BrittsI) aitJ)acolxisical assoctaticin.
BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES.
BY J. W. TONKS, ESQ.
STUDENT of the growth and develop-
ment of municipal institutions in Eng-
land cannot go far in his subject without
finding that there are many roads appa-
rently divergent, but which all lead in
time to his central theme. As it was
said that all roads led to Rome, so do
all these paths of study (I will not call them bye-paths)
lead to a just appreciation of the mighty force and the
increasing importance of British corporate life. The
spread of the customs of self-government, the decentrali-
sation of authority, the devolution of power, â€” all these
are indicated clearly along the road which I ask you to
travel with me to-night. I trust you will agree with me
that it is an interesting road ; and if it is a more wind-
ing course than the strict utilitarian would approve, yet
I believe that the prospects by the way will be more
fascinating than a geometric straight line would admit
of, and that the end will not be too long delayed.
The history of the rise and progress of boroughs in
232 BOROUGH SEALS AND ClVlC MACIiS.
England is indicated by their corporate seals. A town
in early days, when " right was might", gathered gene-
rally near the walls of the castle of a powerful baron.
The reasons were many. The community were likely to
obtain employment, to be able to sell produce, manufac-
tures, or merchandise in such a locality ; while, on the
other hand, they could afford the baron personal service
in time of war, and occasional support in goods or money.
If an enemy approached the district, they were able to
store their valuables, to fly within the walls of the castle
for protection, after which they could assist the men-at-
arms in defence of their lord and of their own homes.
The burghers of the little town becoming more numerous
and thriving, the wiser heads among them became
leaders. They met together, and bargained for charters
from the baron, empowering them to hold markets, and
arranging for the protection of the roads from plunderers
during the times at which such markets were held. The
prudent townsfolk, led by their local council, took the
further step, as soon as they were able, of getting their
market-rights amplified and confirmed by the King.
After the market-rights had thus been assured, a town
advancing in wealth and trade sought for a charter of
self-government. This was usually obtained, in the first
instance, from the feudal lord, as with the market-
charters ; but a growing city seldom stopped at this
point. The grant of a royal charter of incorporation was
always the ultimate aim.
Among the castle seals may be noted those of Bedford,
Bridgnorth, Clitheroe, Devizes, Exeter, Malmesbury,
Neath, Newbury, Pembroke, Pontefract, Swansea, Tot-
nes, and the fine seal of Warwick. These early boroughs
have the castles of varying forms, either alone or with
local devices, such as in the case of Swansea. The seal
of this large town, probably of later date than the original
one, has a shield over the castle, with a bird, probably
intended for a sea-swan, a rebus (of inaccurate deriva-
tion) for Swansea. Others call it the osprey, or fishing
eagle ; but it is evidently a subsequent addition to the
simplicity of the early cognizance.
This leads me to a fact of much interest, illustrating
BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES. 233
the brief account just given of the origin of boroughs in
England. The original seals of towns having charters
from the barons may have had the distinctive castle pure
and simple, drawn in the conventional manner of the
time ; but when this first charter had been enlarged and
confirmed by a special grant from the Crown, this was
often reflected in the change which the seal underwent.
The arms of England were the golden lion upon a field
of blood or crimson, and this royal beast appears with his
appropriate field after the King has given or confirmed a
charter. Thus the ancient city of Norwich was granted
a confirming charter by King Henry II. The old castle,
with its central tower and courtyard, are given in con-
ventional perspective on the shield. The surrounding
field is gules, and the golden lion, passant guardant, is
represented before the castle gate.
Carlisle is another instance of a confirming charter
granted by Henry II. Here the royal arms, the golden
lion on a crimson field, occupies the chief of the shield.
The castle with two towers below, is indicated as near
the water's edge by heraldic wave-lines ; the field, of
green, represents the hills and verdant scenes amid which
it was placed ; and the roses at sides were added in
honour of later charters given by the Tudor kings.
Chichester, which possessed charters granted by King
Stephen and Henry II, has a seal with a triple-towered
castle, having in front a shield, in chief of which is again
the British lion on a field gules.
