History of The Mayoral Chain

Of all the chains I have seen it is probably not the grandest or most valuable but is by far the most unique of Mayoral chains. It does not tell you who was the Mayor in past years as chains often do but rather tells a story, a pictorial story of the special City and the very special County we live in. It’s impossible to convey in words just how proud I was to be the Mayor of Hereford or describe the privilege I felt in wearing this chain. Next time you see it worn in public, take a closer look at it but if you are interested, read on and I will tell the story.

The chain itself was gifted to the City in 1876 and originally consisted of 17 medallions. A further 7 medallions were added later with the most recent being that of the SAS regiment. The badge of office, the large medallion at its centre, was gifted by Edwin Edward Bosley J.P. who held the office of Mayor of Hereford in 1871-2, 1872-3- and 1873-4 and also in 1893-4. Let’s just dwell upon this a moment; the origin of the coat of arms dates back as far as 1189 to Richard the Lion Heart ,who gave us the right to use his shield for the City of Hereford.  This was later augmented by Charles the 1st who gave the City it’s motto “Invictae, Fidelitatis, Praemium” which translates from  Latin as “the reward for faithfulness unconquered”. This important episode in Hereford’s history relates to the siege of Hereford by the ten Scottish Regiments aligned to the Parliamentary army of Oliver Cromwell.

Quote from Richard Johnson Town Clerk 1882:

“Know ye, therefore that I,  the said Sir Edward Walker, Knight, Garter Principle King at Arms of Englishmen,  by the power  and authority annexed to my Office of Garter and confirmed to me by His Majesty’s letters patent under the Great Seal of England, and likewise his special command and direction,  have devised and set forth such addition and augmentation of arms with crest, supporters, and motto, unto and for the said City, and by whom it was besieged, viz:-

“About the ancient arms of the City being gules, three lions passant guardant argent: on a bordure azure cross saltires or, Scottish crosses argent, supported by two lions rampant ardent, each colured azure, and on each collar three buckles gold, in reference to the armies of the rebellious general Leslie Earl of Leven; and for the crest, on a helm and torse of the collars mantled gules, double argent, a lion passant argent , holding in his right paw a sword erected proper, hilted and pommelled; and in an escarole underneath this motto   Invictae Fidelitatis Praemium.”

In witness thereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of my office this sixteenth day of September in the one and twentieth year of the reign of our Sovereign Charles, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, etc. and in the year of our lord 1685“.

This is only a small part of the rich history and heritage of Hereford, our historic Cathedral City.

The small medallions depict the icons which say so much about our unique City and County, in no particular order as follows:

The Cathedral Chapter, the shield of the Dean and Chapter was presented by George Herbert M.A. Dean of Hereford 1867. Our fantastic spiritual and historic centre, home of the Mappa Mundi, the chained Library and perhaps the finest example of the Magna Carta, all in our Cathedral, the most important destination for visitors to our City.

The next medallion is Mistletoe, presented in 1871 by John Lamb H.M. Coroner, a parasitic plant which grows so abundantly on fruit trees of which we have abundance in Herefordshire. Mistletoe is recognised all over the world, particularly in Japan where it is worn by brides as a lucky charm rather than in this country to steal a kiss at Christmas time.

The next one represents our one time excursion into heavy industry. A Rolling Mill medallion was presented by Henry Wiggin and Co. in 1971 to mark the Mayoralty of W.R.B.Griffin J.P. Henry Wiggin moved from Birmingham to Hereford in 1958 and for which we saw a massive expansion of house building at Newton Farm and Tupsley to accommodate it’s growing workforce, at its prime employing some 6,000 people. Later to be known as Special Metals and indeed pioneered powder metallurgy used extensively in the exploration of space, and space age industry.

Apples, is the emblem on the next medallion given in 1861 by Joseph Carless J.P. and represents out famous Cider making industry. Probably the best known brand in Hereford being Bulmers’ Strongbow although there are hundreds of smaller cider makers spread all over the county, most well-known of those being Westons’ Cider.

The next one is the emblem of a pear blossom, presented by James Rankin J.P. in 1867, and represents the other widely made aperitif Perry which is a very popular product from our orchards in Herefordshire.

At the centre bottom of the chain and the medallion from which the badge of office hangs is the Monarch, our very own Queen Elizabeth. Presented by Mayor Albert Edward Farr 1952-3 and who was also Mayor 1953-4, to mark the Coronation year. Centre stage and representing our civic and historical heritage, the glue that binds us together as a nation.

