Priceless 18th century Great Mace crashes to the ground during meeting at Hull's Guildhall
CASH-strapped councillors are breathing a sigh of relief after a priceless piece of 18th century civic silverware crashed to the ground during a meeting.
The historic Great Mace, which dates from 1776, is a symbol of the Lord Mayor of Hull's powers.
By tradition, it is carried into the Guildhall council chamber and placed on a special wooden cradle before the start of monthly full council meetings, which are chaired by the Lord Mayor.
However, the gold-plated silver mace took an unexpected tumble during last week's meeting after sliding off a table.
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The resulting loud crash as it hit the floor stopped council leader Councillor Steve Brady in his tracks halfway through his monthly statement.
Council officials, including the Lord Mayor's beadle, rushed to retrieve the mace from under a table.
Other councillors winced, fearing the worst and an expensive repair bill.
The brief disruption also prompted some cries of "Heseltine!" as councillors recalled the famous moment in the House of Commons when the former deputy prime minister seized a similar mace and brandished it towards Labour MPs during a debate in 1976 when he was shadow industry secretary.
The incident earned him the nickname Tarzan and he was subsequently depicted wearing a loin cloth in Steve Bell's long-running cartoon strip in the Guardian newspaper.
Lord Heseltine's recent acceptance of an invitation to work with the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership on plans to boost Hull's economy only served to fuel speculation that he was already here in spirit.
However, a subsequent check of the Hull mace found no damage had been caused by the accident.
Lord Mayor Councillor Danny Brown said: "The mace was brought in as usual but one of the two cradles it usually rests on was missing.
"One end was laid on the remaining cradle and the other was laid on the table in front of me.
"Initially it seemed to be OK but then it started sliding to one side.
"Unfortunately, it was on the floor before I could do anything about it."
Cllr Brown said the search was still on for the missing wooden cradle.
"I can't think why anyone would have taken it.
"There's not a lot you can do with a piece of wood like that."
Cllr Brown said he hoped it was business as normal at the next full council meeting.
"I don't think there has been any damage otherwise I would have been told about it.
"With the state of the council's finances as they are, I am sure the last thing anyone would have wanted was a repair bill.
"As it is, nothing seems to be amiss with the mace. We have been very lucky."
As well as council meetings, the mace is often carried during ceremonial occasions, including the annual Remembrance Day parade through the city centre.