For more than seven centuries the ceremony of electing a mayor has annually been enacted in this ancient town and port of Faversham, one of the oldest corporate towns in the country. The title of ‘mayor’ came into use, it appears, in the middle of the 13th century, following shortly after the grant of the Charter of Henry III. How much further back the election of a chief citizen dates, we do not know, for the Charter of Henry III was merely a confirmation of the privileges which Faversham had enjoyed since the days of Edward the Confessor, who died in 1066.
On the average a mayor has served two terms. Some years ago, it was decided that a mayor should not serve two years consecutively, but that rule was soon waived, and it has become the practice at the end of mayor’s first term to pay him the compliment of inviting him to continue for another year. In most instances the invitation has been accepted.
A few mayors have served more than two terms, though not necessarily in succession. The record service is that of Dr Sidney Robert Alexander, who was mayor continuously for ten years.
Incidentally, the town council is not obliged to elect a mayor from among its own members; it can elect someone from outside.
A very great honour and distinction which can fall upon a mayor of Faversham derives from the town’s membership of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports. For centuries the Barons of the Ports and their members have possessed and claimed the right to attend the Coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey. Originally their right was the holding of a canopy over the Monarch. The canopy has, however long since been dispensed with, but the Barons have continued to claim their right to attendance.
On these occasions, the Barons appointed by the Ports and their members to attend are usually the mayors.
The original picturesque dress is still worn, comprising scarlet cloak, embroidered waistcoat, black velvet knee-breeches, black silk stockings, silver buckled shoes and velvet cap.
Although the election of the first mayor goes back to 1256, and it is recorded that “the mayor always had his sergeant”, more than one hundred and sixty years passed before there was a mace to carry before his worship. It was in 1419 that Henry V granted the authority to use a mace. Presumably it was obtained without undue delay, and it appears to have suffered somewhat from usage during the ensuing century, for the chamberlain’s accounts for 1527 and again in 1531 contain payments for “mending the mace”.
This mace does not now comply with the terms of King Henry’s Charter, in which he stipulated that the Arms of the Cinque Ports should be inserted in the head. Instead, it contains the royal arms. The mace was altered twice during the 17th century. When Cromwell came to power, the Commonwealth arms had to be substituted, and the second alteration followed the restoration of Charles II in 1660. It was then, apparently, that, instead of restoring the Cinque Ports arms, the royal arms were inserted.
It is made of silver gilt, with the royal arms at its head, on the sides, the rose (for England), harp (for Ireland), Thistle (for Scotland) and fleur de lis (for France). The whole is surmounted by an arched crown carrying the orb and cross. The maker’s mark is a greyhound sejant on a horse, thrice repeated.
Later, a second mace was obtained. Thomas Mendfield, who had been mayor in 1602 and died during the second mayoralty in 1614, left to the Corporation "twenty marks to be expended on a silver salt-cellar, the same to remain in the custody of the mayor successively for the better furnishing of his table". This piece of silver plate passed from mayor to mayor for pretty well 150 years, and it may that consequent on joviality at civic feastings, or to lack of care by servants, the salt-cellar had suffered; anyhow, by 1755 it had become greatly defaced. The Corporation then decided that it should be sold and that the money arising from the sale, plus another £24, should be laid out in the purchase of a second mace. The head of this mace was made from the old silver salt-cellar and contains at the top the Cinque Ports Arms, thereby making good the error in the earlier one.
This mace does comply with the 1419 charter, at the top it displays the Cinque Ports arms. On the sides are the seal of the barons of Faversham (c 1200), the seal of the barons of Faversham (c Edward I), obverse of this seal and the mayoralty seal. There is no hall mark.
It may be of interest to quite the original grant of Henry V to the Corporation to use a mace. Following is the translation from the Latin:
“Henry by the Grace of God, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland, to all to whom these present letters shall come, Greetings. Know ye that by our special grace an on the petition of our beloved lieges, the Mayor and Commonality of our town of Faversham, within the liberty of the Cinque Ports, we have granted to them that they shall have a certain mace carried before the Mayor of our town aforesaid for the time being, within the aforesaid Liberty, with the arms of the Cinque Ports fixed in the head of the Mace above mentioned. In witness whereof we have caused to be made these our letters patent. Witness myself at Westminster the 8th day of March, in the seventh year of our Reign. By writ of Privy Seal.”
Pointing to the mace on the table of the House of Commons, Cromwell is recorded to have exclaimed, “Take away that bauble”. There came a time when there were Cromwells on Faversham Town Council. It is inconceivable that the Council today would contemplate the disposal of the maces. Yet that is what the Council decided to do three years after the passing of the Municipal Corporations Reform Act (1835) which brought about great change in corporate towns.
On the 7th June, 1838, the Council actually made an order for the maces to be sold by public action and exhibited in the Guildhall one day previous to the sale.
We are doubtless indebted to Mr William Chapman Morgan, the last mayor under the old regime, for the fact that we still possess the maces today. Mr Morgan wrote to the Duke of Wellington, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, asking him to use his influence to prevent the sale. The duke replied “the Duke of Wellington presents his compliments to Mr Morgan and has received his letter. Mr Morgan desires the Duke to do that which he has no right by law to do. The Corporation of Faversham have a right under the law to sell the maces, the Duke has no right under the same law even to give an opinion on the subject, much less to prevent the execution of the act. The Duke laments exceedingly this state of things. He was always sensible of the consequences of the measures of the last seven years. He is not responsible for them; he can only lament them with others.”
