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My Norwich

Making history

Civic chains Published on Wednesday, 19th October 2016

Two fresh pieces of Norwich history are being unveiled as the Lord Mayor and Sheriff have been presented with new civic chains.

Since they were given in 1757 by Matthew Goss, a wealthy dyer and Freeman, the Lord Mayor and Sheriff have been wearing beautiful chains at important events.

However, because of their historical importance and as they not practical for everyday wear, new chains have been made to be worn on a daily basis at civic functions.

Crafted by local goldsmith Sonkai – a family business in the centre of the city – the new chains, made of gold-plated Sterling silver, tell a story of Norwich through motifs depicting significant aspects of history – past and recent.

The new chains were presented by Sonkai to the Lord Mayor and Sheriff – with representatives from the Freemen of Norwich, who have funded the project – at City Hall last week.

They are set to be formally unveiled to the public on Saturday 5 November, where anyone who wants to see the chains are welcome to attend an open event at Sonkai, on Dove Street, where the Lord Mayor and Sheriff will be present from 12-2pm.

Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor Marion Maxwell said:

“The Sheriff and I couldn’t be more honoured to be the first, in what I hope will be a very long line of civics to wear these truly stunning new pieces of history.

We would like to thank Sara Sweet, Craig Snape and their team at Sonkai for rising to the challenge of capturing the rich history of Norwich so beautifully, as well as the Freeman of Norwich and their Town Close Estate Charity for making this possible through their generosity.”

Speaking on the decision to fund the new chains, Nigel Back, chairman of the Freeman’s Committee and Norwich Town Close Estate Charity said:

“The gift of these Chains of Office is entirely in keeping with the modern role that the Freemen of Norwich and their Town Close Estate Charity continue to play in the life of the city.”

More about the new chains

The new chains have a total of 18 motifs, with the option of adding more. The motifs include:

  • 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.
  • Norwich Castle – One of Norwich’s most famous landmarks, built by the Normans as a Royal Palace 900 years ago. From a palace and later as a prison, it now hosts a museum and art gallery.
  • Printing – The first printing press in England was in Norwich allowing for printed material for the masses.
  • 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

Sonkai owner Craig, speaking personally on what the chains mean to him said:

“My favourite emblem is the aviation symbol, due to the complexity of its design and finish, and I am particularly pleased with how it turned out.

Finding out about Norwich’s rich history has been a fascinating part of this journey and we are all so pleased to be helping make a little bit of history ourselves”. To see more detail about the full range of motifs, visit and click on the ‘Civic regalia’ button.

The 1757 chains will still be worn on special occasions such as mayor-making

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