There are several graduation ceremonies at the University of Bradford this week, so it’s a good time to tell the story of an Object that is always present at these key events: the University’s Mace. The Mace doesn’t live in Special Collections, but the University Archive includes correspondence about its creation and many photographs and other documents showing it in use.
So what is the Mace? A mace is a historic weapon now used as a “staff of office” by organisations like universities to symbolise their authority. In universities, the mace is carried into and out of the graduation ceremony in front of the Chancellor by the mace-bearer, and is placed on a table while the event unfolds.
Ours was created for the University’s opening in 1966. It was commissioned by the University of Leeds and given to the new university by the other Yorkshire universities: Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, and York. The presentation (shown here) was made to the Vice-Chancellor, Ted Edwards, on 4 November 1966, the day before the installation of the first Chancellor, Harold Wilson.
The University’s Mace has a 1960s sci-fi feel, a sleek modern design, appropriate for a new university with an emphasis on applied technology. The design also reflects Bradford’s Yorkshire location and the involvement of the other local universities, featuring a border of Yorkshire roses in steel, an enamel shield on the head bearing the University’s coat of arms, and shields round the head bearing the arms of the other universities and of the city of Bradford.
The ceremonies also feature the Mace of the City of Bradford, which is much more traditional in design, “richly ornamented with boars’ heads in relief and studded with semi precious stones, cabochons and agates”. This image of the a two mace-bearers illustrates the contrasting designs.
As an essential part of the process of graduating, the Mace regularly travels to graduation ceremonies abroad. Here is its much-worn and battered travel box.
You can see the Mace in action in our graduation ceremonies, which are livestreamed – look for links from the University website. And here’s a video where I share the history of the mace,