Since the beautiful chains were given in 1757 by Matthew Goss, who was a wealthy dyer, numerous Lord Mayors and Sheriffs have been wearing them at important events ever since.
However, because of their historical importance and as they’re not practical for everyday wear, new chains were commissioned in the summer of 2016 to be worn on a daily basis at civic functions. The 1757 chains will still be worn on special occasions such as mayor-making.
In seeking new chains for the Lord Mayor and Sheriff, a design was sought from jewellery artists and makers that reflected both contemporary and historic Norwich.
Local jewellers Sonkai won the commission with a design telling a story of Norwich through motifs depicting significant cultural aspects of the city.
The chains have been made with 18 motifs in total. They have the flexibility of being able to have new motifs added. They can be worn with robes, day dress or evening wear by any gender, whereas the old chains were designed for male Lord Mayors wearing the robes of office. The crests of the Sherriff and Lord Mayor have been retained within the design.
Norwich Freeman and their Town Close Estate Charity has kindly provided the funds to support this project.
Angels – these are in the Lord Mayor’s crest and can be seen on and in City Hall, they denote the tile of Lord Mayor.
Aviation – Norwich has a rich aviation history spanning aircraft production, military and search and rescue roles. A Norwich firm which started as an ironmongers in 1797, became Boulton and Paul Aircraft Ltd.
Brewing and Pubs – known for in the past having a pub for each day of the year. Norwich has a long history of brewing and in recent years there has been a resurgence of brewing in pubs and local breweries.
A canary – representing the weaving trade and the weavers who brought them over. ‘The Canaries’ has subsequently become the nick name for Norwich City Football Club.
Chocolate – Norwich has had a sweet relationship with chocolate, from the Caley’s factory which began making it in 1886. Manufacturers have since included Mackintosh in 1932, merging with Rowntree in 1969 and the new Caley’s of Norwich 1996 and Gnaw 2011. Up until 1996 when the city centre factory closed, there was often a strong smell of chocolate in the city.
Mustard – one of our most famous worldwide exports. Colman’s has been producing mustard in the city since 1858 and mustard fields can be seen across the countryside.
Norwich Castle – one of Norwich’s most famous landmarks, Norwich Castle was built by the Normans as a Royal Palace 900 years ago. The Castle's was a palace and later as a prison, and now hosts a museum, art gallery and registry office.
Freeman of Norwich – In the past, becoming a Freeman of the City gave the right to trade in the city .The city was also governed by Freeman. Only Freemen were allowed to take apprentices, and these apprentice could become a Freeman upon a payment of a fee.
Guildhall – constructed between 1407 and 1413, it served as the seat of city government from the early 15th century until 1938, when it was replaced by the newly built City Hall. At the time of the building's construction and for much of its history, Norwich was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in England, and today the Guildhall is the largest surviving medieval civic building in the country outside London.
Ketts Rebellion (1549) – This was the first rebellion in England and an important moment in our social and agricultural history when local man Robert Kett led a army of 16,000 against landlords who were taking common land. They were defeated by an army under the leadership of the Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Dussindale.
Lion – this is part of the city crest. The lion is said to have been granted by Edward III. The arms are sometimes surmounted by a civic fur cap, and placed between two angels in the position of supporters The two heraldic lions flank the main entrance to City Hall were created by Alfred Frank Hardiman.
Literature: Norwich Public Library on Guildhall Hill and Unesco City of Literature – This library, which functioned from 1784-1976, was the first public subscription library in Norfolk and one of the oldest subscription libraries in England. Now it is housed in the Forum and is the busiest library in the country.
In 2012 Norwich became England’s first UNESCO City of Literature and one of only seven in the world, joining Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin, Reykjavik and Kraków as part of an elite international network. Norwich has an astounding literary heritage, contemporary strengths, and future potential, and unsurprisingly there is a thriving literary scene. The UK’s first MA in Creative Writing was established at UEA by the novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson in 1970.
Mint – 1,000 years ago Norwich had its own mint which reflects the importance of the city at that time. Norwich still has a thriving financial and insurance industries.
Norwich Market – is an outdoor market consisting of around 200 stalls in central Norwich. Founded in the latter part of the 11th century to supply Norman merchants and settlers moving to the area following the Norman conquest of England, it replaced an earlier market a short distance away. It has been in operation on the present site for over 900 years.
Printing – The first printing press in England was in Norwich allowing for printed material for the masses.
Shoe and leather Industry – Norwich revolutionised the shoe industry in 1792 when James Smith created set shoe sizes which allowed mass production. He started the company operating today as Start-rite Shoes one of several shoe businesses in Norwich.
Snap the dragon – Snap who led the grand annual Guild Day procession held at the inauguration of the new Mayor in the time of the Guild in the 14th century is preserved at Norwich Castle Museum. Today Snap appears with the Whifflers, at the head of the Lord Mayors Procession and other civic functions such as mayor-making.
To find out more about the jewellery artists and makers who created the new civic chains visit the Sonkai website.