penrith flags with (left to right) Eden District Council’s leader Gordon Nicolson, council chairman John Thompson. Chris Game from Penrith Civic Society, and Philip Tibbetts

"Legend has it that in 1804 Sir Walter Scott was passing through Penrith on his way back from visiting Wordsworth.

"He saw the beacon had been lit and thought Britain was under threat from Napoleon so, abandoning his wife, dashed home to Scotland and joined his regiment."

Mr Tibbetts said someone in the Scottish Borders had spotted a fire on a faraway hill.

"It was actually something like a colliery fire but he thought it was a beacon so lit his, sparking a chain, which led to the one in Penrith," he said.

"The 'Great False Alarm' is still celebrated in some areas."

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