The retired maces with, from left Town Crier Nigel Scott, Sergeant at Mace John Hawkins, Mayor Kate Browne and Town Bailiff Francis Ferguson. PHOTO: Axbridge Photography

Historic Axbridge maces retired after four centuries

A PAIR of historic and extremely valuable Axbridge maces have been retired from duty after almost 400 years.

The symbolic civic instruments were commissioned in 1623 when James I granted the town its third Charter.

Made in silver and bedecked with false jewels, the larger mace measuring 80cm long was carried by the Town Bailiff Francis Ferguson.

The smaller at 72 cm long was carried by the Sergeant at Mace, John Hawkins, whose role was to collect fines.

Before the introduction of a national police force in 1856, keeping law and order had been an issue at the time with records in the 17th century stating that Axbridge was the scene of ‘many riots, routs, unlawful assemblies, conventions and (where) offences are committed by divers (sic) disorderly persons’.

Axbridge symbol

Both maces carry engravings of the Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God, the symbol of Axbridge since at least the medieval period.

Their ceremonial use continued throughout the centuries but in 2008 concerns about their poor condition led the Axbridge Town Trust to seek specialist help.

Repairs were carried out and a specially designed box was made to hold the maces safely in an upright position.

In the Victorian period they had been stored lying down, causing at least some of the damage.

During the conservation work 15 earlier repairs were identified on the straps of the larger mace and 13 on the smaller one.

It was agreed they should be taken out of use by 2020 and put on display.

 

Maces 1

Final outing

Their final outing took place a few weeks ago on September 6, a year late owing to the pandemic, in a brief ceremony held on the steps of St John the Baptist Church.

The Town Crier Nigel Scott proclaimed: ‘Oyez, oyez, oyez. After 400 years the maces shall be retired. God save the Queen.’

Town Trust Chair Peter Scott said: “What makes the Axbridge maces of particular historic interest is that most which pre-date the Commonwealth were destroyed during that turbulent period as they were regarded as symbols of royal power.

“Somehow the Axbridge maces not only survived but also retained their royal coat of arms.

“They have served our town well and we hope plenty of people will now come and see them at King John’s Hunting Lodge Museum here in Axbridge as soon as suitable arrangements can be made.”

 

 

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