The Mayor | The Mace | The Chains | The Robes | The Coat of Arms
The Mayor of Gateshead is the First Citizen of the borough. It is considered the highest honour to become Mayor and the holder of the post carries out several important duties.
The Mayor will be a serving councillor who is nominated by fellow councillors and can be either a man or a woman. In the case of a man, it is customary for the Mayor's wife or partner to become Mayoress, although it is entirely a decision for the holder of the office.
Similarly, there is a Deputy Mayor who will also be a serving councillor and who will choose a Deputy Mayoress. Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor serve for one year only. For the Mayor it is a full-time job which is carried out from the Mayor's Parlour at the Civic Centre.
The Mayor, or the Deputy Mayor in his absence, presides over full meetings of the Council and represents the borough at civic functions in Gateshead and in neighbouring authorities.
During a typical year the Mayor will attend around 1,000 functions inside and outside the borough. The functions will usually be connected to local charities or community organisations. There will also be many visits to local schools, hospitals and homes for elderly people.
The Mayor will also welcome many visitors to the parlour from home and abroad. The presents which are often exchanged remain in the parlour as a permanent reminder of the many visitors received there.
The Mace is the formal symbol of the Mayor's authority and is used at full meetings of the Council. It is carried into the chamber by the Mace Bearer in front of the Mayor.
Its shape dates back to Stone Age times when a mace, or stone club. was used as a weapon. It became a symbol of authority in the 16th century following a decree by Queen Elizabeth I that the Mace should only be used on ceremonial occasions.
The present Mace was given to Gateshead in 1902. Made of silver with a fine coating of gold, it is one metre long and weighs around two kilos.
The Mace is normally carried over the Mace Bearer's right shoulder, cross and orb pointing upwards. But when The Queen enters the borough, the Mayor becomes Second Citizen, the Mace Bearer takes one step back and the Mace is carried cross and orb pointing downward as a mark of respect.
It is in three distinct parts:
- The top, in the shape of the cross and orb, is the symbol of the Church of England;
- The head is shaped as a crown to represent the monarchy and bears the royal coat of arms as well as those of Gateshead Borough and County Durham;
- The shaft is engraved with three sea dragons to illustrate Gateshead's links with the sea. Other engravings depict industry, commerce, education and science.
When on official duty, the Mayor will always wear the Chains of Office and those in use now have been worn by every Mayor of Gateshead since 1851.
The Chains of Office are made of 18 carat gold, G- shaped links, with a medallion bearing the coat of arms in the centre (1). The Mayoress wears a similar, smaller chain.
The Deputy Mayor's chain is solid silver (3) while the Deputy Mayoress wears a nine carat gold chain (2).
Every Mayor of Gateshead since 1851 has worn robes. They are made of red barathea, which is a soft worsted material, and lined with ermine.
They also have special large pockets in the sleeves a reminder of the days when it was also the duty of the Mayor to collect the boroughs taxes. Worn with the robes are a hat, a jabot and white gloves. The Deputy Mayor has similar robes. Robes are worn on all ceremonial occasions, including full Council meetings and church services.
The Coat of Arms
The present Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead was formed in 1974 when seven local authorities in the area amalgamated.
These were the former county borough of Gateshead, the urban districts of Blaydon, Felling, Ryton, and Whickham and the parishes of Birtley and Lamesley.
Only Gateshead had a coat of arms, so a competition was organised to find a new one which would represent all the areas of the newly-formed borough. The winning design by a pupil at a local junior school, was sent to the College of Arms with a request that it form the basis of the new armorial bearings and these were formally adopted by the Council in January 1975.
The basic symbolism of the coat of arms is a simple pictograph - a gate (or portcullis) and a head (or helmet). The crown suspended on the helmet is from the arms of Durham County Council and represents the areas of Gateshead which were previously in Durham County.
Part of the crest is a plough symbolising the rural and urban elements of the new authority, while the length of rail held by one of the supporters is a reminder of how Gateshead was once an important railway centre.
The motto, "In Unity, Progress", was decided by a postal ballot of councillors, who voted on several suggestions put forward by both members and officers.