Look at the mace and its details using the images in For the classroom. Ask students what they think the object could have been used for. What does it appear to be made out of? What are the flanges on the bottom for? What is in the bowl on the top? Is it a weapon? If so, how was it used and who used it? Could it have been something else? Reveal that its form was based on a weapon, but its decoration suggests it was used ceremonially. Look at modern uses of maces by using internet resources.
Compare the Hedon mace in For the classroom and identify the differences and how the head of the Stratford mace has been altered. Explain about the Guild of the Holy Cross and the creation of the Corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon and discuss the mace as a visual symbol of that change. The Corporation could easily have paid for a brand new mace to be produced and indeed they did have a second, new mace made. So why did they re-purpose the old mace? Was this a way of easing the transition of the changes brought about by the Reformation or was it, as with the whitewashing of the Chapel, a visual symbol of the suppression of the former Guild and its religious practices?
Look the Newtown mace in A bigger picture at and explain the changes made to it. Some historians think that the crown on top of the Stratford mace may have been destroyed during the Civil War period. Discuss the re-use of objects and how they allow us to enter the past at different points. A good object for a simple comparison is Object file: a Russian revolutionary plate. There are more re-used objects in the A bigger picture section of Object file: Flour for Lancashire cotton workers (coming soon).
Print out copies of the objects on A bigger picture and ask students to work in groups to find out what all the objects are and what they tell us about the effects of the Reformation on churches. Ask them to compare the details of the changes to religious buildings in For the classroom.
Who noticed the Reformation?
There has been much discussion among historians about the origins and process of religious change during the AD 1500s. The mace gives you a chance to focus on who these changes affected and how. After initial exploration using some of the ideas above, identify that the mace is representative of change for the urban middle classes and discuss how new associations and allegiances were established. What opportunities were offered to the middle classes by such changes? If you have not started the topic with the upper classes and aristocracy, build from here to look at the impact of the Reformation on them. Then ask the students what ordinary people might have noticed in their churches – use the chrismatory, prayer book, videos and virtual tour in For the classroom and some of the objects in A bigger picture. Discuss how much the changes to churches and services affected the lives and behaviour of these people. Who do they think hid the wooden crucifix and with what hopes? Perhaps pull this together by asking students to prepare short statements by a number of individuals saying what the Reformation meant to them.
The connection with William Shakespeare is too good an opportunity to miss for cross-curricular work with the English department.
Tell the story of the whitewashing of the paintings in the Guild Chapel to introduce William Shakespeare’s father. Explain what the mace was used for and that Shakespeare’s father probably once held it. Shakespeare was clearly very familiar with town officials and created several such characters in his plays. Explore the characters of Constable Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, for instance, Anthony Dull in Love’s Labour’s Lost or Elbow in Measure for Measure. How does Shakespeare portray these people? What might his father have thought about William’s portrayals of town officials? Use the link to Shakespeare in 100 objects in About the object under More information to select other objects that provide information about the social background to which Shakespeare belonged. A more ambitious development would be to explore how Shakespeare’s plays contributed to the creation of English national identity.