The Rapal Flags of Sussex
Sussex has a set of unique internal territorial divisions named “Rapes”. The origin of the Rapes is unknown however it is strongly believed that four of them predate the Norman Conquest and are possibly Saxon in origin, with the Rape of Bramber being founded by 1086, and the Rape of Chichester being founded by 1275.
The six rapes (ancient territorial divisions) of Sussex
Each of these areas are culturally important to the heritage of Sussex, equal to the Ridings of Yorkshire and the Parts of Lincolnshire. In modern times however, the majority of people in Sussex are not consciousness of these unique internal territorial divisions. However, they remain culturally significant.
If you are unsure which of these ancient territories you are from, then you can use Wikishire’s handy modern Rapal Map to determine this. Enter your town or village in the search bar.
Vexillographer (flag designer) Brady Ells, on behalf of The Sussex Association, created the following flags for each of the Sussex rapes. All the Rapal flags have a universal look and feel to them to indicate that they represent the Rapes of Sussex, rather than the individual towns or city from which they take their names. A blue triangle with six gold martlets is placed against the hoist to represent the county and maintains the 3,2,1 pattern of the martlets at all angles.
The flags follow, west to east.
The Rape of Chichester
The Rapal Flag of Chichester is charged with 14 red gouttes (drops of blood). These drops are from the arms of the city of Chichester, granted in 1570.
The story behind the gouttes on the city arms is unknown, however they have since been strong symbols of Chichester, even featuring on the border of the arms of the former Chichester Rural District Council.
Most depictions of the city arms display 14 gouttes in the pattern 5,4,3,2, and are therefore displayed like this on the flag.
The Rape of Arundel
The flag of the Rape of Arundel is charged with 3 black martlets. Arundel has long been represented by Martlets. This is a pun on the town’s name, the French name for martlet, hirondelle sounding similar to the town’s name. 3 martlets are chosen as Arundel is represented as such on the arms of Arundel granted in 1939.
It should be noted that the three martlets on the flag bear more of a resemblance to a swift, to contrast more effectively with the Sussex Martlets against the hoist. This stylisation also reflects their appearance on earlier town seals.
Which today still features as decoration on the town’s Mayoral Chain.
A swift style martlet features as the crest to the town’s coat of arms and is used on the insignia of Arundel town council
and as a badge by Arundel Football Club.
The Rape of Bramber
The Rapal Flag of Bramber is charged with 5 crosslets. These Crosslets derive from the coat of arms of William VII de Braose- 2nd Baron Braose, circa 1298.
The de Braose family were ‘Lords of Bramber’ since the rape was established in the late 11th century. Although earlier ancestors and Lords had different coats of arms, it is this coat of arms which stuck and still appears on local insignia, an example being the badge of Beeding & Bramber Cricket Club.
The Crosslets appeared on the 13th Century Borough Seal of New Shoreham, highlighting the the de Braose family as Lords of the Rape of Bramber in which Shoreham is situated.
An adapted version of the de Braose arms were also used by Shoreham Urban District Council from 1933.
Another town which is in the Rape of Bramber is Horsham. A single crosslet appears on the coat of arms and crest of Horsham District Council granted in 1975, displaying the town’s links to the Rape of Bramber and the de Braose family.
The Crosslets on the flag of the Rape are blue, reversing the colours of the de Braose coat of arms to facilitate deployment against a gold field.
The Rape of Lewes
The flag of the Rape of Lewes is charged with a Tower in Gold & Blue checks. A tower has long been used as a symbol of Lewes representing Lewes Castle and features on the badges of Lewes Football Club
and Sussex Police, where the town is the location of its headquarters.
The gold and blue checks are those of the de Warenne family, Barons of Lewes since the Norman Conquest.
The de Warrene checks feature heavily on the arms of the town of Lewes
and are used entirely by the town’s swimming club.
The arms of Hove also include the de Warrene checks to denote the town’s location in the Rape of Lewes,
as does the badges of Longhill High School in Rottingdean,
and Brighton General Hospital.
The coat of arms of Lewes District Council, granted in 1975, makes use of the gold and blue checks as a border, highlighting the District Council’s remit covering part of the Rape of Lewes.
The Rape of Pevensey
The Rapal Flag of Pevensey is charged with a red spread eagle. The design depicts the ‘Pevensey Eagle’ which originated on the arms of the de Aquila family. ‘Aquila’ is the Latin word for ‘Eagle’. Euguenulf de Aquila came over with William I and was killed at the Battle of Hastings; his descendant, Gilbert de Aquila, was bestowed with the Rape of Pevensey. The area was known between 1106 and 1234 as the ‘Honour of the Eagle’.
This red eagle now appears as the main feature of Pevensey’s new village sign.
The Red eagle also features on the logos of Pevensey Parish Council
and Pevensey Bay Sailing Club.
It should also be noted that the sailing pennant of Pevensey Bay Sailing Club is a red spread eagle on a field of gold.
Since its very first competitive season in 1937, Eastbourne’s motorcycle speedway team based in Arlington has used the nickname “The Eagles”.
An eagle also features in the chief of the arms of Seaford Town Council in reference to the Rape of Pevensey and the de Aquila family.
Which itself is derived from the mid-19th century seal of Seaford.
The coat of arms of Lewes District Council, granted in 1975, makes use of the de Aquila Eagle as a crest, highlighting the District Council’s remit covering part of the Rape of Pevensey.
The Rape of Hastings
The Flag of the Rape of Hastings is charged with a vessel which first appeared on the common seal of the Barons of Hastings.
Boats also appeared on the 12th and 13th century seals of Rye
The vessel is coloured in a bi-colour of Red and Blue in reference to the coat of arms of Hastings.
These arms derive from the arms of the Cinque Ports, which are also used to represent both Rye and Winchelsea.
It should also be noted a vessel appears on the top of Winchelsea’s village sign.
The Rapal Flags
Click on the flags to see larger versions.