St Helier Constable's chain of office
By Geraint Jennings, first published in St Helier Town Crier
“The chain is composed of ornamental shield links and enamelled connecting links, upon the latter of which appears ‘St H’. The larger link, upon which the name of the first Constable is engraved (John Edwin Pinel) , has the mace – the emblem of civic authority – crossed with the emblem of communal authority. The pendant has the Jersey arms in the centre in enamel, and plumes in enamel upon the shield. At the bottom appears ‘AD 1913’”
This was the description provided by Mr J Walden, jeweller of Halkett Place, to accompany the report of the presentation of the new chain of office to the Constable of Saint Helier on Saturday 9 August 1913.
J R Sinnatt
On that evening hundreds of people crowded into the Assembly Room to witness the Bailiff, Sir William Henry Venables Vernon, perform the official presentation on behalf of the donors. Among those present was Mr J R Sinnatt, who opened proceedings by inviting the Bailiff to conduct the ceremony. It was Mr Sinnatt who had been the leading force behind the initiative, and it had taken him six years to persuade his fellow citizens of the merits of giving the Constable a dignified symbol of civic office.
By the beginning of the 20th century the Town had been transformed under a succession of energetic and reforming Constables into a lively commercial urban centre with parks, gardens, public amenities, monuments, wide well-paved streets as yet unencumbered by large numbers of cars, and as clean as could be expected given the preponderance of horsepower – all in all very attractive for trade and tourism.
Civic dignity had been provided with a seat in the form of the Town Hall, where the comparatively small number of q1ualified ratepayers could run affairs to their own content in a business-friendly manner; and yet Mr Sinnatt and a number of his colleagues had felt that St Helier lacked something in dignity compared to its counterparts in France and England. Mayors in France, it was said, were distinguished by their tricolour sash of office, while mayors in England had chains of office. The Constable of St Helier was well known to all his parishioners, but wore nothing to distinguish him personally, or demonstrate the status of St Helier, when dignitaries visited from abroad, as they were doing with increasing regularity.
Mr Sinnatt argued and pressed the case and eventually gathered together a fundraising committee. No public funds were forthcoming for the purchase of the insignia, and the committee proclaimed it as a virtue that the gift was spontaneous, popular and voluntary. A shilling fund was established so that as many parishioners as possible could contribute. One of the members of the committee, Centenier Ross, personally collected a shilling each from 200 working men; this was remarked upon as a sign of how all classes supported the civic development of St Helier. By mid-1913 sufficient funds had been raised to allow a final decision on the nature of the insignia to be presented, and the committee called a public meeting at the Town Hall on Friday 18 July, chaired by Centenier Cuming. The president confirmed that a Parish Assembly had recently agreed, albeit with a certain amount of reserve, to accept the gift of the insignia. Mr Sinnatt came armed with a veriety of designs and specifications and it was decided to spend £100 on a chain of office ‘of elaborate and artistic design’ to be ordered through Walden’s of Halkett Place. It has been intended that the presentation be made for 14 August, in time for the Battle of Flowers, but there was some disappointment that it seemed unlikely that the manufacturers could deliver by the target date.
The proposed design was submitted to the Bailiff, who suggested some corrections to the heraldry.
Mr Walden wired the manufacturers to ask for the work on the chain to be given top priority, and received confirmation, which he relayed to a subsequent meeting of the committee, that the chain would arrive for 9 August.
And so it was that the press was able to report that, on that August evening when the Bailiff lifted the new chain of office from its case to show it to the assembled audience and present it to Constable Pinel and his successors, ‘the applause at this moment was deafening’.