Civic maces usually incorporate a crown or other insignia, and are a token of Royal authority. They conform to a pattern that was standardised in 1649. Only corporations by Royal Charter are entitled to such a mace. The Deal charter was granted by William III (1689-1702) in 1699.
The Deal mace was made sometime in late 1699 or early 1700 by John Leach. We know the date and his name from the assay and makers marks on the mace. It seems likely that the mace was paid for from the funds subscribed by parishioners to apply for town incorporation.
The assay (testing) mark was a letter of the alphabet that changed each May, with the style of lettering changing every 20 years, in this case the letter ‘d’.
The makers mark, was required from 1696 to be the first two letters of the maker's surname, in Leach’s case ‘LE’.
Leach was from an Oxfordshire family. He was originally apprenticed to a William Bourne of the London Haberdashers' Company in 1675 and made a freeman in 1682. From 1687 he worked at Distaff Lane in London, where he doubtless made small items in precious metal. He was entered into the Goldsmiths' Company between January and July 1699 as a ‘large’ plate worker, so the mace is one of his earliest works from the period he was recorded as a goldsmith. His other plate work is known from several elaborate examples made up until 1711.
The Deal mace weighs 82 troy ounces, a system of measurement introduced from France in the 1520s, or about 5 pounds 8 ounces or 2.5 kilos. It is made of Britannia silver, the finer quality silver required to be used for plate between 1697 and 1720. The gilding, or thin gold coating, was done by brushing on a mixture of gold and mercury and vapourising the mercury.
Ceremonial maces are derived from the special weapons of the serjeants-at-arms appointed first by Philip II of France (1180-1223) and then by Richard I of England (1189-1199). It soon became the custom for the royal arms to be marked on the handle and for maces to be decorated with gold and silver.
As serjeants-at-arms, and later the serjeants and similar officers attending on sheriffs, bailiffs and mayors, became messengers conveying royal orders to local authorities rather than armed guards, so the mace with the royal arms inscribed on it became the token of royal authority. The Deal mace carries the arms of William III (1689-1702).
The mace always precedes the mayor when entering and leaving the council chamber, and rests before the mayor when the council is sitting. When the mayor is seated the mace rests horizontally before him with the crown to his right hand, or for example in church towards the altar.
Research: Ian Williams
Grimwade, Arthur G. London goldsmiths and their marks 1697-1837. 1976.
Heal, Ambrose. The London Goldsmiths 1200-1800. 1935.
Newman, Harold. Illustrated dictionary of Silverware. 1987.
Pritchard, Stephen. The History of Deal. 1864