The famous city of Lincoln, finally incorporated by
King Edward II, has a five-towered castle with pinnacles
on its shield. The royal emblem is here the cross of
St. George, illustrating the battle-cry, " St. George for
Merrie England !" The patriotic impulse does not stop
here. The golden lily of France is placed in centre of
the cross of St. George, and the fieurs-de-lis, at intervals
in the field, illustrate the memory of the first conquest
Bridport also has a seal interesting in this connection.
The charter of incorporation was granted by Henry III.
The castle is shown upon wave-lines, emblematic of the
sea. The British lion, passant guardant, or, is on the
234 BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES.
upper ramparts, and he is crowned. Crowns also appear on
the flanking towers. These crowns belong to the period
of the Stuarts, by whom qualifying charters were issued.
The Stafford civic seal is an unusually beautiful one,
and I have reserved it till now as the Association recently
met in this county. This borough was governed by two
bailiffs at the time of the Domesday Survey, and the
conception of the seal probably belonged to the four-
teenth century. The circle is divided into six arches
with Gothic finials. Within this a castle with lofty,
central tower, flanked by side-turrets, stands beside a
stream, shown by the flsh sporting amid gentle wavelets.
The crimson field has four golden lions placed for pur-
poses of symmetry in the intervals of the arches, thus
combining the regard for the feudal lord with the loyalty
due to the reigning monarch.
The antique galley is often adopted with the castle on
the seals of maritime boroughs. Thus the small but
ancient town of Beaumaris, incorporated in 1295 by
Edward I, has the ship in front, the castle in the rear ;
and on the other side of the mast is the shield bearing
the three lions of England.
Bristol, incorporated later, in the reign of Henry II,
has a vessel of more recent style, issuing from harbour
beside the castle towers.
Stockton-on-Tees, which had evidently some corporate
privileges in the fourteenth century, has on its seal the
castle emblems, occupying a middle space between the
ends of an enormous anchor.
Brighton and Poole indulge in dolphins, while Dover
and the Cinque Ports have a curious charge. The shield
is divided heraldically, per pale, and has three demi-lions
for England, apparently joined to the latter halves of
three war-galleys of the period.
Boroughs deriving their charters directly from the
Crown usually marked the fact in a very distinctive way
in their insignia. Dartmouth, incorporated 14 King
Edward I, has a bust of the monarch placed in centre
of war-galley, with a British lion standing at guard on
prow and stern. This is not the only instance of this
monarch's apparent fondness for seal-portraiture.
BOROUCxH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES. 235
Winchester rejoices in the possession of* a very fine
silver seal, of which also I have an impression. It was
presented to the city by Edward I, and bears his effigy
very boldly executed, the lion of England couchant
beneath, and two castles at sides.
Queenborough was so named by Edward III wlien he
built a castle there, and made a free borough around it,
as his barons had frequently done round their castles.
He did this in honour of Philippa, his brave and beauti-
ful Queen, who had led an army into Scotland in his
absence, to safeguard the frontier ; and, on the other
hand, pleaded on her knees before him for the lives of
the citizens of Calais. The seal of Queenborough bears
an elevation of the castle, with the effigy of Queen
Philippa, as far as the bust, rising above the central
Hull received a charter directly from Edward I, and
therefore took the name of King's-town-upon-Hull, bear-
ing on its shield three crowns, for England, France, and
We must not omit to notice the ecclesiastical origin of
many boroughs. A town occasionally gathered round a
famous shrine or church, which being regarded as holy
ground became a place of sanctuary not likely to be
attacked in those superstitious times. The priest, abbot,
or bishop then became the intermediary by whose help
charters were obtained, confirmed, and enlarged, the
Church in such cases benefiting considerably by the pro-
cess. Durham is a case in point, the first charter of
incorporation having been granted by Bishop Pudsey
in 1179, and confirmed, curiously enough, by the Pope,
Alexander III. The device on the seal is a golden cross
upon a field azure.
Among religious seals we have those of Faversham
and Wilton, bearing effigies of the Madonna and Child
The old seals of Hartlepool, of which I have impres-
sions, are interesting as recording with Gothic conven-
tionality the good deeds of the Abbess Hilda, lanious in
her own day, and dear to us as the one who encoui'aged
Csedmon, tlie first great English poet, to sing.
