What A Council Logo Says, Part 2 – Durham

Published on 25 November 2008 in , , , ,

What does your council’s logo say about your area? I was pondering this very question whilst walking down the street and looking at the street signs near home – their Merton Council logo blazing quietly in the corner, radiating out its waterwheel goodness. The entire of Merton is represented by a waterwheel for example. Why?

And so, with that on my mind, I headed on a journey of discovery, looking at places where I’d lived and visited, asking what each council logo said about the area it serves.

In part two, I head to the North East, and the city I spent my student years in.

City of Durham

Like many parts of the UK, Durham has a two-tier council structure, splitting functions between the City of Durham Council, and the wider Durham County Council.

I moved to Durham in 1996 as a student of the University of Durham, however my usual contact with the city council was rather limited during my time there. As a student I paid no Council Tax, never bothered using the libraries, and tried to use the city swimming pool but found it always far too full. Still, I did vote in local elections when I could, and in my second and third years, had a wheelie bin that was emblazoned with the council logo. Now that’s ownership.

Durham is an old city – there is evidence of settlement dating back to 2000 BC, but the present city basically dates back to around 995 AD when some Lindisfarne monks chose the area to settle in, and rest the body of Saint Cuthbert.

City of Durham council logo

The council logo is based firmly on the traditional flag for the city – a red cross with a white outline and a black background – the council logo places that in a simple but attractive shield format, linking the council firmly with the history and traditions of the city itself. The shield itself forms part of the City’s coat of arms.

The city also don’t seem to feel the need to boast a slogan around – no mentions of excellent services here.

Ironically with all this history about, the City of Durham council has only existed since 1974 when several smaller councils were merged together. And in 2009, the council will cease to exist. At this point, City of Durham council and six other borough councils, will be absorbed into Durham County Council as part of a move to simplify local government structures.

Durham County Council

To most of the world, it’s County Durham, a term which always makes me think of Ireland rather than the hills of North East England. In council terms it’s the reverse – Durham County Council.

As a student, my connection with Durham County Council was even more limited than that of the city council. The closest I ever really got was walking past the rather horrible 1960s office building that the council occupied after it left the wonderfully impressive Shire Hall. For a historical city and county, the 1960s County Hall jar enormously and it’s a mercy that they’re tucked out of sight. Their former offices really did look the part, and still fo as Old Shire Hall, the HQ of Durham University.

Durham County Council logo

Their offices may not have any history, but the council’s logo does. Durham County Council is also the only council I looked at that publishes information about its logo on it’s website, as well as branding guidelines.

According to the site (and hey, I would never have known this without that very useful page) the crest in the logo is based on the Arms of the Bishopric of Durham – the reason for that being that the council inherited certain powers enjoyed by the former palatinate Bishops of Durham.

Specifically the bits to come from the bishops are the blue shield, the gold cross and the four lions. To this was added a crown (which for my money looks more like the turrets of a castle tower but there you go) which is a traditional heraldic emblem reserved for county councils; and black diamonds to represent coal, which played a huge part in the history of the North East. And there’s a white rose too – that’s because in 1974, part of the North Riding of Yorkshire was changed to now be in Durham (which must have gone down well with some).

The council logo goes on to provide all manner of useful information about its logo, including its colours in Panatone, CYMK, RGB and a websafe RGB. What they won’t provide you is a high res copy of the logo unless you ask them nicely.

Like City of Durham, Durham County have a logo that plays on the history and heritage of the North East. Well what else could you expect for a historic county, land of the Prince Bishops?

Unlike City of Durham, Durham County have a logo – the rather flat sounding and staid “Making a difference where you live”. A slogan which is of course, completely untrue, because I live in London and Durham County Council has absolutely no remit over Merton whatsoever.

In April 2009, Durham County Council will change status, merging in the local borough councils into a unitary authority. And what then will happen to its logo? Well in April 2009, the public were asked about their views on a new name for the “super” council.

Five names were suggested – from the frankly awful sounding County Durham Unitary Council or Durham Unitary Council, to the functional-but-amazingly-similar County Durham Council or Durham Council.

In the end it was the fifth option that won – Durham County Council. Will they get a new logo to go with their old name? Well given the apparent £4m cost of rebranding, one suspects not…

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading down to the capital and the place where I moved to after university – Ealing.

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