Salisbury: Seals, insignia and city officers

Pages 178-180

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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The first common seal of the city is round, 21/8 in., and depicts the Virgin, crowned, seated on a castle with side-towers, a sceptre in her right hand and the Child on her left arm. Behind are 2 round turrets with pointed roofs. Above are 2 crescents and an estoile. Below, under a trefoiled arch, stands a mitred bishop, half-length, with his right hand raised in blessing. (fn. 1) Legend, lombardic:

The legend suggests that the matrix was struck soon after the establishment of New Salisbury (c. 1227), but the earliest surviving example is attached to a document of 1298. (fn. 2) The seal was still in use in 1642. (fn. 3) In October 1658 orders were given to make a new seal in replacement of the one that had been stolen from the council house in the same month. This was to resemble the lost seal as closely as possible 'but with some addition as to the date of the Lord'. (fn. 4) This seal, of which the defaced bronze matrix survives, was round, 17/8 in., and bore the city arms, viz. 4 bars, within carved borders. (fn. 5) Legend, humanistic:

If the orders of 1658 were strictly followed, a seal bearing the city arms, of which no known impression survives, must have preceded this one, since the original seal bore quite different devices. The seal of 1658 was still in use in 1833. (fn. 6) In 1836 the reformed corporation adopted a third seal, round, 2¼ in., bearing the city arms, viz. barry of 8, with supporters. (fn. 7) Legend, humanistic:

In 1851 this was replaced by a fourth seal, round, 2 in., of which the silver matrix survives, bearing the city arms, as above, with supporters. (fn. 8) Legend, humanistic:

In 1908 instructions were given to make a new 'die' of the corporation arms based upon the city arms as registered in 1565, i.e. barry of 8. (fn. 9) It is thought that the fifth and present (1958) seal dates from those instructions. The council minute, however, does not mention a seal, and the device upon the present seal differs from that recorded in 1565. The seals, as now (1958) used, are round, 2¼ in., of bronze, and bear the city arms, viz. 4 bars with supporters, surmounted by the words 'Civitas Nove Sarum' in a scroll. (fn. 10) Legend, humanistic:

One seal is in a press and is used for executing wafer stamps, the other is a hand-matrix. There are small differences of detail between the two.

The first mayor's seal, pointed oval, 13/8 × 11/8 in., of 13th century date, in use between 1303 (fn. 11) and 1338, (fn. 12) depicts the Annunciation, under a trefoiled arch with canopy. Below, under a round-headed arch, the mayor, kneeling in prayer to the right. (fn. 13) Legend, lombardic:

The second seal, round, 1¼ in., in use between 1338 (fn. 14) and 1398, (fn. 15) depicts the Annunciation in a niche with 2 pointed arches, pinnacled and crocketed. Below, under a carved round-headed arch, the mayor, half-length, in prayer to the right. (fn. 16) Legend, lombardic:

The third seal, round, 13/8 in., in use from 1398 (fn. 17) until at least 1525, (fn. 18) depicts the Annunciation; a lily flower growing out of a pot stands between the Virgin, holding up her hands on the right, and the Archangel Gabriel holding a scroll inscribed 'Ave Mar' on the left; the whole enclosed in a canopied niche; below, under a round-headed arch, between 2 half-arches, the mayor half-length in prayer. (fn. 19) Legend, black letter:

What seems to be the fourth mayor's seal, round, 1 in., probably of 17th century date, bears the city arms, viz. barry of 6. (fn. 20) Legend, humanistic:

What seems to be the fifth mayor's seal, round 1¼ in., cast in 1836, of which the silver matrix survives, bears the city arms, viz. barry of 8, suspended from a festoon of flowers and leaves, with supporters. Below 2 palm-branches. (fn. 21) Legend, humanistic:

In 1908 the council gave instructions for a seal bearing 'the new arms' to be made for the mayor's use. (fn. 22) Thus was created the sixth mayor's seal, round, 2 in., of which a bronze matrix survives. It bears the city arms, viz. 4 bars, with supporters. (fn. 23) It was out of use by 1958. (fn. 24) Legend, humanistic:

What appears to be another mayoral seal, appended to documents of 1355 (fn. 25) and 1380 (fn. 26) bears the Annunciation under 2 round-headed arches surmounted by 2 pointed ones. No legend.

