The municipalia and Corporation plate

Pages 446-456

Cardiff Records: Volume 5. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1905.

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In this section

Chapter VIII.

The Municipalia and Corporation Plate, Cardiff, 1904.


THESE consist of the following items, all of which are modern except the Four Maces, and are here placed in their Chronological Order:— First.—Two small maces of the extreme inclusive length of twentyone inches, having bowl ends three and one-eighth inches in diameter and two and three-quarter inches in depth, on the ends of annulated shafts with projecting grips of suggestive form. They bear no plate marks, but may be assigned to the reign of Charles the First. These municipal maces are the lineal descendants of the battle maces in use by cavalry from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century inclusive, for attacking men encased in steel armour impervious to arrow, bolt, lance, and sword. They gave place to the battle-axe and the pistol in the reign of Henry the Eighth.

From implements of war they became symbols of authority, and as such lingered on in the diminutive form of the bailiff's tipstaff to our own time.

In this gradual descension from the knightly weapon to the vulgar tipstaff they assumed habits of conviviality, and literally turned themselves from the art of war to the usages of peace and plenty, and were assigned that ceremonial dignity which belongs to the representative of a dormant peerage. The offensive end, no longer of any practical use, became the grip end by reducing the terrible gills to a mere knop for the greater convenience of holding the staff. These two smaller maces exhibit by the form of their grip this suppression of the gills in order to fit the mace for a very different purpose. (fn. 1) This change of purpose consisted in attaching by a screw to the opposite end of the staff the silver drinking bowls or tumblers which were used at Corporate feastings when needed for them, and for Mace heads upon ceremonial occasions when they were not. The next change was to ornament these bowls or tumblers with straps, embossing or engraving, adding a cresting, usually of fleursde-lis, and making them a fixed and permanent part of the now merely ceremonial emblem of civil authority. This development accounts for the cup-shaped heads of the modern civic mace, suggested as they were by the round bottomed drinking vessels called tumblers because they would not lie on their sides, but if so placed would sway from side to side until they ultimately rested in an upright position. (These tumblers are still used in some of the Colleges of Oxford for drinking beer.) This very usual cup-shaped mace-head having lost its convivial use, soon underwent a further change which almost conceals its origin. This consisted in adding a fixed cover to the bowl in the form of a royal crown of such dimensions as to constitute the most conspicuous or visible part of the whole; as illustrated by the heads of the two larger maces considered below.

Each bowl head of these smaller maces is inscribed "Ville Cardiff" in contemporary characters. They are immovable and covered with flat lids with a cresting of fleurs-de-lis, the central limbs of which are now so bent down and flattened as to present a battered and humbled aspect. The core of the shaft is a rod of iron.

Second.—Two larger Maces, respectively thirty-three and thirtythree and a half inches in extreme length. Are of the reign of William and Mary, and bear the plate marks for the year 1690. They consist of a prominently crowned bowl upon an annulated shaft of thin silver having an iron core, but without the knop of the two preceding ones. The bowls and their crowned covers bear the same maker's mark—a script R in a shaped scutcheon with a single pellet beneath it—so that they are contemporary, or more strictly between 1690 and 1693. These bowls are of equal depth and diameter, that is, five and a quarter inches.

