The Bungay Town Reeve's Chain of Office
The chain of office of the Town Reeve of Bungay is unique - there is no other chain of office like it, or similar, to it anywhere. It is made up of a number of medallions, most of them linked to royal landmarks, following the very first one donated, to form the first Town Reeve's chain of office, in 1820.
It was given by the Town Reeve of that year, Richard Mann, to mark the accession to the throne of the United Kingdom of King George IV, and “to be worn by succeeding Town Reeves as an emblem of office.” The inscription on it says:
“Presented to the feoffees and inhabitants of the Town of Bungay by Richard Mann, Town Reeve 1820, as a token of his esteem and to commemorate the accession of George the Fourth to the Throne of Great Britain.”
It remained the only medallion for over 115 years. Originally, it was believed, it was worn on a ribbon, but later it was held on a more substantial silver chain, with the first Town Reeve pictured wearing it being Frederick Smith, who was Town Reeve four times, in 1885-86, 1893-94, 1894-95, and 1899-1900.
In 1935 the Town Reeve that year, Charles Philip Parry-Crooke, added a second medallion, and an additional chain, to mark the silver jubilee of King George V. And two years later, to mark the coronation of King George VI, the then Town Reeve Geoffrey Guy Sprake, added a third medallion to the chain - each of them thus commemorating a King George.
A year later, in 1938, the town had its first woman Town Reeve, Rosalind Messenger, and to commemorate her year of office and becoming the first woman to take the historic role, she added a fourth medallion, depicting the Butter Cross (Bungay's iconic monument owned by the Trust) to the chain.
The fifth came in 1954, added by Town Reeve Percy Jeans Sprake - who was also Clerk to the Trust for nearly 60 years -and featuring Bungay's newly granted coat-of-arms.
It was 23 years before a sixth medallion was added. It was in 1977, to mark the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne, and was added by Michael Belcher, Town Reeve that year. Four years later, in 1981, Town Reeve Mary Kent added another medallion, this time to commemorate the wedding of the heir to the throne, her eldest son, Prince Charles, to Lady Diana Spencer. Mrs Kent went on to be Town Reeve three times.
The 2000 Millennium was the next notable landmark to be marked with additions to the chain. Reginald McDaniel, in his second term in the office, added two small medallions, suitably inscribed, for a date change that will not be marked again for 1000 years
The final medallion was added 34 years later, in 2015, by Town Reeve, Terry Reeve, in his third term in the role, to commemorate the date in September, 2015, on which Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in the country's history. It incorporates a limited edition coin struck to mark the landmark date, and is inscribed round its edge.
All of these make the chair of office the most asked about and talked about wherever the Town Reeve goes on civic duties, so much does it stand out from those worn by other dignitaries - a unique jewel in the Town Trust's, and the town's, crown.
During the 1950s the practice was begun to attach small silver plates, inscribed with the names of Town Reeves, to the upper part of the chain where it went around the wearer's shoulders. This continued to 2003, when there were so many that it had become unwieldy. They were removed and put on display in Bungay Museum, along with the robes of office, donated in 1952 by the Town Reeve that year, John Clay. They were crimson, and fur trimmed. Three years later Town Reeve Wilfred Sutton added a Tudor style hat to the outfit, which was worn on ceremonial occasions from then on until 2002. That year, because the robes were becoming worn and delicate, the 2002 Town Reeve, Susan Curtis (now Susan Fitch), presented new robes, this time purple and trimmed with black velvet, and also with a matching black hat in academic style. They are the ones currently worn by Town Reeves.
The Town Trust regalia also includes a consort's chain, worn by the Town Reeve's wife, husband or partner. It was donated by Rosalind Messenger in 1951, during her second term of office, to commemorate the Festival of Britain that year. In 2012 John Warnes, Town Reeve that year, and his wife Betty, Town Reeve in 1998, added two medallions to the consort's chain - one to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession that year, and the other noting Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897.
In 2003, to mark his second term in the office, Terry Reeve presented a medallion to be worn by the deputy Town Reeve. It features the lion rampant, the symbol on the Bigod Flag adopted by the Town Trust, and an appropriate inscription.
In addition the regalia includes the famous Town Trust candelabra, seen once a year when it has pride of place at the Town Dinner hosted by the Town Reeve. The impressive piece was presented to William Hartcup, three times Town Reeve in 1867-68, 1874-75 and 1880-81, and his wife, Louisa Jane, by the inhabitants of Bungay on the occasion of their golden wedding in 1893. It was given back to the town by the Hartcup family in 1958, and has graced the Town Dinner since then.
In 2007, to mark her term of office, Maureen Davies presented the Town Trust with two silver goblets, to be used by the Town Reeve and his consort at the Town Dinner. And in 2014 her husband, Michael Davies, Town Reeve that year, presented a second pair of goblets, to be used at the dinner by the chief guest and his or her consort.