Following that is the emblem of an acorn which was presented in 1863 by Evan Pateshull J.P and represents the mighty oak tree reminding us that at one time the county was abundantly covered with oak forests. The only remains are mighty specimens to remind us of their age and importance.

The next medallion is a wheat sheaf, presented by Mayor John Gwynne James 1867, representing our other major industry; agriculture, the tilling of the land and the rural nature of our county.

The next medallion, presented by Mayor Janet Ainsley in 1955, is the Old House, often referred to as the Black and White House in our High Town. This impressive and iconic representation of a bygone age of architecture which gives such interest to the millions of tourists who visit and have visited our city over the years. Indeed, the black and white trail is almost a pilgrimage to this bygone age and represents the industry that brings the most money into the county. Tourism is the greatest contributor to our economy bringing in £510 million pounds in 2011, the last recorded year.

Hops is the emblem featured on the next medallion, presented in 1867 by Charles Lingen J.P. This special ingredient is grown extensively in Herefordshire, the most essential ingredient for real ale.

At the top of the left shoulder sits the medallion depicting The Bishop’s Shield, gifted by The Venerable Lord Saye and Sele Canon in 1840 and Arch Deacon of Hereford 1863.

The second row of medallions start with the emblem of the Royal Air Force, presented in 1959 to mark the granting of the freedom of the City of Hereford. Stationed at Credenhill for 54 years until the late 1980’s when the station was closed and gave way for it’s present occupation by our famous SAS regiment.

The Hereford Bull, presented in 1924 by Mayor W. G. C. Britten in memory of Thomas Jefferson an ancestor and co-founder of the Hereford Breed. The world famous white faced Hereford cattle known all over the world is the most iconic symbol of Hereford and is featured on this next medallion.

Centred in the second row of the chain is that of the Lion which surmounts the coat of arms, presented in 1874 by Mayor Orlando Shellard. The Lion has long been associated with Hereford as it was Richard the 1st who granted Hereford its first Royal Charter in 1189. The centre of the City’s Coat of Arms depicts the shield of Richard 1st. 

Hereford has always been loyal to the crown. Queen Elizabeth 1st awarded us so many privileges, most conspicuously our Cap of Maintenance and the title of Right Worshipful Mayor. Only ten in the nation have been awarded this title with Hereford being the most senior ‘Right Worshipful’. King Charles granted us our very special coat of arms for protecting him against Oliver Cromwell.

The next medallion bears the emblem of a salmon which was presented by the first woman to be elected Mayor of Hereford, Louise Luard  in 1929. Salmon is still a cherished catch on the wye though not at all as abundant as it was in years gone by.

The top row includes a medallion marking the granting of the Freedom of the city to The Kings Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) in 1960. Herefordshire has a long association with the KSLI; prior to 1908 the Herefordshire Militia was the 4 Battalion of the KSLI; after 1908 the KSLI administered the newly formed Herefordshire Regiment. The KSLI and The Herefordshire Light Infantry became part of the Light Infantry in 1966 and in 2007 became part of the Rifles. The Rifles are represented in Herefordshire by 3 platoon, A company, 6RIFLES and C (RIFLES) Company Hereford & Worcester Army Cadet force.

Finally, hanging from the centre of the second row of medallions is the last one added in 1981 to mark the granting of the Freedom of the City of Hereford and is the emblem of perhaps the most famous army regiment in the world. The Special Air Service Regiment made its home in Hereford after it’s inception in the desert operations of the middle east in World War Two.

There are some duplicated medallions which hang upon the back of the Mayoral chain. Hops presented by Joseph Carless Town Clerk in 1968; Wheat presented in 1857 by Mayor Francis Lewis Bodenham; Acorn presented in 1863 by Revd. Archer Clive Chief Steward; Perry pear, presented in 1874 by  George Clive M.P; Apples, presented in 1870 by Mayor Thomas Llanwarne; Mistletoe presented in  1872 by Henry Graves Bull J.P. and centre at the back is the medallion depicting the library building, a gift of the Hereford teachers to commemorate the Mayoralty of Alderman M.H. Thomas in 1972.

That is the wonderful story of the chain.

If you would like a more detailed history of our traditions and artefacts we have some splendid booklets available. Please send a small donation for the Mayoral fundraising account to cover postage and we will send them to you. Don’t forget to enclose your postal contact details.

Cllr. Charles Nicholls Right Worshipful, Former Mayor of Hereford  2015-16