Stafford knot

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Stafford knot
Stafford badge.png
The Stafford badge
Family Stafford family

The Stafford knot, sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Staffordshire knot, is a distinctive three-looped knot that is the traditional symbol of the English county of Staffordshire and of its county town, Stafford. It is a particular representation of the simple overhand knot, the most basic knot of all.


The knot was the badge of the de Stafford family. One legend of its origin, generally considered mythical, is that three convicted criminals who had committed a crime together were due to be executed in Stafford gaol. There was argument over who should be hanged first but the hangman solved the problem by devising this knot and hanging the three simultaneously.

However, the knot can be seen on a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) carved Anglo-Saxon cross in a churchyard in Stoke-upon-Trent, and also on a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon object from the Staffordshire hoard.[1] This strongly suggests it pre-dates the Norman and medieval period, being probably either a heraldic symbol of early Mercia or a Celtic Christian symbol brought to Staffordshire by missionary monks from Lindisfarne.

The design closely matches the early design of the pretzel, which was made to represent arms crossed in prayer.


The flag of the historic county of Staffordshire
The Stafford family heraldic flag, blazoned with eleven Stafford knots

The knot appears prominently on the flag of the historic county of Staffordshire, as well as on the banner of Staffordshire County Council. The motto of the county council is "the knot unites", a reference to the Stafford knot. It also appears on the coat of arms of the Borough of Stafford.

The Stafford knot was the badge of the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot in which Sir Thomas Brisbane entered the British Army as an Ensign in 1789 – and thus the eponymous city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, has the Stafford knot on its arms. The knot formed part of the insignia of the North Staffordshire Regiment, South Staffordshire Regiment, Staffordshire Regiment and currently is the arm badge of the Mercian Regiment. It is also used as the badge of the Staffordshire Police force.

The knot appears on the logos of both Staffordshire University and Keele University, as well as on many school badges.

Stoke-on-Trent based football team Port Vale F.C. use the knot on their club badge as do fellow Staffordshire club Tamworth F.C.. West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City have also used the knot on their respective badges.

Derived references[edit]

The North Staffordshire Railway, an independent railway company in the county from 1845 until the compulsory grouping of the railways in 1923, was colloquially referred to as The Knotty after the knot. The knot symbol appeared in the railway company's badge.

The Smiler,[2] a roller coaster at Alton Towers, has a combined section of track known as the "Stafford/Staffordshire Knot", consisting of a cobra roll entwined with a double batwing. It is given this nickname due to the resemblance to the original knot shape.


Flag of Brisbane