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The Bailiff's Chains of Office

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

A brief history of the Bailiff's Chains of Office

Whilst the Portreeve's Chains of Office were commissioned in 1891 - the Bailiff's Chains of Office were not commissioned until nearly 50 years later. However, whilst the Portreeve's Chains are static - having remained in a fixed configuration since 1949 (to the best of my knowledge), the Bailiff's Chains are a living record of those taking office with new links being added periodically.

Notes from the Portreeves' Journal

The chains were inaugurated during Court & Law Day on the 21st November 1939. A record of the commissioning and changes to the chains is recorded in the entries added to the Portreeves’ Journal - from the Archives of Bob West (Past Portreeve 1153 - 1973-74):

1939 Jan 23rd

The Portreeve Bailiff and Court Leet met at the Town Hall to discuss the question of a Chain of Office for the Bailiff.

1939 Nov 20th

The Portreeve, Bailiff, and members of the Leet Jury met at 7.30pm at the Golden Lion Hotel when matters relating to the ancient office of Portreeve was discussed. At the request of the Portreeve, the Bailiff was asked to inform the Leet Jury as to the latter's recommendation of forming a Bailiffs Chain, in lieu of adding links to the Portreeves Chain.

The Bailiff reported that such recommendation had been carried out, and the medallion was produced for inspection, the cost of same being borne by the four previous Portreeves in lieu of links. Two links had also been added.

It was decided that the chain should be inaugurated before the actual proceedings on next Court Day, the 21st November 1939, the present Bailiff, the Rev Montague Needham, being invested as the first bearer.

1939 Nov 21st

At a Court Leet and Law Day of our Sovereign Lord the King held at the Chapel of St. Lawrence, Montague Harold Needham, M.A., Clerk in Holy Orders, of Hele House, was elected Portreeve, & Mr E. Amery Adams was elected Bailiff.

Before his election Mr Needham was formally invested by the retiring Portreeve with the Badge & Chain of Office of Bailiff, which had been procured during his year of Office by the contributions of former Portreeves - Rev E.F.Ball, Messrs Hannaford, Joyce Whitleys the Portreeve, whose names & years of Office are inscribed on the Medallion & first link.

1954 Nov 22nd

I am pleased to report that during this year the clock at the Chapel of St. Lawrence has been regilded - while additional links recording holders of the office of Portreeve have been added to the chain of the Bailiff, and the medallion of the chain of the Portreeve has been renovated.

1963 9th Oct

Portreeve visited Jewelers in Torquay - Messrs Conroy Couch Ltd. re new links in the Bailiffs chain (some eight are required with names of Portreeves inscribed to bring this up to date). Later an estimated cost was received of £6.2.6 a set plus the cost of any engraving and postage.


Links have been added to the Bailiffs Chain during the year by the following Portreeves :- Brig. C.H.Lyall-Grant 1966-7, Mrs A.F.J.Jones 1964-5, F.R.Harris 1967-8, M.C.Webster 1969-70, R.P.Jones 1971-2, H.G.Bradford 1972-3, and R.H.West 1973-4. Dr I.T.Barling had his link engraved with his second term of office 1965-6


The inscription on the reverse of the Bailiff's Medallion reads:



Rev. E.F.BALL MA. 1932-3

H. HANNAFORD. 1935-6

H.S. JOYCE. 1936-7

P.P. WHITLEY. 1937-8



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