A seal for the recognizance of statute merchant debts was granted to the city by patent of 1351. (fn. 27) Like the seals of other cities possessing the right to seal statute merchant bonds, the Salisbury seal was of two pieces, the larger kept by the mayor, and the lesser kept by the clerk. (fn. 28) The larger part, as used in 1401 (fn. 29) and 1596, (fn. 30) round, 1¾ in., consisted of a king's head, full face, crowned, with a leopard below, and on either side a church with tall spire. (fn. 31) Legend, lombardic:

A cast existed in 1883 from the legend of which 'Novam' appears to have been omitted. (fn. 32) Two counter-seals survive, each round, 1 in. Of these one, as used in 1401 (fn. 33) and 1429, (fn. 34) depicts the Virgin, seated, crowned, with the Child standing on her left knee. (fn. 35) Legend, lombardic:

The other, as used in 1596, depicts the Virgin, standing, holding the Child. (fn. 36) Legend, humanistic:

The city's insignia (fn. 37) consists of three maces and two chains. Maces belonging to the serjeants were repaired in 1450; by 1496 it is clear that the city had a principal mace, which was delivered to Henry VII on his entrance to the city. In 1681 two new maces were bought. These, with the old principal mace, were sold in 1749 and the three now in use bought. They are of silver-gilt, all of the same design, and measure 4 ft. 7 in., 4 ft. 1 in., and 3 ft. 8 in. respectively. The gold mayor's chain was bought by subscription and presented to the city in 1893. It replaced a chain of silver-gilt, now used by the mayoress, which was presented in 1856.

Some city plate is thought to have been destroyed when the Council House was burnt down in 1780. The only pieces which survived the fire were three silver salvers which were made from a quantity of older plate in 1745, and two silver candlesticks presented in 1743. Of the plate acquired after 1780, the principal pieces are a silver loving cup bequeathed by William Benson Earle in 1796, and a tea and coffee service. The latter had been intended as a gift for Henry Hatcher, the historian of Salisbury, by his pupils, but he died in 1846 before it could be presented, (fn. 38) and his son left it to the city in 1879. More recent acquisitions include a tea and coffee set presented by Mr. Douglas Eyre in 1927, a rose bowl by the Misses Page-Roberts in 1928, a salver by the officers of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry in 1944, and a silver whistling tankard, salver and inkstand by Mr. Frank Stevens in 1948. (fn. 39)

The city arms were blazoned barry of 8 or and azure at the heralds' visitation of 1565 (fn. 40) and until modern times have most frequently assumed that form. (fn. 41) In a Vincent manuscript, however, they are blazoned azure 3 bars or, (fn. 42) and on the common seals of 1658 and of 1908 (the present seal) they are shown as 4 bars. (fn. 43) In a seal possibly of the 17th century, believed to be the fourth mayor's seal, they are shown as barry of 6. (fn. 44) The supporters, as registered in 1565, are 2 eagles displayed or, ducally crowned, beaked and legged azure. (fn. 45) In the achievement now used the eagles are double-headed, gorged not crowned, and beaked and legged or. (fn. 46) Their double heads and gorged necks are apparent upon the common seal of 1836. (fn. 47)

Arms of the City

A complete list of the mayors of Salisbury between 1278 and 1826 was printed by J. Easton in 1826. (fn. 48) Hatcher considered the list of mayors which he compiled for his History of Salisbury to be more accurate. Hatcher's list begins in 1261, and from 1408 until 1836, when it ends, is complete. (fn. 49) Hatcher also printed a list of bishops' bailiffs and high stewards 1297–1829 (fn. 50), and of recorders and deputy recorders 1611–1829. (fn. 51) Lists of mayors and recorders since 1836 are printed in the Year Books issued by the city council.


