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Civic insignia and Durham Town Hall

The civic insignia are important symbols for the Charter Trust and Mayor of Durham City. Durham Town Hall is a historical building in the centre of the city and this page gives more information on the town hall and civic insignia.

The Insignia

The chains of office

The mayor's chain of office was presented to the city in 1870. A chain for the mayoress was presented in 1901 by the immediate ex-mayoress, Lady Anne Lambton.

It was stolen in 1983 and not recovered. However, a replacement was specially made later in 1983-4 by Mr John M Sweeney of Newcastle, and officially worn for the first time by the incoming mayoress, Mrs Gladys Shuker, on 15 May 1984 at the annual meeting of Durham City Council. 

In 1953 a deputy mayoress' badge was presented by immediate past mayor Gordon McIntyre, then deputy mayor. The deputy mayor also has a chain of office, and the deputy mayoress a medallion.

The mayor's chain is 44 inches long and 18 carat gold. It was bought by public subscription and presented at a private ceremony at mayor John Watson's North Bailey home in July 1870.

The occasion was described in the Durham County Advertiser on 30 July 1870, and the fundraising was apparently originally the idea of the Town Clerk, William Marshall.

One of the leading participants, Mr John Coward, made the actual presentation. This chain is still worn by the successive mayors of Durham, as intended. 

The mace

The mace is an emblem of the power and dignity of the mayor and of his authority and the office of mace bearer has a long history. In years gone by he/she may have been known by the ancient title of Sergeant at Mace; and as the title implies, this officer carries the mace before the mayor and is responsible for its proper care. 

The origin of the mace, a weapon of defence is well known. It is the emblem of authority of the mayor and immediately precedes the mayor in all civic processions. Unless there is an overriding local custom to the contrary, no person should be permitted to walk between the mayor and mace bearer.

The mace has four silver bands, each has the name of one of the bishops who gave charters to the city.

The sword

There are two swords in the Guildhall. The one on the left is the old civic sword dating back to 1895. The present one was given to the city in 1913 by the then Earl of Durham to commemorate his being made mayor of the city. On this beautiful two-handed sword is the royal standard, with the coat of arms on the hilt. Above that are the city coat of arms, the county coat of arms, and the coat of arms of the Earl of Durham.

The scabbard is of purple velvet, the colour of the old palatine of Durham. Following a prayer by the city, on 3 May 1919, King George V granted "the privilege of bearing within the confines of the said city a sword ornamented with the royal arms which should be borne before the mayor erect and sheathed and that the bearer of the sword might be attired in an appropriate cap or hat to which no special name or significance should be attributed". The original grant is in the Durham County Record Office.


The current Mayor's and Deputy Mayor's robes were created by Robes of Distinction in 2016.

The immediate past Mayor's robe was presented to the City of Durham by the University of Durham on the occasion of their 150th Anniversary (1983) and is now on permanent display in Durham Town Hall.


Traditionally a male mayor wears a black cocked hat and a female mayor wears a black tricorn hat. The mayor's hat is embellished with gold trim and the deputy mayor's hat is trimmed in silver.

The city seal

The city seal in silver, still in the possession of the corporation, was presented in 1606 by Matthew Pattisonne, son of a burgess and is an excellent example of medieval art.

The armorial bearings

The council of the City of Durham was formed in 1974 following the Local Government Act of 1972 and comprised the Durham Rural District Council, Durham City Council and Brandon and Byshottles Urban District Council.

The garter principal king of arms agreed to the transfer of the coat of arms of the former City of Durham to the new authority but because the new authority in terms of acreage, population and rateable value was so much greater in size than that of the former city, the coat of arms for the grant transfer would include a crest and supporters. The grant is displayed in the Guildhall, Town Hall, where the original design by Mr Keith Robinson of Newton Hall is recorded.

Following the abolition of the city council in 2009 the Charter Trust is guardian of the Armorial Bearings.

Civic plate

A permanent display of civic plate is housed in the Guildhall, Town Hall. Also on display is the silver of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) and freemen of the city.

Durham Town Hall

The Town Hall stands on the west side of the Market Place, next to St. Nicholas's Church and incorporates the Guildhall. Below and beside the Town Hall is the covered market of Durham Markets Company, formerly the site of a manor house belonging to the Earls of Westmoreland.

Extensive refurbishments works were carried out to the Town Hall during 2007 making the building Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant. Durham Town Hall also offers various event areas for hire.


From the standpoint of antiquity, the most interesting part of the civic building is the old Town Hall or Guildhall, last renovated in 1982-3 when additional security devices were installed. It dates back to 1356 in the reign of Edward III and was rebuilt and given to the city by Bishop Tunstal in 1535. After the disastrous Scottish invasion of 1664, the Guildhall was rebuilt in 1665 by Bishop Cosin.

By 1849 the old Town Hall had become too small for the increasing business of the city and the mayor William Henderson, suggested the building of a new Town Hall. The suggestions was readily supported by the citizens and the new hall was built in 1850 and opened in 1851.

Facing you as you enter the Main Hall is the great west window illustrating the history of the city with the bishops of Durham shown in the upper and lower sidelights.

The Mayor's Chamber

The Mayor's Chamber and the Guildhall are entered from a small corridor branching from the main "crush hall" corridor. The door to this small corridor is dated 1889 on the lock. The Mayor's Chamber appears to have been built originally as a stone walled room in the early 1500s and was first panelled in 1752 when its height was increased by three feet.

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