The city regalia are displayed in the exhibition case on the landing outside the Lord Mayor's Parlour.
The waits were the city Chamber's own band of musicians, who wore these chains over fine cloaks provided by the Chamber. They performed in the streets, and outside the Mayor's house at Christmas; they also celebrated coronations, victories and anniversaries. Three of the silver waits' chains were made in the 15th century; they are believed to be those re-made in 1476-7 at a cost of 14s (70p); the fourth is of the early 16th century. Each chain consists of alternating letters X and R, each enclosed in a circle and joined to its neighbours by rings. They are now amongst the city's greatest treasures. In 1957 a replica set was made, since the originals are irreplaceable. These are now worn by the Mace Sergeants on Civic occasions.
In 1497 Exeter's citizens successfully resisted the rebel army of Perkin Warbeck, who besieged Exeter in his bid to win the English throne from Henry VII. Grateful for the city's loyalty, Henry awarded symbols of his special favour: the Cap of Maintenance and Ceremonial Sword. The original cap, a simple affair of black felt without a brim, may actually have been the king's own; it was intended to signify a close personal tie between the giver and the receiver. Nowadays it is believed to be enclosed within a richly embroidered brimmed version of crimson felt, bought in 1634 at a price of £21 and 'renovated' in 1766. This cap has recently been "retired" from day to day use as after more than 240 years, it was becoming too fragile to be regularly handled. It is however on permanent display at The Guildhall. In 2009, a replica of this Cap was made by Hand & Locke of London so that the ancient tradition could be continued for many generations to come. It was first used when the 3rd Commando Brigade had a homecoming parade in July 2009, at which its Captain General (HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh) took the salute.
With the Cap of Maintenance, Henry also gave a sword - a symbol of nobility and bravery. He also ordered that a sword bearer should be appointed by the Corporation to carry the sword before the Mayor in all civic processions. This tradition is maintained today; the sword is carried by the Senior Mace Sergeant. This sword has long been treasured. The simple original was enriched at the expense of the city very soon after it was given; the scabbard and chape (the mount at the tip) were added in 1556; Tudor roses were added to quillons (the arms of the cross-piece), followed in James I's reign by the shield bearing the Royal Arms; the velvet covering of the scabbard with its embroidery in silver gilt thread was added in 1634 and renovated in 1766. Again like its partner (the Cap) above, a replica scabbard was made in 2009, by Hand & Locke of London and local metalwork craftsman Neil Bollens. The original lies alongside the Cap on permanent display at The Guildhall. Part of the history surrounding the Cap and Sword of Maintenance is that the hilt of the sword should be offered to the Monarch on each and every occasion that they visit the City - this reaffirms the association of loyalty between the two. This was last done on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's visit to the City on 11 March 2010.
The Mourning Sword, was almost certainly acquired by the City in 1577/8. In Charles II's reign it was put into mourning, to be carried on the anniversary of Charles I's execution in 1649. It is carried on occasions of public mourning and other solemn occasions wrapped in crepe, the last being the memorial service to Sir Winston Churchill in Exeter Cathedral in 1964.
The four maces are of silver gilt. They were made by the goldsmith George Weeks for a total cost of £88 in 1730 and repaired in 1766. They are successors to ancient maces; Exeter had four Sergeants-at-Mace by the1260s.
The Mayor has worn a chain only since 1874. In 1873 the Royal Archaeological Institute held its annual congress in Exeter. So pleased were the members with the city's reception that they commissioned this chain. Designed by the distinguished architect William Burges, the 'arch-Goth' of high Victorian design, it incorporates city motifs of the triple-towered castle alternating with the crowned letter X. It was made in 1874 by Parker & Stone of Bloomsbury, London. It has long been admired; Llewellyn Jewitt, who wrote the standard text on the subject of civic regalia (1895), commented on its 'extreme beauty of design and workmanship.'
When in 1537 Henry VIII conferred on Exeter the status of a separate county he also gave the citizens the right to elect a Sheriff of the County of the City of Exeter - a privilege lost in 1974. The Sheriff's chain, of gold linked 'SS', was presented in 1878. The badge contains the design of the crossed swords and the date of the establishment of Exeter as a County. Nowadays it is worn by the Deputy Mayor.
A series of Georgian mace racks survives in the city today; there are for example several at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Their use was peculiar to Exeter. Such racks were used to hold the mayoral sword and maces in churches or town houses to which the Mayor walked in procession, accompanied by the mace-bearers. This one is reputed to have been used in the old East Gate, which was demolished in 1784.
This sword was presented to the Rt Hon. General Sir Redvers Buller by the County of Devon in recognition of his services in South Africa in 1899-1900. The hilt is of silver decorated with gold, rubies, diamonds and sapphires; it was made by T. & J. Bragg of Birmingham in 1900-1.
The sword was presented by the city to Lord Nelson in 1801. It passed through various hands after his death and was eventually returned to the city in 1934. The scabbard bears the City Arms with the inscription 'Horatio Nelson (Vice Admiral of the Blue) enrolled as a Freeman of the City of Exeter, 21st January 1801. Thomas Floud Mayor.'
The silver on display in the gallery is the accumulation of gifts by past mayors and sheriffs to mark their year in office. Other pieces are gifts by various benefactors. Individual pieces are labelled. A detailed booklet is available in the gallery, copies of which can be purchased from the Mace Sergeant.
The bell, hung in a modern frame outside the entrance to the hall, is attributed to the Exeter founder Robert Norton; there is a similar bell in St Pancras church, Exeter. It may be the one bought for £1 13s 4d and hung in 1463/4. The inscription reads: Celi regina me protégé queso ruina (Queen of Heaven, protect me I pray from ruin).