The Willance Chalice

A silver chalice the plain bell shaped bowl is inscribed at the top, “This boulle given by Robert Willance to the Incorporate Alderman and Burgesses of Richmond to be used by the Alderman for the time being and to be redelivered by him or his exer or assignes to his successors for ever 1606.

The thread domed foot rises from an egg and dart cast rim. Inscribed “ Given as a thank offering for his great escape from death in a riding accident”.

Made in London 1595. Makers mark AB over a tun.

Robert Willance was a native of Westmoreland (present day Cumbria) who settled in Richmond as a successful Draper, he also invested in the new lead mines in Swaledale. He was an Alderman and a Freeman of the Company of Mercers, Grocers and Haberdashers of Richmond. The name Robert Willance in connected with a marvellous story. There is no one in or near Richmond who has not heard of Willance Leap. In 1606 he was out hunting on the high ground on the northern bank of the river Swale when he was surprised by fog. Willance was mounted on a fractious young horse which to his dismay bolted with him, towards the edge of Whitecliffe Scar. Unable to control his mount, horse and rider plunged over the edge to the rocks 200 feet below.

The horse was killed by the fall, but Willance only sustained a badly broken leg. With presence of mind he disentangled himself from the horse, and drawing his hunting knife, he slit open the belly of the animal and placed his fractured leg inside to protect it from the cold. This precaution, in all probality, saved his life. His leg however, had to be amputated and he would hunt no more.

Two years after his accident he became Alderman of Richmond. The lost leg, tradition tells us was laid under a massive stone in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin, Richmond. He died and was buried beside his leg on 12th February 1616. Today a memorial stands on the site of his famous leap.

© Copyright of Alan M.Wilcox Richmond Town Clerk 1985-1997.