  • 1. B.M. Cat. of Seals ii. No. 5361–3; Hatcher, Salisbury, pl. facing p. xvii. No. 17.
  • 2. D. & C. Sar. 1/2/8 (Chapter to Edw. of Woodford, dated from internal evidence).
  • 3. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds N. 29. x.
  • 4. Ibid. Ledger D. f. 111.
  • 5. B.M. Cat. of Seals ii. No. 5370; Sar. Corp. MSS.; Hatcher, Salisbury, pl. facing p. xvii. No. 18. For the arms see below. p. 180.
  • 6. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deed chest. Corp. to Will. Kitto.
  • 7. Hatcher, Salisbury, pl. facing p. xvii. No. 19.
  • 8. E. H. Goddard, 'Notes on the Corporation Plate . . . of Wiltshire', W.A.M. xxviii. 53; Sar. Corp. MSS.
  • 9. Sar. Corp. MSS. Fin. Cttee. Min. Bk., 24 June 1907, 22 June 1908; Sub-Cttee. of Fin. Com. Min. Bk. 21 Oct. 1907; Council Min. Bk. 2 July 1908.
  • 10. Sar. Corp. MSS.
  • 11. Ibid. Deeds A. 19. v.
  • 12. Ibid. Deeds B. 8. vii. The 2nd seal was then already in use.
  • 13. B.M. Cat. of Seals ii. No. 5364; Hatcher, Salisbury, pl. facing p. xvii. No. 20.
  • 14. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds B. 8. vii. (2).
  • 15. D. & C. Sar. 1/2/4. The 3rd seal was then already in use. Two documents of similar purport were severally sealed with the 2nd and 3rd seals on the same day.
  • 16. B.M. Cat. of Seals ii. No. 5365; Hatcher, Salisbury, pl. facing p. xvii. No. 22.
  • 17. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds F. 12. i.
  • 18. Ibid. Deeds J. 2. x.
  • 19. B.M. Cat. of Seals ii. No. 5366–7, drawing upon Campb. Chart. viii. 8, which it dates 1416 in mistake for 1403; E 42/180; Hatcher, Salisbury, pl. facing p. xvii, No. 21.
  • 20. B.M. Cat. of Seals ii. No. 5371, where, however, it is classed as a corporation seal.
  • 21. B.M. Cat. of Seals ii. No. 5372; W.A.M. xxviii. 54 (where, however, it is classed as a corporation seal); Sar. Corp. MSS.
  • 22. Sar. Corp. MSS. Fin. Cttee. Min. Bk. 23 Nov. 1908; Council Min. Bk. 12 Nov. 1908.
  • 23. Sar. Corp. MSS.
  • 24. Ex inf. Mr. Richardson, Town Clerk.
  • 25. W.R.O. 164/1/4, Deed Maydneman to le Bor and Godefray.
  • 26. D. & C. Sar. 1/2/8.
  • 27. Cal. Pat. 1350–4, 45; see above, p. 99.
  • 28. Proc. Soc. Antiq. ix. 253.
  • 29. W.R.O. 164/1/8, Deed atte Broke and Waunsi to Mouer and Spenser.
  • 30. C 146/10557.
  • 31. B.M. Cat. of Seals, i. No. 1087; S.C. 13/D 121 (loose) is a good specimen.
  • 32. Proc. Soc. Antiq. ix. 255.
  • 33. W.R.O. 164/1/8 as in n. 39; cf. S.C. 13/D. 121.
  • 34. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds H. 18. iv.
  • 35. B.M. Cat. of Seals, i. No. 1087.
  • 36. C 146/10557.
  • 37. The following two paragraphs are based on E. H. Goddard 'Notes on the Corporation Plate and Insignia of Wilts.', W.A.M. xxviii. 28–62, and C. Haskins, Salisbury Corporation Pictures and Plate, 201–27. In these the insignia and plate are described in detail.
  • 38. See p. 144.
  • 39. Ex inf. the Town Clerk.
  • 40. Genealogist n.s. xii. 240. Checked with MS. B.M. Harl. 1565, f. 1.
  • 41. Coll. of Arms MSS. T. C. 22/1 (visitation of 1632), 2 H. VII/43, M.5/27, Philpott Pb. 7/19b, Vincent 187/71.
  • 42. Ibid. Vincent 184/55.
  • 43. See p. 178.
  • 44. See p. 179.
  • 45. Genealogist n.s. xii. 240.
  • 46. C. W. Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry, 383.
  • 47. Hatcher, Salisbury, pl. facing p. xvii.
  • 48. J. Easton, Correct List of the Mayors of New Sarum or Salisbury (Salisbury 1826).
  • 49. Hatcher, Salisbury, 695–8.
  • 50. Ibid. 698–9.
  • 51. Ibid. 711–12.