Crafting The Lord Mayor’s Civic Chains
Creating new and unique pieces is our speciality. In 2016, we had the honour of designing and crafting the new civic chains for the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of Norwich.
Sonkai won the commission to replace the original chains, given in 1757, that had become impractical for everyday wear due to their size and weight, as well as a security risk due to their value. By crafting the new chains in silver, we reduced the weight and value of the piece.
The aim was to craft new chains that could be worn with robes, day dress or evening wear by any gender, in two different ways, as the old chains were purposefully designed for male Lord Mayors wearing the robes of office.
Now, the original chains are only worn for the Mayor-Making ceremony, which takes place each May, and are otherwise kept with the civic regalia at the castle.
Our design, made of 18ct gold-plated sterling silver, depicts the rich cultural history of Norwich in 18 bespoke motifs. Each link has a unique motif that reflects a noteworthy element of our fine city.
The original designs were crafted by our Sonkai designers, Mallory Wilkinson and Susan Blackler, first by hand before being CAD-drawn.
The design process in itself was unique, taking our designers on trips around Norwich, from the Castle to the Council, taking in the history, architecture, and symbolism; fuelled by facts and stories from everyone along the way.
There were many more amazing things we could have designed motifs for, to reflect the rich industrial and cultural history of Norwich. The process really made all of us remember why we are so proud of and in love with our Fine City.
From a technical aspect, the chains enabled us to showcase our skills but also how well the expert use of new technology can work so well alongside the more traditional – producing a truly unique and one-off bespoke commission.
Featuring in the Lord Mayor’s crest and seen both on the exterior and interior of City Hall, Angels denote the title of Lord Mayor.
Inspired by the rich aviation history of Norwich, from aircraft production to military roles.
Brewing and Pubs
Norwich has a long history of brewing and has previously been known for having a pub for each day of the year, reflected in the 365 detailing of this motif.
A representation of Norwich's weaving trade and the weavers who transported the birds, canaries have become a symbol for the city as well as its football club.
Norwich has long been home to chocolate manufacturers, from the Caley’s factory in 1886 through to Gnaw - our fine city has always had a sweet tooth.
Due to the production of infamous Colman’s since 1858 and the many yellow fields spanning the countryside, Norwich has often been associated with Mustard.
In pride of place in the centre of the city, Norwich castle was built by the Normans and has stood tall for 900 years since. Now the castle is home to the city’s museum, art gallery, and registry office.
Freeman of Norwich
Once upon a time, the city was governed by Freeman. In order to have the right to trade in the city and hire apprentices, you had to be a Freeman of the City. The 700 detailing is to honour that it had been 700 years since the first freeman name was recorded in the earliest Norwich register.
Overlooking the market, Guildhall is the largest surviving medieval civic building outside of London in the country and served as the seat of the city government until 1938 when City Hall was built. The clock face and iconic chequerboard tiling has been highlighted in our design.
The rebellion took place in 1549 between a local man, Robert Kett, and landlords who were taking common land. Although defeated, this event was the first rebellion of its kind to take place in England and is very important in local history.
You can find lions as part of the city crest as well as sat either side of the main entrance to City Hall, created by Alfred Frank Hardiman. The lion is said to have been granted by Edward III.
With an incredible literary heritage, Norwich is home to the first public subscription library in Norfolk which is one of the oldest in England. In 2012, our fine city was named Europe's first UNESCO City of Literature.
Norwich was once one of the largest and wealthiest cities in England, demonstrated by the fact that it had its own mint over 1,000 years ago.
Having been in operation for over 900 years, Norwich Market is an iconic part of our fine city. Consisting of around 200 stalls in central Norwich, ours is one of the oldest and largest outdoor markets in the country.
Commemorated by the John Jarrold Printing Museum, Norwich was home to the first printing press in England.
Shoe and leather Industry
James Smith, founder of shoe company Start-rite, revolutionised the industry in 1792 by creating set shoe sizes which allowed for mass production.
Snap the dragon
Snap is known for leading the grand annual Guild Day procession held at the inauguration of the new Mayor. Now preserved at Norwich Castle Museum, Snap makes appearances with the Whifflers, at the head of the Lord Mayors Procession and other civic functions.