HEDON’S most precious civic possession, the Henry V Silver Mace, is currently on display at The Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London. Displayed proudly in a brilliantly illuminated (and extremely secure) display cabinet, it sits alongside the City of London’s fabulous Crystal Sceptre.
Following formal invitations from His Worship, Councillor Alan Yarrow, the Lord Mayor of London, the ancient town of Hedon’s 669th Mayor, Councillor Neil Black and Mayoress Mrs Linda Black, along with the immediate-past Mayor, Councillor John Dennis and his wife Mrs Jennifer Dennis, attended a formal reception at The Guildhall Art Gallery on Wednesday 28th October 2015.
The reception marked the launch of an important exhibition of the City’s civic artefacts, timed to coincide with the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.
Mayor Cllr. Neil Black said: “We were given the warmest of welcomes by the Guildhall staff on our arrival and entertained wonderfully by the civic leaders. The unveiling of the exhibition was carried out by the Lady Mayoress of the City of London, Lady Gilly Yarrow to whom I presented a Hedon Crest on the town’s behalf. In attendance were the two Sheriffs of the City of London, Alderman Charles Bowman and Christine Rigden.
“All present were fascinated with the history of both Maces and particularly the capital city’s connection with little old Hedon, most not knowing where Hedon was. They do now!
“I suggested to Lady Gilly that the historic town of Hedon is now inextricably linked with City of London and as such she and her husband would be warmly received should they find time to come and visit us here in East Yorkshire.”
Cllr. Dennis added: “Whilst I’m no longer the Mayor, this whole episode started back in March when I was still in office. Back then I hosted a visit by Dr Michael Hall and was fascinated by the story he told, and his theories as to how we initially came into possession of our Silver Mace – which we already knew to be the oldest such mace in England. For several months we corresponded and worked together to secure Hedon’s place in this internationally important exhibition. These two artefacts are the only ones presented by Henry V still in the hands of their intended recipients, and for them to be displayed together, side by side is a great honour for our town.
“I was very pleased indeed to receive the invitation from the Lord Mayor, and enjoyed this unique experience, meeting many of our capital’s most prominent civic, commercial and cultural leaders.
“To see our mace displayed in equal prominence alongside the Crystal Sceptre, was quite a thrill, and it made all the time and effort worthwhile.”
The artefacts – why they are historically significant:
The Crystal Sceptre has been brought out of the Guildhall’s vaults and placed upon public display for the first time since the Queen’s coronation in 1953. Its only other ‘outing’ is when it is used by the retiring London Lord Mayor when transfering office to a successor in the traditional ‘silent ceremony’ at mayormaking time. The outgoing, and incoming Lord Mayors both reach out and touch the sceptre in its case, and by doing so the office changes hands.
The fabulous Crystal Sceptre is made of Rock Crystal, cut with three spiral flutes, highly decorated and inlaid with gold, sapphires, rubies and natural pearls. It was given to the Lord Mayor of London by Henry V as a ‘thank you’ for the city council’s help in funding Agincourt,
The Hedon 1420 silver mace is much less ornate, and is of a much simpler, understated design. Yet it is no less important by virtue of its historical significance, according to eminent historian Dr Michael Hall, the curator of The Rothschild Collection at Exbury House. He visited Hedon in March, during his research into these two unique pieces which was carried out in great depth over several months. He claims that the town’s mace was made originally as a weapon which was used at Agincourt in 1415. It was subsequently upgraded to become a ceremonial piece probably by a York silversmith who encased the original iron shaft in silver, adding a foliate crown embossed with King’s initials ‘H’ and ‘R’ (Henricus Rex)
Henry had granted Hedon a Royal Charter in 1415, presumably shortly before his invasion of northern France and his unexpected success at Agincourt. That Charter conferred certain rights and privileges upon the town including powers of self-government. In those times Hedon was ranked alongside York and Lincoln insofar as its rights and privileges were concerned, and had at one stage become the 11th most important port in the country.
In 1420, Henry went on a ‘process’ to the north of England during which he visited York, Beverley and Lincoln. He had three ‘favoured’ saints one of which was St. John of Beverley, and Dr Hall proposes that Henry would have wanted to visit John’s shrine at Beverley Minster to express gratitude for his Agincourt victory. From Beverley, the King went south to meet up with his new wife, Queen Catherine who was waiting for him in Lincoln. Dr. Hall suggests there is a distinct probability, impossible to prove of course, that Henry and his entourage would have crossed the Humber at Hedon, during which visit he would have presented the silver mace to our Mayor.
Article by Cllrs. Neil Black and John Dennis with many thanks.