The theft of Nelson's Mayoral chain


On Saturday 3 December 1977 burglars broke into the office of Roy McLennan, the current Mayor of Nelson and stole the $3000 mayoral chain, along with Christmas presents destined for the Council’s Christmas party, liquor and a fire extinguisher. There was no other damage to the office, which was inside the Council building, apart from to the window, which was forced to gain entry.1

Mayoral chain original Bell

The original Mayoral chain. Courtesy Nelson City Council

The solid sterling silver gold plated chain had been designed by a local jeweller and presented to the Council in 1925 by Mr Thomas Neale,  (who had owned the Puponga Coal Mine, the Karamea Shipping Co and Neale and Haddow, Grain and Seed Merchants of Nelson). It featured Nelson's former City crest, Nelson's flagship "Victory," which was replaced by the present coat of arms in 1958. The medallions and plates of the collar were engraved with the names of the Mayors of the City and was renovated for the Council centennial with a new medallion of the City crest, made by Jens Hansen in 1974.2

Mayoral chain

The old chain on display again in the Council building. Nelson City Council

mayoral chain detail

Detail of the first Mayoral Chain. Nelson City Council

On December 6 1977 the police announced that they were confident of an early arrest following some ‘interesting leads’.3  They believed that the culprit was likely to dispose of the chains promptly, as they were highly incriminating, and the public was invited to join in the search. An initial reward of $500 was offered, later increased to $1000.

mayoral chain current

The current Mayoral Chain. Nelson City Council

The following year, 1978, the Eel Pond in Queens Gardens was drained, following a tip-off that the chains may have been dumped there, but nothing was found, even with the help of metal detectors.

In 1979 Wilkins and Field Ltd., presented the Mayor with a new chain for their centenary on 3 March 1980.  The work for the medallions for this chain was done by Louis Kerr Ltd, who held the patterns for the original chain, and the city badge for the chain was made in Christchurch. 

It was a surprise for all when the original chains were found three years later. They were discovered in December 1980, hidden in a wall in a Nile Street property. The house owner, who remained anonymous, handed the chains into the police. The reward had expired by this time. The chains were in their original case, a bit “weathered” but nothing missing. Interestingly, a clairvoyant pinpointed the Nile Street area at the time of the theft.4

Nelson City Council became probably the only city in New Zealand to have two mayoral chains. Both sets were retained, the older one as a museum, rather than ceremonial, piece, which remains on display in the Council building.5 


Sources used in this story

  1. Mayoral chain stolen (1977, December 5) Nelson Mail, p.1
  2. Bell, C.W.(1979) Unfinished business: the second fifty years of the Nelson City Council. Nelson, N.Z.: Nelson City Council, p. 140
  3. Arrest likely in case of chain (1977, December 6) Nelson Mail
  4. Found - one mayoral chain (1980, December 8) Nelson Mail
  5. Chain to get pride of place (1980, December 9) Nelson Mail

Want to find out more about the The theft of Nelson's Mayoral chain ? View Further Sources here.

Do you have a story about this subject? Find out how to add one here.

Comment on this story

Post your comment


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments

Further sources - The theft of Nelson's Mayoral chain