Learn about the regalia of the Mayor's office.

Chain of office

The chain of office represents the responsibility, authority and dignity which are attached to the office of the Mayor, and consists of two parts - the chain itself and the badge.

The Mayor's chain of office has its origins in the 'livery' collars of the Middle Ages. Livery was granted by a person or corporation to their followers, friends or servants as a visible sign of service. The term actually comes from the French word 'livree', meaning 'donated' or 'handed over'.

For instance, rulers or noblemen dressed their servants in clothes of a specific colour, or gave badges with special designs to their allies and supporters. By the 14th century, many of these badges were designed in 2 colours and often changed from year to year.

‚ÄčThe most valuable examples of livery were collars or chains, usually made of gold, which were donated to high ranking officials as symbols of their rank. One of the oldest chains, the Collar of Esses, was granted by the royal House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century; it was worn by Henry VIII's chancellor, Sir Thomas More and still exists today.

In the Middle Ages, these chains would include a badge containing a symbolic image - the badge on the Collar of Esses was the white swan of Lancaster. While this use of symbolic badges has continued to the present day, there was a trend in the 16th century for badges to include miniature portraits of their donors instead.

In the Middle Ages, many large towns were powerful and virtually independent. Although surrounded by the estates of great noblemen, they nurtured their own ambitions to the same influence. One way of showing this was to develop their own coats of arms; another was to have a distinct corporate livery.

Therefore, just as the important royal or noble officials of the day adopted the gold chain as their symbol of office, so too did mayors, as the chief officials of medieval towns.

The Mayor of Hillingdon actually has two chains of office - the double chain and the single chain.

The double chain tends to be worn with the mayoral robes on civic and special occasions. It is silver gilt, hallmarked and was made in Birmingham in 1965.

The single chain was also made in Birmingham, in 1967, and was presented to the borough by electrical and musical industries in 1968.

Page last updated: 18 May 2020