Their external surface is divided into four sections by straps, on the upper ends of which are truncate human figures with foliate extremities. In each section thus formed is one of the several national emblems, each beneath a royal crown, thus: the heraldic rose for England, for France the fleur-de-lis, for Scotland the thistle, and for Ireland the harp. This latter suggests the question why not the shamrock for Ireland ? and may not the substitution of the harp be a covert snub to Ireland for her then political attitude towards William III. and her affection for the dethroned James II., while the equivocal harp which cannot be denied to Ireland may really be intended to symbolise Wales (then as now a stronghold of Protestantism), especially upon the Maces of a Welsh town. Thus the Maces are of the year 1690, and it was on July 1st of that year that William defeated James II. at the battle of the Boyne. (This suggestion is not without ingenuity but it is untenable, for the harp as the symbol of Ireland appears with the rose and thistle on one of the London Civic Maces for the year 1625 and it was not until many years after the date of these maces that the shamrock became the "recognised" symbol of Ireland in the reign of George I., so that it could not so appear in 1690.) The flat portion of the crowned covers bear the Royal Arms of England beneath a crown surrounded by the Garter with its legend, supported by the Lion for England and the Unicorn for Scotland. (The Scottish Unicorn was first used as one of the supporters of the Royal Arms of England by James VI. of Scotland when he became James I. of England.) In these Maces the Crown consists of a circlet crested with alternate fleurs-delis and crosses pattees, from which rise two arches intersecting each other in a much depressed centre. Within the hollow thus formed is the cross and mound, or orb and cross, as it is indifferently styled. This symbol is often said to imply the World dominated by the Cross, but it is of an antiquity long anterior to the advent of Christ, and was familiarly known in Ancient Egypt as the Key of Life and is usually called the Crux Ansata. It has from old times been used by the Sovereigns of Europe as the symbol of their divine right to rule. It is always placed in the bearer's left hand, while in the right is a sceptre topped with a fleur-de-lis or a cross pattee having an equally remote origin and allied significance. On the bowl of one of these maces are scratched the initials "W. S. 1786," presumably those of William Stone, Junior, one of the Sergeants of Mace in that year (see Records of Cardiff, Vol. IV., p. 337.) On the end of the shaft of the other mace are also the initials E. I., and T. H. (unidentified.)

Silver Cistern or Monteith.

This was presented to the Corporation of Cardiff by Alderman Samuel Arthur Brain, J.P., in commemoration of his Mayoralty 1899–1900.

This noble piece of plate is nine and a quarter inches high, twenty-eight and a half inches in extreme length, fifteen and a half inches in width. The height of the bowl only is eight and a quarter inches and the depth of the cavetto seven and a half inches in the centre. Its weight is three hundred and twenty-five ounces, and it bears the plate mark for the year 1786. It is in the form of an elliptical Monteith, a variety of punchbowl (of which it is a much belated example) very fashionable between the years 1689 and 1720 (See Cripps, p. 329, Edition 1894.) Its name is that of its inventor, a gentleman remarkable for wearing a scalloped coat. Scalloped as is the rim of this vessel, the indentations of which were provided for holding the glasses or cups when the bowl was brought into the room.

"New things produce new words, and so Monteith
Has by one vessel saved himself from Death."

The bowl bears on either side an elongated elliptical panel eight inches by four. In one of these Neptune drives his seahorses through rough waves attended by a Triton blowing his conch horn, and a Cupid, or Eros, bearing a torch which emits a portentous amount of smoke, to meet his bride Amphitrite in the large corresponding panel on the opposite side, where she is found driving her dolphins through the sea attended by a Nereid and heralded by a Triton. On each side are two other smaller elliptical panels occupied by chased representations of the Seasons. The edge of the bowl is thickened by a band of bold foliated scroll work and deeply indented for the reception of drinking cups. The handles are formed of well-modelled youthful figures, merging at the loins into foliage and scrolls, by which and singularly conventional wings they are attached to the ends of the vessel in bold projection, in this particular feature differing widely from the typical Monteith. The body rests on four vigorously designed dragonesque feet, about four inches high and of bold projection, which by their attachment to the curved side of the bowl raise it about three-quarters of an inch from the horizontal plane, although to the eye the elevation seems much greater. On the side above the Neptune panel is the following inscription:—

"This Jardinere was given to the Cardiff Corporation by "Councillor Samuel Arthur Brain, J.P., Mayor of Cardiff "1899–1900, 1st January, 1900.

Joseph Larke Wheatley, Town Clerk," below which are engraved the arms, crest, and motto, "Ardua tendo" of the Donor. (Alderman Samuel Arthur Brain, J.P., obit February 19th, 1903.)

Silver Epergne.

This handsome piece of plate, weighing one hundred and sixty-six and a half ounces and bearing the Sheffield Plate Mark for 1820, is thus inscribed:—

"In commemoration of his Mayoralty (1898–9) this Epergne
"was presented to the Corporation of Cardiff by Sir Thomas
"Morel, Knight, J. P., 9th November, 1899.

Joseph Larke Wheatley,
Town Clerk and Clerk of the Peace."

