Compiled by Michael Russell OPC for Dorchester May 2012 [last updated Feb 2014]
Serjeants-at-Mace were established with the early Charters granted to the town by the King and they were certainly in place prior to the Charter of 1610 granted by James I which refers to them being already in place within Dorchester. They are also referred to in William Whiteway's diary. Their main function seems to have been ceremonial and to keep order at the meetings of the Corporation but they would also have been called upon in the early years to enforce order if necessary and for this reason holders of the office were often retired soldiers. It is no surprise to find Thomas DEVENISH leaving the position as Serjeant of Mace to take over Dorchester Jail & House of Correction.
The history of Dorchester, during the British, Roman, Saxon, and Norman period, with an Account of its present state (by James Allen which was published in 1837) states on page 128 in referring to the Charter granted to Dorchester Corporation by Charles 1st on 22nd Dec 1630, " It shall be lawful for the said Mayor, &c. to have a prison, for keeping and punishing malefactors and other persons attached; and there shall be two Serjeants at Mace, who shall carry before the Mayor gilded or silver maces, adorned with the arms of the Kingdom of England".
The following information has been compiled from references made to Serjeants at Mace in the Municipal Records or in local parish registers from which we know about a few of those who held office:-
22 July 1640 - it was agreed, at the motion of Matthew Bonger, that the Sergeants at Mace would on St James day next proclaim in the fair that if the country men will bring in their sheep and cattle on any market days, provision shall be made for penning of the sheep that shall be brought to the market to be sold
19 Nov 1731 - An order survives in the Municipal Records, which states "Ordered that Samuel STANNING gentleman , the town steward, do forthwith pay unto Mr. Daniel ARDEN the summe of fifty six pounds for the new maces lately by him provided for the use of the said Corporation".
10 Jan 1760 - John SHEPPARD Serjeant of Mace of the parish of All Saints & Mary Wyer of the parish of Holy Trinity were married by Licence
16 Feb 1776 - Holy Trinity Burial register shows the burial of Thomas POOK, Serjeant at Mace
30 Jan 1790 - John BENNETT, sergeant-at- mace was admitted to the Company of Freemen
6th Oct 1794 - George READ to be Serjeant at Mace in room [i.e. in place of] William READ his father deceased [William Read was buried at HT on 13 Jul 1794]
22 Feb 1796 - Resolved that the Serjeants at Mace be not permitted henceforth to collect any Christmas gifts from inhabitants, exclusive of the Corporation, and that they be allowed by the Town Steward annually two guineas each in lieu thereof.
16 Apr 1798 - James FOY Succeeds George READ deceased [George Read was buried at St Georges Church Fordington on 15th March 1798]
20 Sep 1819 - Agreed that the Cloaks and Hats for the Serjeants at Mace be in future provided and paid for by the Town Steward for the Corporation, to be allowed in his Accounts that such Cloaks and Hats to serve for five years and the colour of the Cloaks to be blue, and that an annual remuneration be made to the Serjeants at Mace in lieu of the Cloaks and Hats
07 Jun 1821 - Agreed that the sum of Ten Pounds be annually allowed to the Serjeants at Mace in lieu of Cloaks and Hats
18 Sep 1828 - Richard GROVES appointed by the Mayor with the unanimous approbation of the Corporation, Serjeant at Mace in the room [i.e. place of] John GRAY deceased. His salary to commence from the 29th instant [Note:- John Gray was buried at St George Church Fordington on 10 Sep 1828; age 58 years]
25th Mar 1829 - resolved that from the 25th day of March last serjeants at Mace shall be paid the sum of £30 each per annum in lieu of all other gifts and perquisites
29 Aug 1829 - James HUTCHINGS appointed by the Mayor with the approbation of the Corporation in the room [i.e. in place of] John BENNETT resigned.
1875 - Post Office Directory shows - R.E. CURTIS to be Serjeant at Mace
1889 - Kellys directory shows - James Robert England CURTIS 43; High West Street; Sergeant at Mace & Bill Poster; Commercial
1895 - Kellys Directory shows - George MITCHELL , senior. keeper of the Corn Exchange & Guildhall & Sergeant-at-Mace, 30 Fordington hill
1915 - Kellys Directory shows - William James BENGER and Sydney CLIST to be Serjeants at Mace and Officers of the Corporation
1931 - Kelly's Directory shows - W.F.COLLINS Sergeant at Mace clerk to the markets and inspector under the town Police clauses Act - 3 Cromwell Road
The Municipal Records also have a few entries concerning the Maces:-
16 Jan 1660 - The silver upon the old Maces was this day weighed and it came unto 15oz half and half quarter, which at 5 shillings an ounce comes to £3.18.3d which was intended to bee delivered to Mr. Samuel White's wife towards payment for the new Maces, with 5d more added to it makes £3.18.8d
26 Apr 1661 - It is ordered and agreed that Twenty shillings a man, which shall be lent and advanced to Mr Samuel WHITE's wife by any of this company towards payment for the Maces shall be repaid to them and to every [one] of them out of the first monies that the Town Steward shall receive.
03 July 1661 - paid Mrs WHITE as appeareth forward £5 [i.e. as an advance payment towards the cost]
About Michaelmas [i.e.29th September 1661] Mr Savage paid Mrs WHITE in dollars £7.7.0d
04 Oct 1661 - Paid Mrs WHITE more as appeareth forward £4
14 Jun 1727 - Whereas several sums of money have been expended from time to time in repairing the two Maces belonging to the Corporation, and yet by reason of their Antiquity they are now unfit to be amended, Therefore at a meeting of the Mayor, Bailiffs, Aldermen and Burgesses of the said Borough on Wednesday the fourteenth day of June 1727, at the Guildhall of the Borough, It is ordered that Mr Daniel ARDEN Goldsmith do receive into his custody the said old Maces and forthwith dispose of the same for as much money as they will yield, And that he purchase for use of the said Corporation two new Maces, and that he be paid by our Town Steward such a sum as he shall lay out and expend (over and above the money that shall arise by sale of the said old Maces) for the purchase of such two new Maces
19 Nov 1731 - Ordered that Mr Samuel STANNING, gentleman, the Town Steward of the said Borough, do forthwith pay unto Mr Daniel ARDEN the sum of Fifty six pounds for the new Maces lately by him provided for the use of the said Corporation
1804. - Mr George YOUNG his bill for repairing and gilding the Maces £10. carriage to and from London, 5 shillings.
Known Holders of the Office of Serjeant's of the Mace for the Borough of Dorchester:-
2. [1622 - 1626] - Thomas DEVENISH
3. [1626 - Nk ?] - Benjamin DERBY
4. [circa 1760] - John SHEPPARD
5. [NK ? - 1776] - Thomas POOK
5. [pre 1790 - 1829] John BENNETT
6. [NK ? - 1794] - William READ
7. [1794 - 1798] - George READ
8. [1798 - NK ?] - James FOY
9. [NK ? - 1828] - John GRAY
10 [1828 - NK ?] - Richard GROVES
11 [1829 - NK ?] - James HUTCHINS
12 [circa 1875 - 1889] - James Robert England CURTIS
13 [circa 1895] - George MITCHELL
14 [circa 1915] - William James BENGER
15 [circa 1915] - Sydney CLIST
16 [circa 1931] - W.F. COLLINS