28 July 2010

Wyvern shines at graduation ceremonies

The wyvern at the top of the University of Essex mace

A piece of the county's history shone brighter than ever at this year’s graduation ceremonies at the University of Essex.

The University Mace has just returned to its home on the Colchester Campus after vital repair work by Oxford-based silversmith James Dougall.

Mr Dougall also took the chance to clean up the ornate silver and gold decoration on the Mace including the mythological dragon, called a Wyvern, which stands at its top.

Cleaning off the layers of silver cleaner and oxides which have built up over more than four decades since the Mace was first presented to the University has revealed the true beauty of the design by Professor Robert Goodden at the Royal College of Art. This includes the previously ‘lost’ gold details such as the Wyvern’s golden forked-tongue.

The Mace has been carried in front of the Chancellor at the beginning of each Graduation ceremony since the very first one in 1967 and signifies his authority to preside at the ceremony.

The inscription reads: 'Presented to the University of Essex by Miss K. Elfreda Sanders A.R.R.C J.P in memory of her brother Sir Percy A Sanders C.B.E D.L J.P'

Miss Sanders was Mayor of Colchester in 1953 to 1954 and Sir Percy Sanders held senior roles at Paxman and was five times Mayor of Colchester.

The University’s Head of Security Paul Humphreys, who oversaw the repair work, said: “One of my team who acts as mace-bearer said the head of the Mace was coming loose and we asked a silversmith to look at it.

“He found that after almost 50 years the silver screws which connect the head of the Mace to the shaft were worn out and there was a risk it could fall apart.

“We decided to get the Mace repaired and at the same time had it cleaned up. It is amazing to see it now after the layers and layers of silver cleaner which have built up over the years have been removed.

“You can now see all the details and it looks absolutely stunning.” 

Mr Dougall said:  “The results were extremely pleasing revealing a wonderful piece of craftsmanship with much detail and the previously “lost” applied gold detailing to the griffin and the acorns around the mace head.”

Although the Mace was designed by Professor Goodden it would have been made by a specialist craftsman and Mr Dougall is keen to track down who this might have been so they can receive credit for a superb piece of craftsmanship.

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