Wilton: Seals, insignia and borough officers

Pages 36-37

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

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Nothing is known of any seal used by the Guild Merchant, but the emergence of the borough as a corporate body at least by the mid-13th century pre-supposes that fairly early on an instrument of authentication was in use. It is only from the beginning of the 14th century that references to a common seal and to a mayoral seal have survived. A deed of 1309 refers to the existence of both a mayor's seal and a common seal. (fn. 1) From thence onwards references to these seals are very common.

The earliest known example of the common seal of the borough is attached to a document of 1361. (fn. 2) It is a pointed oval 2¼ × 15/8 in. It depicts a shrine with an angel above swinging a censer, and below a female figure facing to the left and praying. The legend in lombardic, but much damaged, reads:

A second common seal is attributed to the late 14th century. (fn. 3) It is a pointed oval 25/8 × 1 11/16 in. It depicts a shrine within a canopied shrine. Above is an angel swinging a censer, and a shield of the arms of England. The background is replenished with sprigs of foliage and flowers. In the base under a round-headed arch is a half-length female figure, facing front, with cap and mantle, praying. The legend in black letter reads:

The first known impression of this seal is appended to a document of 1614, and it was in use throughout the 18th century. (fn. 4) It was said to be in use in 1888, (fn. 5) but was abandoned in 1891, and since then the mayor's seal has been used in its place. (fn. 6)

In 1553 the corporation ledger records that Christopher Willoughby had the custody of the common seal, but had negligently lost it, and a new one bearing the figure of St. Giles had been made. (fn. 7)

The earliest known example of the mayor's seal is attached to a document of 1338. (fn. 8) It is oval 1¼ × 1 in., and depicts the coronation of the Virgin within a double canopy. Above the centre of the canopy is a shield of the arms of England. Below is the head and shoulders of a figure facing right with hands raised in prayer. The legend in lombardic reads:

On a document of 1403 a larger version of the mayor's seal appears. (fn. 9) It is 13/8 × 1 1/16; in. It bears the same legend, and depicts, as before, the coronation of the Virgin, with shield of the arms of England above, but below is a 6-pointed star in place of the praying figure.

A third mayor's seal, attributed to the late 14th century, is circular 13/8 in. (fn. 10) The earliest known impression of it is on a document of 1442–3. (fn. 11) It depicts the same subject, but with the two figures within a triple canopy. Both are crowned and facing frontwards, and the right-hand figure holds in his left hand a sceptre. Above is the same shield, but there is neither figure nor star beneath. The legend in black letter reads:

The silver matrix of this seal was in use in 1888, (fn. 12) and is still (1960) preserved at Wilton.

The seal produced at the Heralds' Visitation of 1623 (fn. 13) appears to have been the third mayor's seal, then described as 'two Saxon kings sejant in Gothic niches, crowned, with sceptres in their hands'. (fn. 14)

A fourth mayor's seal was cut in 1891. (fn. 15) This is circular 13/8 in., and depicts the same scene as the third seal but halos have been added behind the crowns. The legend is as on the third mayor's seal. This was the only seal used by the corporation in 1960.

The borough insignia consists of three maces and a mayor's chain. (fn. 16) The largest mace is of silver-gilt, 37½ in. long, and was presented in 1685 by Oliver Nicholas. The second, also of silver-gilt, is 24¾ in. long and bears the royal arms of Charles I and the inscription 'G.S. Mai 1639'. The third is of silver, only 8¼ in. long and inscribed 'A.R. 1709'. The mayor's chain of silver-gilt was purchased in 1879, largely at the instigation of J. E. Nightingale, whose initials appear on the badge. The only plate belonging to the corporation is a small silver tankard inscribed 'Wilton Burrough 1693'.

A list of the mayors of Wilton from the time of Edward I until 1905 is printed in Edward Slow's Chronology of Wilton. The names of mayors since 1905 are printed in the List of Names of the Town Council etc. issued annually to members of the Town Council. No list of town clerks has been printed.


  • 1. Wilton Corp. MSS. Deeds.
  • 2. Ibid. Will of Nicholas Laurenz.
  • 3. B.M. Cat. ii. No. 5496. It has been suggested that the shrine is that of St. Edith in Wilton Abbey, and the female figure is an abbess: E. H. Goddard, 'Notes on Corporation Plate and Insignia of Wilts.' W.A.M. xxviii. 59.
  • 4. Wilton Corp. MSS. Corporation leases.
  • 5. J. E. Nightingale, 'Succession of the Abbesses of Wilton with some notice of the Wilton Seals', W.A.M. xix. 356. For a picture of this seal see Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Branch and Dole, 67.
  • 6. Wilton Corp. MSS. Corp. Min. Bk. 1885–1897.
  • 7. Ibid. General Entry Bk. f. 127.
  • 8. Ibid. Deed; for description and photograph of an impression on a document of 1348 see W.A.M. xix. 357, and pl. facing p. 342.
  • 9. Wilton Corp. MSS. Deed. See also W.A.M. xix. 356 and 360 for impression on document of 1416.
  • 10. B.M. Cat. ii. No. 5498, and see pl. in Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Branch and Dole, 67.
  • 11. Wilton Corp. MSS. Deed: see Wilts Borough Rec. (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), p. 101, items 202–210.
  • 12. W.A.M. xix. 356.
  • 13. Wilton Corp. MSS., among the records of the court of pleas: see Wilts. Borough Records (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), p. 92, item 63.
  • 14. W.A.M. xix. 356.
  • 15. Wilton Corp. MSS. Corporation Min. Bk. 1885–1897.
  • 16. This paragraph is based on E. H. Goddard, 'Notes on Corporation Plate and Insignia of Wilts.' W.A.M. xxviii. 57–59, and was checked in 1961 by Mr. G. C. Moody.