It is engraved with arms of Cardiff, the words "County Borough of Cardiff," and the worthy Donor's personal bearings. It consists of a truncate equilaterally triangular base, with concave sides, from which ascend a central column and curvilinear foliated branches supporting as many cut glass dishes, behind the branches are three figures of Pomona cast from the same mould, bearing baskets of mixed fruit and flowers, and supporting a coronal, the lower member of which is richly embossed with flowers, fruit and foliage, separated from the narrow uppermost member, similarly embossed, by an intervening space of plain metal, giving a sense of repose to the whole composition. (Alderman Sir Thomas Morel, Kt., J.P., died on the 7th October, 1903.)

The Mayor's Chain.

This Chain was presented to the Corporation in 1868, to commemorate the Coming of Age of the late Marquess of Bute. It is of 18 carat gold and the cost, £250, was defrayed by public subscription.

The original chain consisted of intertwined links, each ornamented with a ball. The front of the badge represented the arms of the Borough, with the legend "Villa Cardif," in blue enamel, surrounded by a wreath of oak and laurel. Over the shield was the Prince of Wales Plume. The back of the badge was quite plain and the following names of successive Mayors are engraved thereon:—

Mr. R. L. Reece 1868
Mr. T. Evans 1869
Mr. E. Whiffen 1870
Mr. C. W. David 1871-2
Mr. Henry Bowen 1873
Mr. W. Vachell 1874
Mr. Daniel Jones 1875-6
Mr. J. Elliot 1877
Dr. Taylor 1878
Mr. Daniel Jones 1879
Mr. J. Mc Connochie 1880
Mr. Rees Jones 1881
Mr. A. Thomas 1882
Mr. G. A. Stone 1883
Mr. Robert Bird 1884
Mr. A. Fulton 1885
Mr. D. E. Jones 1886
Sir Morgan Morgan 1887
Mr. T. Windsor Jacobs 1888
Mr. David Jones 1889
Mr. W. Sanders 1890


The Mayor for that year, Alderman Ebenezer Beavan, J.P., convened a public meeting of the inhabitants of the Borough, which was held on the 25th February, 1897. At this meeting it was agreed to open a public subscription, one of the objects to be the provision of a chain for the Mayoress, and a Committee of Ladies, with Mrs. Beavan as its head, was formed. The Marchioness of Bute took a keen interest in the proposal, and subscribed one hundred pounds towards carrying it out. A sum of between three and four hundred pounds was subscribed, and a chain and badge of fine design was supplied by Messrs. Spiridion and Sons, Jewellers, Duke street, Cardiff, from a specification prepared by the Town Clerk.

The chain is composed of a succession of shields, heraldic roses, dragons, goats, and sea horses of 18 carat gold. The shield, which occupies the centre of the front of the chain, is emblazoned with the arms of the County Borough of Cardiff (or, three chevronels gules), the chevronels being of rubies. The shield is surmounted by a mural crown set in diamonds. Occupying a similar position at the top of the chain is a pair of leeks in saltire carrying a shield bearing the arms of Wales, also surmounted by a mural crown set with diamonds. On the sides of the chain are twelve shields charged with the arms of the twelve counties of Wales. For those counties which bear no arms the arms of, or seal of, the chief corporate body in that county have been adopted. These are all enamelled as far as possible in correct heraldic colours, and each is surmounted by the Prince of Wales Plume. Each shield is supported by either a dragon and goat or a dragon and a sea horse, it being the intention of the designer that those counties which have a seaboard should be supported by a sea horse, and that a goat should support the shields representing the inland counties. Between the shields is an heraldic rose, the Common Seal of the County Borough of Cardiff, correctly enamelled. The badge is composed mainly of diamonds. The centre of it is occupied by an enamel portrait of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Surmounting the portrait are the Royal Arms enamelled in colours. On either side of the portrait is a figure typifying poetry and music respectively. Below are branches in diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, and roses, thistles, and shamrocks, with the dates 1837-1897. The link which joins the badge to the chain is composed of a rose, on which is set a diamond of the first water.

At the back of the badge is an inscription as follows:—

"To commemorate the long reign of Her Most Gracious
"Majesty Queen Victoria this chain was presented to the
"Corporation of Cardiff by the townspeople, to be worn by
"the Mayoress for the time being.

22nd June, 1897.

E. Beavan, Mayor.

J. L. Wheatley, Town Clerk."

The length of the chain is about forty-four inches.

