TRUNCHEON

Godalming Museum, ref: B980.437 

 

This is a ceremonial truncheon (or 'tipstaff') made from wood and decoratively painted at the handle. At the top of the handle is a royal crown in gold and the initials of the reigning monarch, W4th R (William the 4th); under this is an image of Godalming's town seal - a woolsack painted in white and grey, with the date, 1836 across it in black. Below all of this are the initials HM M, which it is thought, stand for Henry Marshall, the town's first mayor. It is very likely that the truncheon was a piece of mayoral regalia.

In 1836 Godalming elected Henry Marshall. This was the first time the town had elected a mayor. Before this, the town had been managed under a system in which a 'Warden' was appointed by a group of 'Assistants' (the Warden's advisors). The charter setting out this system was given by Queen Elizabeth the First in 1574. She granted Godalming the right to be, "...a free Towne corporate in Reallity, deed and Name of one Warden and Inhabitants." This charter also conferred the right to hold a weekly market in the town, with the stallholders paying tolls to the Warden and his Assistants (the Museum also holds the toll cup used to collect the money).

Further responsibilities and duties were set out in 1620 including; the appointment of a 'bedle' or 'bellman' (later to become a 'watchman') to look out for wrong-doers; settling market disputes through the summary courts of 'Piepowder'; levying certain taxes and rates and imposing fines. The system was not without faults; wardens generally looked after their own accounts and could be very creative with their expenses and the election of Wardens could be used by Assistants to score religious, political and personal points - hence, some Wardens were very reluctant to take up their office once elected.

In 1836, following the setting of town boundaries by an Act of Parliament, the mayoral system was introduced to Godalming. Henry Marshall had previously been a Warden in 1831 and was re-elected as town Mayor no less that three further times (1841, 1853, 1862). In 1836 there were still very real connections between his office and the administration of law and order (Godalming did not have an official police force until 1841) and these would seem to be symbolised by the truncheon.

TOWN SEAL

The charter granted by Elizabeth the First brought with it an official seal. This could have been the same image of the woolsack depicted on the truncheon, since the wool trade and the knitting industry were of great importance in Elizabethan times, as during later centuries. The Museum has, in its collections, a small wooden seal depicting the woolsack, bought in 1749 and used to seal official documents for almost 150 years until the Borough was granted a coat of arms in 1893.


SOURCES

Hartfree, Bertram, Municipal History of Godalming
Available for reference in Godalming Museum Library

Nevill, Ralph, Corporation of Godalming
Available for reference in Godalming Museum Library

 

 

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