Lists taken from 1947, 1954 and 1972 Bury Borough Council yearbooks

List of Aldermen 1302-1651
List of Aldermen and Mayors 1652-1710
List of Aldermen 1711-1757
List of Aldermen 1758-1825
List of Aldermen and Mayors 1826-1890
List of Mayors 1891-1947
List of Mayors 1900-1954
List of Mayors 1950-1972

Mayors of St Edmundsbury BC since 1974

Lists taken from 1896 and 1947 Bury Borough Council yearbooks

Description of Borough Charters 1364-1608
Description of Borough Charters, 1608cont.-1684
Description of Borough Charters, 1684-1836

Bury Town Council Mayors from 2003

The History
of the
Mayoralty
and Corporation

945 A large area of land was granted to the Monastery of St Edmund by King Edmund (a different King). This area was called the Banleuca and its boundaries have more or less defined the area of Bury St Edmunds ever since. Not until 1934 were these boundaries enlarged, and then only to include parts of Fornham All Saints and Westley to the north west, beyond a line from Tollgate Lane to Beetons Way extending past the barracks to the River Linnet.
1044 Edward the Confessor granted full powers to the Abbot over the much wider area of West Suffolk, called the Liberty of St Edmund. These boundaries also persisted up to 1974 when East and West Suffolk County Councils were merged.
1305 A royal commission granted some alleviation of the Abbey's rigid rule. The town was allowed to elect its own alderman unless the Abbot could show reasonable cause for objection. It could appoint keepers of all the town gates except the East Gate adjoining the Abbot's bridge.
1481 Jankyn Smyth died and left 238 acres of land to the town to provide an income to help pay the taxes demanded by the Abbot. Jankyn Smyth had been a wealthy Bury St Edmunds townsman and was alderman seven times and aimed to protect the townspeople's interests against the Abbey. The Abbot found him a difficult man to deal with and on one occasion refused to sanction his appointment as Alderman. The Porch at the Guildhall was turned into a strongroom to keep the deeds and money from his bequest. This was the origin of the Guildhall Feoffment, and the Trust continues up to the present day, although its role has evolved with the times.
1539 Prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Abbot of the Abbey of St Edmund upheld the King's law and imposed, and collected, taxes in the whole of the area later to become West Suffolk. The Abbot also sat as a peer in Parliament. Any form of local self determination by the townspeople existed solely through the Candlemas Guild and later the Guildhall Feoffment Trust. After the dissolution in 1539, the rights of the Abbot returned to the Crown.
1562 Lord Keeper Bacon wrote to the Feoffees to say that he would refuse to help them get a charter as there had been too many incorporations granted already!
1570 By 1570 the Guildhall Feoffees were repairing town gates and bridges and carrying out many duties which would otherwise have fallen to the Town Corporation if one had existed. They even provided a town pillory.
1600 During 1600 to 1601 a group of notable townspeople led by Thomas Bright of the Feoffment Trust, met and agreed to share the costs of petitioning the King for a grant of incorporation. They agreed to contribute 68:5:0 each.
In August 1601 Sir Robert Jermyn wrote a letter to Sir Robert Cecil to object to any incorporation for Bury St Edmunds.
1606 In April 1606 the King granted Letters Patent to the town of Bury St Edmunds, setting up a corporation of 37 members. There were to be 12 Capital Burgesses, 24 Burgesses of the Common Council and 1 Alderman, roughly equivalent to the Mayor of today. This document is known locally as the Charter or First Charter and it later included a grant of arms, but no motto.
This document is known locally as the Charter or First Charter. The full text of the Charter of 1606 is available to view by clicking here, but you will find that it is 57 pages in all.


The grant of arms
blank In November the Borough Council received a grant of arms, but no motto. The town was free to choose its own motto as it wished. The current motto was not apparently in use prior to 1850.
Any Grant of Arms comes not from the King, but from the College of Heralds. The full text of the Grant of Arms 1606 is available to view by clicking here. The Corporation could elect four Justices of the Peace and appoint a Town Clerk and a Recorder.
The towns' first Alderman was Richard Walker, and he was entitled to be preceded in processions by two Sergeants-at-Mace carrying Maces of gold or silver adorned with the royal coat of arms.
1608 The King granted the Town a second Charter which dealt with Market rights and tolls. This Charter cost over 300 and the Feoffees agreed to finance this cost.
1614 The Town received a final Charter from James I which gave it the right to send 2 MPs to Parliament, to hold a court of quarter sessions, and to have a Coroner. The MP's were elected solely by the 37 members of the corporation, but for many years those chosen were nominees of the Duke of Grafton and the Marquess of Bristol.
1663 The town maces, still in use today on ceremonial occasions, were commissioned at a cost of 54.
Five years later the bill was finally paid in March 1668 to a Mr John Clarke.
1668 Following a lengthy lawsuit in Chancery, the Corporation was granted another Charter which confirmed its title to the corporate estate.
1684 The Corporation became governed by a new Charter of Charles II which gave the crown the right to nominate members. The numbers of members remained the same, but became now called the Mayor, Alderman and Burgesses of Bury St Edmunds. This Charter gave the town the right to have a sword of state carried before the Mayor on formal occasions. Sir John Hervey presented the Borough with a sword of state and a red velvet covered scabbard which is still in use today.

Thus the post of Alderman was replaced by the post of Mayor, but this would last for only a few short years.