236 BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES.
Glastonbury has its croziers, proper for a town whose
chief Abbot was hung, drawn and quartered for resist-
ance to the temporal power.
Rochester has a very fine seal, said to be of the twelfth
century, of which I have an impression. On one side is
a representation of the crucifixion of St. Andrew, the
patron saint, graphic yet conventional. The reverse face
has a superb elevation of the castle, with its two draw-
bridges, warders, and the royal standard floating above.
One of the next developments in the arrangement of
seals was the rebus mode of heraldic device. Liverpool
commences this. Pool of the liver bird is supposed to be
the origin. The notorious King John granted its first
charter ; and the silver seal then made has the bird in
centre, similar to that adopted now. This seal is still in
the possession of the Corporation.
Many indeed are these quaint devices, generally the
products of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Lichfield, in the county of Stafford (inaccurately at one
time thought to mean " Liced-field", or field of carcases,
on account of a tradition of the slaughter of a thousand
Christians there at the time of the Diocletian persecu-
tion), has on its seal three maimed figures prone upon
the field, with weapons strewed around. These figures
wear coat-armour of the fourteenth century .^
The seal of Appleby bears a tree with mediaeval apples;
Bridgwater, a bridge over river; Beverley, or Beaver-
lake, a beaver and wave-lines ; Derby, or Deer-by, has
for cognizance a stag protected by a ring-fence ; Daventry,
or Dane-tree, a Dane and a tree. The later seal of Hartle-
pool has a hart attacked by a hound while crossing a
pool ; Oxford bears on its seal no reference to its position
as a seat of learning, but the more prosaic one of an ox
crossing a ford ; Taunton has the rebus of a T or " tau",
and " tun" or barrel ; while Preston, originally Priest-
town" is distinguished by the sacred emblem of the
I have gone thus far into details because the later
insignia of ancient corporations derive entirely from the
cognizances adopted in those early and simple days.
The original arms of the City of London itself are com-
BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES. 237
posed of the English national emblem, the cross of
St. George, with the symbol of St. Paul, the sword of the
spirit, in the first interspace ; this latter indicating the
patron saint of the city.
The arms of modern corporations become much more
involved as the laws of heraldry have been amplified and
increased in number. They lack the force and direct-
ness, sometimes the poetry, of the earlier devices. Still,
many of them, when fully explained, are seen to have a
charming reference to the origin, the growth, and the
industries of the boroughs to ^Yhich they respectively
belong. The borough of Stoke-on-Trent itself adapts the
arms of the Spodes, Mintons, and Copelands, with the
Campbell crest, all redolent of the beautiful local manu-
factures; while the motto, "E terris dare artem" is appro-
priate and expressive. Burslem has the Portland Vase
in its seal, while the Hanley shield is elaborately related
to its local conditions.
The seal, then, was the first sign or evidence of office
held by the mayor, borough-reeve, port-reeve, or bailiff,
as it was of first importance. Armed with it, he could go
before baron, king, or commons, speak in the name of his
district, present the petitions of his burgesses, defend
charters already obtained, or negotiate new ones.
If, however, the seal was the first, it was not the only
indication of the office of the chief personage of a corpo-
ration. The robe was probably the next, and after that
came the mace.
The mace was originally a weapon of warfare, and no
doubt a formidable one. It was used to batter or break
through the helmet, or other portions of armour, against
which sword and spear would be of no avail. The mace
is of extreme antiquity, and was known to the ancient
Greeks, its name being derived from the little horns or
spikes by which the head was surrounded. Plutarch
informs us that Periphetes, slain by Theseus, was named
" Corynetes", or the " Mace-Bearer." The weapon of his
fallen foe was then adopted by Theseus himself, becoming
in his hands irresistible. The corporation mace itself
has by some writers been derived from the " sceptre of
Agamemnon", which was preserved by the Chi^roneans.
238 BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES.
This sceptre, as we are told by Pausanias, was not kept
in a temple, but was used much after the manner of a
mace in corporate towns. It was annually brought to
view with proper ceremonies, and a sort of mayor's feast
seems to have been provided on the occasion.
