Hereford City Heritage

The Mayor’s Chain

Municipal History

Hereford is a City granted by Royal Charter and, as such, is one of a rare number that bear this mark of distinction granted by a sovereign. Please click ‘City Status’ to learn more about this.

The profit that Hereford drew from Richard l’s pecuniary necessities it held against all later kings, and nowhere in England did a mayor and common council so stoutly and persistently resent interference with their liberties by that other and rival power within the walls, the body ecclesiastic. For centuries it was a resolute tug-of-war between the bishop and his followers in the Cathedral quarter and the citizens elsewhere. Matters of toll and of privilege on both sides were in constant debate and more than debate. A diverting instance of this friction and the subsequent reconciliation occurred in 1520. A distress warrent was issued by the mayor upon a subject in the Cathedral precincts, the execution of which a residentiary canon named Walwyn opposed by assaulting the mayor’s sergeant’s head. A settlement was arranged in the “Cathedral church at two o’clock in the afternoon of the feast of St.Luke...with the taking of hands for the sign and token of love between the church and the city”. In the church Walwyn paid an indemnity of 6s 8d for his outrage, of which “for further amity and love the mayor willed his sergeant to remit 5s.” Afterwards, as still further proof of their mutual affection and goodwill, they went forth (the mayor, Walwyn, and another residentiary) arm in arm to the tavern of one William ap Thomas, and “the canons of the Chapter there gave in wine to the mayor and others to the value of 20 pence”. This in the time of Bishop Booth, who was so much in Henry Vlll’s favour that he was with the King at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

The Motto of the City

 ‘Praemium invictae fidelitatis’ can be seen on civic furniture throughout the City.   What does it mean?   The reward of unconquered loyalty is the translation.   Why?   Because during the Civil War the City espoused the Royalist cause.

 The detailed description of the arms is in heraldic terms.   This includes reference to a peer’s helm, a gold-covered device only shared by the City of Westminster.   The City’s right to use this was only achieved after what the College of Heralds refers to as ‘a long rally of correspondence,’ successfully concluded on the City’s part by the then Town Clerk, Harry Culliss, who sent them a wax effigy of the arms, which is included at the base of a pewter tankard which forms part of the City silver.   The official emblazonment of the arms is dated 22nd September, 1975, and is signed by Garter, of the College of Arms, together with two of his colleagues entitled Clarenceux and Nony & Ulster respectively.

 The former Herefordshire County Council’s latin translation was ‘pulchra terra dei donum’, which appropriately means the beautiful land is the gift of God.   On its original merger with Worcestershire the provenance of the new Coat of Arms shows the heraldic equivalent of the rivers Wye and Severn.