1688 The Crown's nomination rights lapsed when James II fled the country. The old charters governing the Boroughs were deemed to be reinstated, and the post of Mayor lapsed, and the old term of Alderman was used again until 1835.
1729 Possibly one of the ceremonial maces was damaged around this time as one of them has a shaft which was cast new in 1729. The corporation paid 25 17s 6d for the repairs.
1747 Two Bury parishes were incorporated for poor law purposes under a Court of Guardians of the Poor.
1805 James Oakes presented the corporation with a robe and chain for the Alderman. The chain incorporated a profile of King William IV, and the arms of the town.
1811 An Act of Parliament was obtained to establish Paving and Improvement Commissioners for the Town. They could levy a rate to improve the paving, lighting and drainage of the town and provide piped water supplies. They operated alongside the Corporation and made substantial progress in sewering the town.
1834 Before 1834 there was no general pattern of local government. Outside Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk was split into East and West with Quarter Sessions of Magistrates who dealt not just with the administration of justice, but also the police force, the coroner, bridges, the Lieutenancy and the Militia. The Quarter Sessions levied a rate on their constituent parishes. Each Parish had a vestry which dealt with the Poor Law, repair of roads, vermin control and upkeep of the Church.
After the Napoleonic Wars, the massive unemployment caused by demobilisation led to Parishes being grouped into unions in order to cope with their Poor Law duties. The Thingoe Union Workhouse was a local result of this reform.
1835 The Municipal Corporations Act introduced the first elements of democracy into local government. In Bury the town was divided into 3 wards and elections were held. The Council was made up of a Mayor Recorder, 6 Aldermen and 18 Councillors. The Councillors were to be elected by the ratepayers in their wards, and the Council could elect the Aldermen and Mayor. The Magistrates were now separated from the Corporation, which was still responsible for the Police Force.
The old corporation was substantially in debt and the last Alderman actually refused to hand over the insignia and plate to the new Council. Eventually a judgement was obtained to enforce this transfer.
The first Mayor after the 1835 Act was Francis King Eagle who had been the local radical candidate following the Great Reform Act of 1832.
1848 Local Boards of Health were set up by the Public Health Act of 1848. The Act was adoptive, not prescriptive and some of its sewerage provisions were adopted by the Commissioners in 1859.
1850 The current Borough motto seems to have been used from about this date - Sacrarium Regis, Cunabula Legis, or Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law. The shield of crowns and arrows and the crest of a wolf holding a human head had been granted shortly after the 1606 charter.
1873 The Paving and Improvement Commissioners were abolished, and the Town Council was created as the Urban Sanitary Authority and assumed the duties of the Commissioners.
1888 Another Local Government Act set up the County Councils and West Suffolk County Council came into being.
1894 Urban and Rural District Councils were set up by the Local Government Act of 1894. This resulted in the Clare RDC and Haverhill UDC and Parish Councils were instituted to replace the Vestries. The Urban sanitary authorities were abolished, so in Bury, its functions were transferred to the Corporation which now took on the powers of an Urban District Council, but retained the status of a Borough.
1934 The West Suffolk Review Order of 1934 moved part of Fornham All Saints and Westley into Bury St Edmunds. The Mildenhall Road Estate, Howard Estate and Westley Estates, as well as the Western Way industrial estate, were eventually to be built in this additional area.
1974 The Borough of Bury St Edmunds was abolished. It was replaced by St Edmundsbury District Council which was made up of the areas of the Borough of Bury St Edmunds, the Urban District of Haverhill, and the two Rural Districts of Clare and Thingoe. There were to be 44 elected Councillors but the post of Alderman was abolished. The town of Bury St Edmunds was divided into 9 wards with 17 Councillors. Haverhill was divided into 5 wards with 8 Councillors, and 19 rural wards were set up with 1 Councillor to each ward.
On 15th May the Queen granted a Charter bestowing Borough status on the new district. This allowed the office of Mayor to continue. This status perpetuated the right to have a sword and maces and to appoint "local officers of dignity" - sword and mace bearers, and the mayoral traditions continue to this day throughout the enlarged Borough of St Edmundsbury.
1975 A new coat of arms was approved following the grant of the right to Borough status. A full analysis of theCouncils' Coat of Armsand its derivation is available elsewhere on this website.
2001 There was a poll of Bury town electors conducted by the Borough Council which showed that a large majority of those voting wanted a new Town Council for Bury to operate alongside the existing Borough and County Councils. This proposal would operate from May 2003.
A steering group of interested people had drawn up an agreed leaflet to be circulated to each town voter. It outlined the advantages of a town council, but omitted any estimate of the costs involved to Council Tax payers.
2003 In April the Bury St Edmunds Town Council came into being by order of the Secretary of State, following a Town Poll. The town was now covered by its own Town Council, with the powers of a rural Parish Council. It chose to use the term Town Council, and it chose to call its Chairman the Town mayor.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council continued to run its services in the town as before, as did Suffolk County Council and the Suffolk police Service. Tentative discussions began to consider what powers the St Edmundsbury Borough Council might devolve or delegate to the Town Council.

In Suffolk the Council Tax was increased as from April 1st by around 18% on average leading to considerable public unrest. In Bury St Edmunds the new Bury St Edmunds Town Council was inaugurated with its own brand new Council Tax of 13.95 a year for a Band D Household. This had the effect of making Bury's local council tax bills increase by 20% overall. St Edmundsbury itself had "only" levied an increase of 9.9%, but it was outweighed by the Suffolk County Council's 18.8% and the Police Authority's 32%.

Although the Bury Town Council legally came into being on 1st April, the first elections were in May of 2003. Hitherto its functions were discharged by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, but in setting the town council's first budget St Edmundsbury took advice from The Suffolk Association of Local Councils.

Originally prepared for the St Edmundsbury website
by David Addy, August 1998

Books consulted:
Yesterdays Town - Bury St Edmunds by Margaret Statham
"The Book of Bury St Edmunds" by Margaret Statham.


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