You are in [Artefacts] [Town Coffer]

The present Town Coffer, the container for the towns valuable documents and possessions, is rarely seen nowadays.

It is thought that the old Common Coffer may have dated from the 14th or 15th century, and was described in some detail in "The Case of the Missing Charters, 1573".

It was damaged or fell apart in the early 19th century and is said to have been rebuilt in 1806 from the same oak.

There are three keys - one each held by the "Keepers of the Keys of the Common Coffer" - who are usually past Constables. It requires all three to be used in order to open the coffer. The keys are of a different age to the locks, and each turns "backwards".

The various possessions of the Town and Manor, some of which are kept in the Town Coffer, include:

Constable's Chair: Reputedly of Elizabethan ebony - but possibly of Goanese origin, from c.1800?

Two 19th century chairs: Of ebony, bought in a sale in 1960. One "fun chair" has been used to carry home the Constable after over-indulgence at the Hocktide Lunch!

The Town and Manor's three Horns:
- Newton Horn: The present Constable's Horn was made in 1992 by the Bellman and Town Crier, Robin Tubb, during John Newton's period as Constable.
- Lucas Horn: Inaugurated by the Constabe Jehosophat Lucas in 1634, to replace the earlier John o'Gaunt horn.
- John o'Gaunt Horn: Brass, decorated with three badges of star and moon, said to have been donated to record the extent of the fishing rights in 1362. In 2000 it was more officially dated to the 15th century. See Letter from John Cherry to Carol Cartwright, 3rd May 2000.

The three horns were examined in detail at UCL in 2023 by Dr Louise Bacon and Sarah Wills (who was using the research as part of her MA). The research is ongoing (2024), but an early draft report adds much to the interesting history of the horns.

Punch Barrel: This punch barrel is used to make and store the spirit mix for the Old Plantagenet Punch drunk by all attending the Hocktide Luncheon. It was first used at the Hocktide Lunch 1973, and was donated to the Town and Manor at Hocktide 1991 by Philip and Mary Spackman.

Portrieve Truncheon: Dating from William IV 1830.

Tutti Truncheons and Poles: Made of ash with copper tops, dating from 1967.

Bailiff's Staff: According to the inscription on the silver ferrule, the staff was given in 1688 by the then Constable Joseph Butler. It would have been Joseph Butler who welcomed Prince William of Orange to Hungerford prior to his meeting with the Commissioners of King James at The Bear Inn in December 1688.

Beedle's Staff: Made of ash, dating from 1831. The staff may have been made to commemorate the accession of King William IV. This is the Staff of Office of the Bellman and Town Crier who also has the added title of Assistant Bailiff.

Cow Stick: Dating from 1812, this is the Badge of Office of the Honorary Secretary of the Commons Committee. As an overseer, he was responsible for the good management of those Commoners who used their rights to graze their stock on the Common Port Down and Freeman's Marsh. If a fine was imposed on a Commoner, then his stock could be impounded in the town pound in Cow Lane (Park Street), and until the fine was paid the Cow Stick was left at his house for all to see.

Silver Punch Bowl and two ladles: Until the 1940s, the Constable used a china bowl (seen in a number of other photographs in this museum) to serve the Hocktide Punch. During the Second World War it was broken beyond repair. The silver bowl, weighing 54 troy ounces, was made in 1812 by the famous London silversmith Paul Storr, It was presented to the Town and Manor by Lord Portal of Hungerford, whose family home was Eddington House.

Ale-Tasters' Quart Tankards: These quart pewter tankards were presented to the Town and Manor by Dr Humphrey Hope and Clive Norman in 1964 to mark the occasion of them becoming ale-tasters. They are regularly used at the Ale-Tasting on the evening before Tutti-Day, and at the Hocktide Lunch.

Blacksmith's Box: This was made the the then Bellman, Robin Tubb in 1962, and contains the racing aluminium plates (horse-shoes) and nails used to shoe the colts after Hocktide lunch.

Constable's Chain of Office: This was donated after the Steam Rallies of the 1970s. The actual badge of office for the Constable is the Constable's Horn (see above).

Constable's Gavel: This wooden gavel was presented by Admiral Sir Anthony Troup in May 1958.

Photo Gallery:

Town Chest
Town Chest

The Town Chest (or "Common Coffer") [from "Hungerford - A History"]

Keppers of the Keys
Keppers of the Keys

The Keepers of the Keys of the Common Coffer opening the Town Coffer in June 2007 (Stewart Hofgartner, Tyrrell Bossom and Humphrey Hope). Bellman Robin Tubb looking on.

Barrel, Bell and Staffs
Barrel, Bell and Staffs

Punch Barrel (1973), Brass Bell, Bailiff's Staff (1688) and Beadle's Staff (1831)

Cow Stick and Truncheons
Cow Stick and Truncheons
The Town Seals
The Town Seals
Silver Punch Bowl
Silver Punch Bowl

19th century bowl, presented by Lord Portal of Hungerford.


Ale-tasters' pewter tankards (c1997)

Town Horns
Town Horns

The Towns Horns (from Hungerford - A History)

- The Town Chest (or "Common Coffer") [from "Hungerford - A History"].

- The Keepers of the Keys of the Common Coffer opening the Town Coffer in June 2007 (Stewart Hofgartner, Tyrrell Bossom and Humphrey Hope). Bellman Robin Tubb looking on.

- Punch Barrel (1973), Brass Bell, Bailiff's Staff (1688) and Beadle's Staff (1831).

- Ale-tasters' pewter tankards (c.1997).

- Silver punch bowl - 19th century bowl, presented by Lord Portal of Hungerford.

- Cow Stick and Truncheons.

- The Town Seals.

- The Towns Horns (from Hungerford - A History).

Other items include:

Brass Bell: As used by the Bellman and Town Crier.

Two wooden rattles: for bird scaring.

Branding irons: Hand forged branding irons in the form "F.B.H." for "Feoffees of Borough of Hungerford"

Quit Rent Roll 1864-1935.

Frank Pledge book: This is the minute book of the Hocktide Court, and is the only record of the rules and laws decided and enacted by the Court. This volume dated from 1909, with gaps until 1983 after which it is complete. The oath of frankpledge was taken by every male over twelve to guarantee the good conduct of all other members of the tithing.

Three Town Seals:
- John o' Gaunt 6 Edw III (1333): John of Gaunt was not born until 1340, so the provenance of this seal is unclear.
- ?Treasury seal, 1497: On a 14th century document of Edward IV 1497, but Edward IV died 1483. Again, the provenance of this seal is unclear.
- Crescent half-moon and six-pointed star: Made of 16th century silver. There is also a modern replica of this seal.

Many of these items were shown by the Trustees, with Bruce Mayhew as Constable, to the Hungerford Historical Association members at a meeting on 23rd February 1998.

See also:

- Town and Manor of Hungerford

- The Case of the Missing Charters, 1573

- Notes and reports - Constable Bruce Mayhew's talk to the HHA Sep 1998