HISTORY OF WEXFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL

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Coat of Arms
The Wexford Coat of Arms consists of three burning ships
proper with the motto Per Aquam et Ignem.
The Genealogical Office, Dublin Castle, has no record of a
formal grant of the Arms but it was registered in that office
at the time of the 1618 Heraldic Visitation. The records of the Visitation appear to show that the Arms were in
existence before that time. However, the statement
contained in the Fox-Davies Book of Public Arms, London
1915, an entry which is in other respects evidently 
inaccurate-states: "Granted by Molyneux, Ulster King of Arms, and recorded in
the Visitation of Wexford". 
The motto translates as "through water and fire".  Regarding the three burning
ships, there are different theories as to their significance:
1. Three ships which were being built in the dockyard at Kaat's Strand were set
alight by a marauding party.
2. A marauding party left three ships at anchor in Wexford Bay and local
inhabitants set them alight.

Charters

The only extant Charter of Wexford Town is a Victorian charter of 1846 which is
kept in the Municipal Buildings. However, the earlier charters of the Earl of
Pembroke, Aymer de Valence in 1317 and amendments by Henry IV and Henry
VII are also housed in the Municipal Buildngs. The first Charter on record is that of 1317 granted by the Aymer de Valence.
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The main features of this document were the appointment of Burgesses from
whom the Mayor and Bailiffes were chosen, and the power to establish Guilds.
This Charter gave the Burgesses vast powers in relation to law and order and
exempted them from prosecution for many crimes. The enlargement of the
1317 Charter by Henry VI in 1410 clarified the powers and role of the Council
and how they managed the affairs of the town. It also states that the Superior
and Bailiffes were elected annually and had the powers to hold a Sovereign or
Mayor's Court in the Tholsel. This was a place in the Bullring where the
Corporation meetings were held and was also a Mayor's prison as distinct from
a King's prison which was in the Castle in Barrack Street. The Mayor had
substantial powers at this time.


In 1538 all previous charters were confirmed by Henry VII. In 1559 Elizabeth I,
still in her first year as Queen, confirmed all previous documents in her Charter.
In 1509 James I granted the first important Charter for Wexford, forming the
groundwork for municipal liberties. It stated that there were to be 24 Burgesses
from whom two Bailiffes
were to be named and one Mayor. The Burgesses were
to remain in office for life. They had the power to control markets, fairs and all
money matters in relation to the Borough. The Mayor, however, was appointed
on an annual basis, as he is in our present time. In 1689 James II issued the
next Charter which for the first time mentioned titles such as Town Clerk and
Alderman.
The important part of this Charter was the Mayor's Seal for which permission
had been granted and the Seal is still in use to the present day. However the
1687 Charter was annulled at a later date and the 1609 Charter was still
favoured until the Corporation was dissolved in 1840 when the Municipal
Corporations (Ireland) Act was introduced.

The Mayor's Chain of Office
The wearing of the Mayor's Chain of office of Wexford apparently began in 1853.
The Corporation agreed that the Chain be purchased; and each year the new
Mayor was to add a link to the Chain with his name and his year of office
engraved on that link. To the substantial intrinsic value of the Chain of Office
must be added the rich historical memories evoked by each named link.

Wexford Maces
It has been claimed that in August, 1848 Wexford Corporation bought at public
auction of the late CG Harvey three maces for 21 pounds. These had been the
old Corporation maces of the pre-Victorian era. The Sergeants of the Mace are
the keepers of the peace. They also attend to the Mayor as a bearer of the
Maces during ceremonial occasions.
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There are three Wexford Corporation maces, made of Irish silver, probably
between 1714 and 1727. Unfortunately the silversmith who fashioned them is
unknown. As with many maces throughout the country, the Royal Harp of
Ireland, the Fleurs de Lys of France, and the Rose and Thistle of England and
Scotland are engraved on them. The Arms of the Town of Wexford are also
engraved and contained within the surmount together with the Royal Crest of
King George I with the House of Hanover depicted quarter.
The maces are Corporation treasures with historic value for Wexford's heritage.