In England the charming skull-cracker styled " the
morning star of Scandinavia", and the spiked ball of the
Danish battle-axe, seem to have been the prototypes of
the early mace. This begins to appear as a weapon in
the Bayeux Tapestry. Bishops, it seems, might use
them, though they were not allowed to handle the sword.
They were at first very simple in form: the mace of
Bishop Wyvil, and one of the time of Henry III, looking
like enlarged copies of a brass-headed nail, having a
blunt or rounded point and some surface decoration.
Some of the earliest corporation maces bear a marked
resemblance to those of military origin. They had six or
eight longitudinal sections forming a head, and were
doubtless powerful means of enforcing and preserving
order. The body of " Sergeants-at-Mace", instituted by
Richard I, formed a guard for the King's tent, and were
empowered to arrest traitors, the mace being deemed a
sufficient authority for this purpose. In the parish church
of Wandsworth is a brass to a Sergeant-at-Mace.
These warlike symbols, which had thus become signs of
authority, in the course of two centuries became richer in
material, more elaborate in form, and adapted for official
display at ceremonials. Thus, in 1 4 1 7, a Sergeant-at-Mace
was ordered, when appearing before the King, to wear a
gold chain with a badge of the King's arms and quarter-
ings, " with a peon royal, or mace of silver", in his right
hand. He was also to have a truncheon in his left hand,
which would seem to imply that the mace had become
distinctly a symbol, richly ornamented ; while the trun-
cheon, if need be, was to perform those severer tasks for
which the mace was originally fitted.
The early corporate maces, which were of iron or cop-
per, soon began to follow the richer fashions of the times.
The towns becoming powerful, and having a growing
public spirit, soon saw the importance of civic insignia as
evidence of their rising power. They began to surround
BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES. 239
their chief magistrates with state and circumstance, not
merely as Carlyle puts it, " to keep fools at a distance",
but also because of the practical value to them of these
adjuncts in the process of securing and enlarging their
liberties. On the same principle that a poor man is
advised by Lytton to go dressed in his best to see a
wealthy relative, these boroughs quickly discovered that
they had better audience of the great barons, and were
more successful in their visits to the court, when they
enhanced the importance of their town by the manner in
which they sent forth their mayors. The robes there-
fore became sumptuous, the retinue large, and the civic
mace of silver (sometimes even with parts in gold) was
lavishly adorned with devices and enriched with orna-
ment, in the colours and treatment of the ecclesiastical
art of that period. This went on to such an extent that
the King was moved at last to interfere. An Act was
passed in the reign of Edward III providing that no
mayor, borough-reeve, port-reeve, or bailiff, should have
carried before him a mace of any metal more costly than
copper, except by the special gift or permission of the
King. We do not know how far this Act was obeyed.
It may have caused the mace to become more strictly
useful and less ornamental.
Long after this period the mace was a weighty imple-
ment, used in troublous times for enforcing law and order.
The knocking down of Wat Tyler by the mace of the
Lord Mayor of London, in the early years of the reign of
Kichard II, was probably no historical embellishment,
but the counterpart of many a lively scene in which the
first citizen of an English town was compelled thus to
assert his authority, and even to defend his life.
A curious example of the character and meaning of the
mace is given in the records of Coventry. In 14.')0,
King Henry VI visited the city. The J\Layor, arrayed in
scarlet, met him on horseback, aliglited, and with his
brethren made him due obeisance on the knees. Then
the Serjeant-at-Mace put the mace into the Mayor's
hand. He, duly kissing it, offered it to the King.
Henry YI, with an approving speech, returned it to iiini,
and the Mayor took horse, holding the mace in his hand,
240 BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES.
riding before the King, the two Baihffs of the city riding
before the Mayor, holding their maces in their hands,
making way and room for the King's coming. This
ceremony clearly indicates the time-honoured meaning of
the mace, as representing the royal power and authority
delegated to the Mayor for the time being ; this power
and authority being recognised as having its source from
The borough of Stratford-on-Avon was incorporated by
royal charter in the seventh year of King Edward YI
(1553), and the two smaller maces, now in the possession
of the corporation, doubtless belong to that period.