The following names are inscribed on the links of the chain:—

Mrs. E. Beavan 1896-7
Mrs. Jos. Ramsdale 1897-8
Lady Morel 1898-9
Mrs. Sam A. Brain 1899-1900
Mrs. Thomas Andrews 1900-1
Mrs. F. J. Beavan 1901-2
Mrs. Edwd. Thomas 1902-3
Mrs. John Jenkins 1903-4

The Loving Cup.

The Loving Cup was presented to the Corporation by the late Marquess of Bute at the close of his year of office as Mayor, in November, 1891, and bears the Edinburgh date-letter for that year.

It stands 32 inches high and is of silver gilt, ornamented with shields of fine gold and jewelled with diamonds, sapphires, amethysts, rubies, emeralds, carbuncles and aqua marines.

The Cup is made in three parts, the base, the cup and the cover. On the base are three figures symbolising the three local rivers, the Taff, the Ely and the Rumney. Each figure represents a river god, with an urn from which flows a stream of water. The figures are enamelled in flesh colour, the flowing water being represented in rock crystal. The figures are seated among water lilies, the flowers being wrought in white enamel with diamond centres, and the leaves in green enamel. The Taff being the largest river is represented by an old man with silver hair and beard, while the other two rivers are represented by youthful men.

Around the stem, between the base and the cup, is coiled the Red Dragon of Wales, studded with carbuncles, the claws being set with diamonds while the eyes are emeralds.

The cup bears two shields, with the arms of the donor and of the town enamelled. It has two handles modelled in the Florentine style with winged figures, and pendant from each handle is a large drop amethyst.

The cover is surmounted by a female figure wearing a mural crown set with diamonds, the face, hands and feet being enamelled in natural colours. The right foot of this figure rests on a block of coal and the left hand grasps a ship's rudder. At her feet is a figure of Sabrina, the goddess of the river Severn, seated among water lilies, the whole being emblematic of Cardiff and its position as a port.

The figures were modelled by Mr. William Birnic Rhind, of Edinburgh. The cup was designed by Messrs. James Crichton and Company, Silversmiths, 47, George Street, Edinburgh, and was executed by workmen in their employ. It is said to have cost over three thousand pounds.

(The Honourable John Patrick Crichton Stuart, third Marquess of Bute, K.T., LL.D., died 9th day of October, 1900, aged 53 years.)

Plate purchased to commemorate the Coronation of—

His Majesty King Edward VII.


Queen Alexandra.

A fine silver epergne of 1808, oval in form, with four branches. It has a band of cast scroll work in relief on burnished field, supported on four winged female figures, with one large cut-glass centre dish and four smaller dishes. The epergne is twelve and a half inches high (without glass.)

On silver plateau with alternate pecten and honeysuckle cresting and winged claw feet, with mirror bottom, thirty inches by nineteen inches.

The weight of the epergne is one hundred and forty-nine ounces five pennyweights, and the plateau one hundred and eighteen ounces twelve pennyweights, making a total of two hundred and sixty-seven ounces seventeen pennyweights.

A very fine silver tea urn of 1828 on square base with scroll feet, melon shape, richly chased with acanthus leaves and flowers on a matted ground with shell and scroll border, standing fifteen inches high and weighing one hundred and forty-nine ounces five penny-weights.

A very fine antique silver salver, shaped beaded border on ball and claw feet, plain centre, with arms and crest date 1775, diameter sixteen inches and weight sixty ounces fifteen pennyweights. This is a charming piece, in pure taste and very characteristic of its period.

A very fine antique silver salver, shaped beaded border on ball and claw feet, plain centre, with arms and crest date 1775, diameter sixteen inches and weight sixty ouncesfifteen pennyweights. This is a charming piece, in pure taste and very characteristic of its period.

The following inscription appears on each of the above pieces of plate:—

"Presented to the Corporation of Cardiff by resolution of
"the Committee to commemorate the Coronation of Their
"Majesties King Edward VII. and Queen Alexandra, at
"which ceremony the Mayor, Councillor Francis John
"Beavan, J.P., Chairman of the Local Coronation Com-
"mittee, was present.

J.L. Wheatley,

Town Clerk, Honorary Secretary."


  • 1. This transition may become apparent by a comparison of these Mace handles with a battle mace, figure 5 of Plate lxxxii., of Meyrick's "Antient Armour." Skelton 1854.