This mace has a date on it of 1766, and the name of Leonard Troughear Holmes, alderman. Holmes was a clergyman, who had been born Leonard Troughear, and was the son of the vicar of Carisbrooke and Northwood, Thomas Troughear. Leonard was the heir to Baron Holmes, who died in 1764, and took on the surname Holmes, when he inherited in his thirties. Newport’s burgesses made their leading citizen an alderman in 1765 and elected him mayor twice.
At first glance it would appear that Holmes gave the borough this mace, at some point during his first term as mayor. However in 1775, when Holmes was mayor for a second time, it was agreed to regild the Great Mace (which dates from the 17th century) “and that the two small ones be sold and one of a larger size bought in its stead, and Mr Thomas Dickonson is desired to undertake this business and use his discretion in the purchase of the new mace.”
Dickonson was Holmes’ successor as mayor, and his brother-in-law. The cost of the work in 1776 was said to be £81 3s 0d, and this was to be paid out of the Town Chest. There is therefore some doubt as to whether the date on the Holmes Mace is the date of its manufacture. Was Holmes the donor, a major contributor to the cost of the mace, or did he just have his name placed on it by a grateful Borough?
The mace is a symbol of authority. This mace shows that, in the eighteenth century, political power could be concentrated in the hands of a single family, or a small number of landowners.
Holmes and Dickonson were to fall out in 1782, despite the fact that they were relations: “I must... consider Mr Dickonson’s conduct .. as so totally repugnant to the engagements he was under to me, that I cannot ever again Patronize him, until he can convince me that he is truly attach’d to the only interest which has rendred him what he is.”
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