St. Clement's Church
Mayor's Blackthorn Staff (in foreground) on the window-sill of Mayor's Parlour
Today, elections of the Mayor and councillors are conducted differently from years ago - the following is an account of an election in Sandwich in the 13th - 14th century.
Account from the Sandwich Archives:
The source of the account is the 'Customal' completed in 1301 by Adam Champneys, Town Clerk of Sandwich in the 1290's.
"On the Monday next after the feast of the Apostle St. Andrew, the common horn is sounded at about 1 o'clock, by the Sergeant at the 14 usual places, he makes a proclamation to this effect:
"Every man of 12 years or more go to St. Clement's Church, there our commonalty hath need, haste - haste."
"When the Mayor of the previous year and the commonalty are assembled in the Church of St. Clement's, and the Sergeant has brought his horn, the Mayor takes the stick and horn from the Sergeant, and the keys of the chest from the two jurats (the keepers) and puts them near him. He then addresses the commonalty in a speech, desiring them to proceed to a new election. The commonalty desire the Mayor to withdraw, and name three other reputable men, whether present or not, to be elected with him, who must be natives of the town, for no strangers are eligible to the office of Mayor."
"Then somebody desires the freemen to make choice of one of the four in election to be Mayor. The votes are then collected, first of the jurats, then of the freemen, and when the election is decided, unanimously or by a plurality of votes, two persons go to the elected Mayor and desire him in the name of the assembly, to come take his office and be sworn. The Mayor then takes the Oath."
"The jurats (juratii, aldermanni, barones), twelve in number, are appointed and sworn. Two of the keys of the common chest are given to two of the jurats, the third with the chest itself, remains in the custody of the Mayor."
"After the business is over, the Common Wardman bears the horn on his shoulders to the mayor's house; the mayor follows with the rest of the assembly."
"On the Thursday next, after the election of the Mayor, the Town Clerk is appointed."
Jurats combined the functions of a 21st century Council's elected representatives with those of its paid officials.
They sat with the Mayor to decide the Corporation's policy for the prosperity of the town and the welfare of the townsfolk.
Some also acted as executive officers carrying out the Council's policy or ensuring that it was carried out by others.
They were members of the powerful Merchants' Guild, business men and experienced administrators and, as a condition for election, were obliged to reside in the town.
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