Bewdley Town CouncilHistorical Information
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|The Town Constable|
|Councillors Robes & Hats|
Bewdley was given a Charter by Edward IV in 1472. He also granted a coat of arms to the Town (the fetterlock was his personal badge). Henry VII gave one in 1509, Henry VIII in 1525, James I in 1606, James II in 1685 & Queen Anne in 1708.
We have here those for 1472 (incredible that it has been so well
preserved for over 500 years) 1606 and 1708. The first of these
(1472) was discovered by Mrs. Florence Pritchard in a wooden box
lying in the open air in the Shambles (now the Museum yard).
At a time when everything, literally everything, was owned by the
Crown, a charter was invaluable to a town. Because it obtains its
independence - with the right to raise its own income, to manage
& police itself - in exchange for loyalty to his Majesty.
The 1472 Charter made the Town independent & permitted its Burgesses to be free of any tolls or taxes anywhere in the Kingdom.
The 1606 Charter gave Bewdley's Burgesses the right to elect one of themselves to Parliament and the right to be the ruling body of the town. They were to comprise a Bailiff and 12 Capital Burgesses with the sole right to elect anyone to keep up their own numbers (so long as that person was not employed by a nobleman) and with wide ranging powers for running the town. So they were self perpetuating. It also set up the Grammar School (to be called the Free Grammar School in Bewdley of King James of England) and gave the Burgesses power to punish offenders.
Many attempts were made by the Crown, particularly Charles II, to have Charters annulled and new ones granted more favourable to the Crown (for example by giving the King the right to dismiss burgesses and re-appoint those who were more politically acceptable to him) inducements were, for example, the offer of a new Charter giving the right to claim tolls for any vessel passing under Bewdley Bridge.
As the 1685 Charter was invalidated, so Queen Anne granted the 1708 Charter which confirmed the King James Charter, named 12 inhabitants of Bewdley to be Burgesses and Samuel Slade to be Bailiff from that date until "the Thursday next before the feast of St. Michael the Archangel next ensuing" and thereafter until another Bailiff was elected by the Burgesses and created the posts of Steward, Recorder and Deputy Recorder.
One of only two pairs in England given by Queen Anne. Hallmarked
1710. Solid Silver. Priceless. They are symbolic weapons to remind
the people of the sovereign's power and authority. They bear
the large initials A.R. - Anne Regina.
The Town Constable wears a fore and aft hat and that and his gown are
both trimmed with silver. He carries a staff. The present holder is
Jim Murdoch who was appointed in 1986 on an honorary basis. Earliest known
named Constables (1836) were Benjamin Jefferies (aged 66) and Samuel Clarke
(aged over 60). The latter combined his duties with that of being a barber
and lived on the corner of Load Street and Park Lane. If you look there now
you will see that it has once again become a hairdressing shop but now
known as "Unisex Hairdressers" Would Sam Clarke turn in his grave if
he knew that. He used to keep the keys to the Town Hall gates and
prisons and handcuffs, hanging over the fireplace whilst he shaved
his customers. To start with Bewdley Constables had no uniform, but
each was provided with a staff. The present staff was made of oak from
the Wyre Forest tipped at each end with metal and in the centre. The
Bewdley Coat of Arms was made in the jewellery quarter in Birmingham and
is affixed to the top. We have no photographs of early PC's but, generally
outside London, uniforms were dark blue swallow-tail coats, a well glazed stove
pipe hat with white duck trousers in summer and blue serge in winter. During
the 1850's and 1860's the top hat and white trousers were on the way out and
helmets were coming in.
A fore and aft hat with gold band to distinguish the Mayor (as leader) from just a mere Councillor. The blue gown is most unusual because of Bewdley's maritime connections - at one time being an inland port. Nearly all other Mayors wear red gowns. We have a photo showing all the Midland Mayors. Bewdley in Blue, Leamington is in purple, Coventry in Brown and the rest in common or garden red. The Mayoral chain - over the years some of its links have been lost. First acquired at the time of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee - 1897. Prior to that the Mayor was chainless. The Mayor's robe with fur collar was also first bought at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The trend was set by Kidderminster who bought theirs 10 years earlier at the time of Queen Victoria's Silver Jubilee. At Westminster or Buckingham Palace the Bewdley Mayor would rank fourth - after Bristol, Portsmouth and London. At Worcester cathedral he would rank first after Worcester's Mayor. Unless especially invited to do so the Mayor should never take the chain outside the Borough boundary, but should instead wear the medallion on a blue ribbon.
First introduced in 1949 by Mayor Charles R. Pritchard. Prior to that the Councillors wore best everyday dress. Mr. Pritchard is reputed to have said that he was fed up with being followed in his regalia at ceremonial occasions by "rag, tail and bobtail". The late Councillor Whetton was so small (4ft 10ins) that he had to have his robe specially made. Robes are handed on. Normally supplied by the firm of Ede and Ravenscroft who have been in that business since 1689. Hats for women Councillors are tricorn and in black.