With the knowledge of Mr Morgan’s intervention and the views of the Duke, the Corporation, fortunately, had second thoughts, for the proposed sale was not proceeded with.
The Mayor’s Chain and Badge
For centuries the mayoral dignity was not enhanced by the wearing of a chain; indeed, compared with the antiquity of the mayoralty, the chain is a recent acquisition. It was presented in 1885 by the then mayor, some past mayors, and their friends. At the time, however, it was not quite the length it is now, for some years later it was lengthened by the addition of three more links presented by later mayors.
Chains were worn by officers of the Royal Household. In course of time, it became the fashion for public officers to wear them, and mayors, as representatives of the Sovereign in their municipalities, wore chains as symbols that they were bound in service to the Crown.
The Faversham chain is a very handsome one in 18-carat gold, and suspended from it is the mayor’s badge, which is massive. The chain consists of fifteen sets of links with shields and mural crowns engraved in front with the arms or monograms of the mayors concerned and on the reverse with their names and years of office. Also incorporated are miniature maces (after ancient borough ones) with rudders at the sides; a facsimile if the old corporate seal in medieval enamel and gold crown overall. The badge is also in 18-carat gold, with Gothic top and bosses, the name of the town in enamel, a laurel border, enamelled legend and facsimile of the ancient mayoralty seal.
The fifteen mayors whose names appear on the shields of the chain are noted on their mayoralty year entries – from 1854 to 1902.
The Mayor’s Wand
In addition to the chain, the mayor has a wand of office. This is a plain and slender rod of polished yew, 5feet 9inches in length – the emblem of straightness and integrity of rule. It is handed by the town clerk to the mayor immediately following his election. It was so delivered from the hands of successive mayors throughout the three centuries from 1537 to 1835 when the Municipal Corporation Reform Act came into operation.
The wand then got into the personal possession of the last mayor prior to the Act – William Chapman Morgan and for thirty-five years the old ceremony lapsed until the wand was restored to the Corporation in 1870. The ceremony of handing it to successive mayors was then resumed and has been continued ever since. It is matter for astonishment that so fragile a thing has survived the hazards of over four centuries.
The Moot Horn
It is early 14th century and one of the oldest existing. It is of brass, covered in leather.
The legend round the mouth is + Ricardus Juvenus me fecit. The custom of the town required the horn to be blown at 8.30am at places appointed in antiquity to summon all concerned to the election of the mayor and the jurats.
For more information Burghmote Horn – Faversham Charters and Magna Carta Exhibition
This is a double one of laten, made in the reign of Edward I (1272 – 1307) and 6.3cm (2.5 inches) in diameter. The device is of a ship of war with one mast, on the sea. Two sailors are sitting on the yard, furling the mainsail, a mariner in the crows nest, five sailors with weapons and a captain in the body of the vessel, two trumpeters in the stern castle, with a flag charge with three chevronels. In the forecastle is the flag with the cross of St George.
In the upper part is a large rose en soleil with a legend +SIGILLIM BARONIM …. DE… FAVERSHAM. It is suggested that the rose was added on the grant of Henry VIII charter in 1546.
On the obverse is a shield with the three lions of England. REGIS : UT : ARMA : LIBERA : PORTUS : EGO : - translates as ‘at my own expense I provide his armament I am the Kings port.
The mayor also has his own personal seal. This was made by the same engraver as the town’s corporate seal in the reign of Edward I (1272 – 1307). The device on the seal is under a crocheted triple canopy with panelled side shafts, a figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary seated and holding the Holy Child.; in her right hand, a short sceptre with fleur-de-lis head: below, a large shield of the Cinque Port arms; the field of the seal diapered; legend “SIGILLUM MAIORATUS VILLE DE FAVERSHAM”.
There is also a later seal dated c 1450
A die containing a small copy of this seal was presented to the Corporation by Mr J A Anderson during his mayoralty in 1882 and has since been used on the mayor’s letter paper.
It was in 1757 that the Wardmote ordered that every jurat (alderman or magistrate) was to be habited in a black callamanco or russell gown, trimmed with black velvet and black silk frogs and tassels, as the jurats of the town formerly used to be habited in. Every member of the common council was to be habited in a black calamanco or russell gown of the same make, trimmed with black velvet, but without frogs and tassels.
The use of these gowns was discontinued in 1836 when the reformed corporation came into being. But in 1855 the old jurat’s gown was revived and was worn by mayors until 1871 when the blue gown trimmed with fur was substituted. This latter gown was the mayoral robe until the present one was presented by Mr Charles Cremer, mayor in 1899, 1907 and 1908.
Alderman’s gowns were again adopted in 1888 and have now been acquired for the councillors. All members also have cocked hats.
In addition to the other items, the corporation’s regalia includes three staves, the gifts of 17th and 18th century mayors.
VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE
12 Market Place, ME13 7AE
10am to 4pm - Monday to Saturday
10am to 1pm - Sunday (opening hours may vary)
FLEUR MUSEUM - FREE ENTRY
12-13 Preston Street, ME13 8NS
Open Fridays & Saturdays 11:00 to 15:00
11 Preston Street, ME13 8NS
10am to 3.30pm - Monday to Saturday
Off Stonebridge Way, ME13 7SE
Now closed until April 2024