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Chains of office

Chains of Office

Swansea's elaborate heraldic mayoral chain and badge are remarkable examples of the Victorian goldsmith's art.

Lord Mayor's Chains

The chain and badge were the gift of Frank Ash Yeo, who, at the end of his mayoral year in 1875, wished 'to supply a long felt want and to mark the sense of kindness shown to him during his year of office'.  According to Yeo's instructions, the chain and badge were 'to be of massive gold, with silver, platinum and enamelled enrichments carried out in the highest quality of art-production, and executed by goldsmiths of approved reputation in that particular department'.  The manufacture of the chain was entrusted to T and J Bragg, goldsmiths of Birmingham and London.  In its design, the chain owes much to the imagination of the eminent Swansea antiquarian, George Grant Francis.

The finished product admirably fitted Yeo's original specifications.  Indeed the Birmingham Gazette stated that 

If the palm must be given, surely Swansea claims it; this Civic Memorial, which is so full of interest, is believed to be the most elaborate in the county, the parts are carried out in obverse and reverse, complete and perfectly, regardless of cost.....

The first Mayor of Swansea to wear the chain of office was James Livingstone, whose mayoral year was in 1875-6.  The chain has since been worn by each successive Mayor.

Description

The chain of office consists of two parts: the chain itself and the pendant badge.  The pendant is in the form of the achievement of arms of the Borough of Swansea, claimed by Francis to be the arms of the Borough appearing on a common seal supposedly granted to Swansea by William de Breos, lord of Gower during the reign of King John.  There is no historical evidence to support this claim, although, certainly, the devices on the shield were based upon the seal on the 'Ordinances for the Towne of Swaynsey' of 1548, Francis adding the tinctures, crest and supporters in the design of the pendant.

Symbols of Swansea

The achievement is backed by a sea anchor and by replicas of the City's maces - the silver mace of 1615 and the gilt mace of 1753 - arranged saltirewise, while the shield rests on a head of Neptune.  The anchor and Neptune head reflect the City's status as a port, the maces are symbols of the City's authority, while the supporters shown the connexion with the de Breos and Beauforts as lords of Gower.  It seems however, that the pendant has been damaged at some time in the past, and the Neptune head has replaced an original head of a Viking, undoubtedly associated with Sweyn, from whom Swansea is supposedf to take its name.  The lymphad, or galley, has also been damaged, originally having a bow-sprit, fore and mizzen masts in addition to the remaining main-mast.

On the reverse, the pendant bears an inscription on a gold shield supported by sprays of oak and olive leaves and at its base is a Victorian silver penny of 1874.

The chain

The chain is of gold and silver, and is made up of twenty enamelled shields, on the obverse and reverse sides of which are emblazoned the arms or monograms of the forty Mayors of Swansea from 1835-75.

Each shield is surmounted with a gold mural crown and bears the name of the owner of the arms.  The shields are linked together by horizontal silver bars, and between each pair of shields is a vertical link in the form of the fasces, the Roman symbol of magisterial authority.  On each side of the fasces is a capital letter 'S', affording a rebus or pun on the sibillant consonants of the name, 'Swansea'.

Shields

In the centre of the chain is a larger shield from which hangs the pendant.  On the obverse side are the arms of Wales, which are: 'Quarterly, gules and or, four lions passant reguardant counterchanged'.  On the reverse are arms which represent both the de Clare family, lords of Glamorgan, and the county of Glamorganshire: 'Or, three chevronels gules'.

The shields on the obverse of the chain represent the first twenty Mayors, and commence on the dexter side of the arms of Wales, thence running chronologically in a clockwise direction around the chain.  The arms of the second twenty Mayors, on the reverse of the chain, begin on the sinister side of the arms of Glamorgan, and run anti-clockwise around the chain.

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