The}' have straight stems, with bands and decorated
ends of open scrolls. The heads, shaped like a patera,
have the royal fillet and circlet variously given ; the one
having a coronet of strawberry leaves, the other of cross
pattees. The royal arms are given in plate within the
coronet, one having an ornamental seal-like border, the
other having a royal crown over it, and being supported
on each side by an ostrich plume. The smaller of the
two has a flat circular end, with the arms of Stratford
engraved upon it, within a laurel wreath. The larger of
the two maces has the royal arms enamelled. These
maces are peculiarly graceful in form, but the heads are
Aveighted with lead, so that they were intended for use
as well as ornament ; and it is interesting to know that,
within living memory, they have been carried by con-
stables when arresting culprits within the borough
boundaries. The grand mace of Norwich, having a
number of hexagonal columns of rock crystal to compose
the staff portion, and which is decorated with bands of
bead pearls, has an open coronet, with four low arches
over. It has been placed at a much earlier date than this
would indicate. The fact that it is purely an ornament
or symbol, having no effective value as a weapon, seems
to militate against its earlier origin. I have a fine
photograph of the head, and a complete representation
in the group of the Norwich corporation plate.
A silver-gilt mace of Coventry, 21 ins. in length, and
weighing 36 ozs., is of the time of the Commonwealth.
Report says that it is the gift of Cromwell, It is a
BOROUGH SEALS AXD CIVIC MACES. 241
curious question for antiquaries to decide, whether the
Lord Protector â€” who said of the parliamentary mace,
" Take away that bauble" â€” really presented this mace to
Coventry. It seems pretty clear, however, that Crom-
well, after indulging in that premature observation, had
a mace made for himself To return to the Coventry
example : the shaft, slightly widening towards the lower
end, has three bands or knops. It is richly chased, and
the bowl above has upon it the Coventry arms, alternat-
ing Avith the St. George's Cross and the Harp. This
bowl is crested with a circlet or tiara of foliage, in open
work. The designer has thus avoided the old forms of
royalty, the fleur-de-lis and Maltese Cross, while pro-
ducing a similar effect when seen at a short distance.
On the flat plate of head within this circlet, are the
arms of the Commonwealth, the St. George's Cross for
England impaling the Harp for Ireland.
The examples of maces up to this period are not
numerous, probably because public property w^as not held
in such sacred regard as w^ere the vessels of the Church
ritual. The former were sometimes lost or stolen, and
occasionally w^ere melted for the sake of the precious
metal they contained. One of the worst foes of these
ancient examples of art was the change of fashion ;
another danger to which they were exposed was the
desire to possess a mace of greater proportions and more
elaborate treatment. Many entries of payment to silver-
smiths for new maces contain the item, ''allowed for the
old maces". These reasons may account for the paucity
of specimens up to the period of the Restoration.
From this time all is changed. The number of maces
extant, dating from this period, shows that the whole of
the corporate boroughs must have burst forth with a
sudden display of their civic dignities.
Enthusiastic Royalists celebrated the accession of the
second Charles by gifts of maces, often splendid in
character and workmanship, wdth this inscription beneath
the fillet : " The freedom of England, by God's blessino-
restored, 1660." There was also a new feature then
introduced, which may be supposed to express effectively
the joy of the people in again having a King to reign
242 BOROUGH SEALS AND CIVIC MACES.
over them. The four bars of the royal crown were now
placed above the circlet of cross pattees and fleurs-de-lis,
and in centre of the arch or dome caused by their inter-
section was placed the orb or mound, a globe with
transverse band, having the cross pattee upon its summit.
We thus have the mace now fully constituted in all its
elements as representing the royal authority. The King
himself presented a series of maces to the great towns,
in which the same features were embodied. Many
boroughs already in possession of maces had the addition
of the four bars of the crown, with the orb at summit,
made to those they had if they did not obtain new ones.
The maces of the Carlovingian period are of relined form,
and from 2 ft. to 3 ft. in length. The Tamworth ones
in the county of Stafford are typical examples. They
measure respectively 3 if ins. and 31 ins. in length : they
are nearly alike, and on one there are indications of
gilding. The column is slender, the head bold, the crown
very pronounced, and a delicate set of three projecting
scrolls leading up to and supporting the bowl. There
are three projecting knops in the shaft, and the delicate