Town & Manor of Hungerford News: May/June 2022

Hungerford Town & Manor

The Town and Manor’s activities this month have been very different from usual (though  no two months are ever the same). These included preparing for an election, decorating trees, mounting a plaque and taking a red rose to Buckingham Palace.

Most charities appoint trustees through a selection process: the Town and Manor is unusual in that it elects them. This democratic process seems worth preserving, even that it can lead people to believe that the Town and Manor is part of, or another name for, the Town Council – it is something completely different and with a far more ancient lineage that stretches back to the late Middle Ages.

The gift of a red rose to the monarch is an example of the traditions that have grown up over this period. Propitiating the monarch at times of important celebration was once seen as prudent: now it is more an act of politeness but still a useful reminder of the organisation’s history. 

Encouraging people to decorate the trees in the High Street (which it owns) was one of the ways the Town and Manor contributed to the very successful jubilee celebrations in the town.

As for the plaque, that celebrates a slightly more recent anniversary – 40 years of the twinning association between Hungerford and Ligueil in the Indre-et-Loire Département in central France. As the photographs show, there were in fact two plaques: one is still on the wall of the Town Hall; the other one has been eaten.

We said above that no two months are ever the same but that’s not strictly true as aspects of each month’s tasks closely resemble many of those performed twelve months before. With woodland, commons, marshland and river to manage, much of the work revolves around the implacable pattern of the seasons. The cattle, for instance, have recently returned to the Common and as they do in the late spring: we pass on a message on their behalf thanking most (but not quite all) motorists on the Common for obeying the 30mph speed limits.

The Town and Manor’s work can be seen every Wednesday when the market sets up in the High Street. Here you you can but items ranging from geraniums to gooseberries, from cabbages to cod and from blue cheese to bacon. Please be sure to observe the no-parking signs from midnight every Tuesday.

The twinning plaque

The Hungerford Twinning Association (HTA) unveiled a plaque celebrating 40 years of twinning with Ligueil in France on Saturday 4 June. Hungerford twinned with the town in 1980, through an initiative led by the mayor at the time, Jack Williams, his deputy being the Constable of the Town and Manor Robert James. The tradition of the Mayor being the President of the Twinning Association and the Constable the Deputy has continued to this day.

In fact, as Constable Peter Joseph pointed out in his address at the ceremony, “the association is actually 42 years old – we are a little late due to the pandemic – but how lovely it is happening during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

“I am saddened that we are unable to have the Mayor of Ligueil or a delegation with us today, but I send our best wishes to our friends in Ligueil and look forward to meeting up soon. Twinning is all about bringing two towns closer together, socially, culturally and economically, with many long-term friendships developed, I know much work has been done over the last 40 years in that respect and we look forward to continuing to forge new ties and economic benefits in the years to come.”

Photo below, left: Bellman Julian Tubb; HTA President (and Town Mayor) Helen Simpson; former Constable Robert James; HTA Chairman Penny Brookman; and HTA Deputy Chair (and current Constable) Peter Joseph. Photo below, right: not the plaque but a cake (baked by Penny Brookman) to the same design.

Decorating the trees

The Trustees of the Town and Manor organised for the High Street trees to be decorated as part of Hungerford’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Around 30 clubs and associations within the town took part in decorating a tree. It was an event that brought the whole of the community of Hungerford together and there were some amazing decoration that adorned the trees. See the Town and Manor’s Facebook page for photos.

A red rose

A commemorative Platinum Jubilee red rose was last week delivered to Buckingham Palace on behalf of the people of Hungerford. The Town & Manor of Hungerford & Liberty of Sanden Fee’s Constable Peter Joseph and Bellman Julian Tubb travelled to the Palace to hand-deliver the Hungerford rose to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas White, Equerry to Her Majesty the Queen.

They were upholding a tradition which is thought to date back more than 800 years, which sees a red rose delivered to the monarch to mark significant events and anniversaries.

The title “Duke of Lancaster” has been held by the reigning British monarch since 1399, when the then Duke of Lancaster Henry Bolingbroke (the son of John of Gaunt, whose name remains so closely associated with Hungerford) became King Henry IV. As the Manor of Hungerford was then part of the Duchy of Lancaster, this created a direct link between the town and the crown. The tradition is still honoured to this day of the Constable presenting a red rose, the emblem of the House of Lancaster, to the monarch on special occasions.

The most recent visit came about after the Town & Manor of Hungerford Constable Peter Joseph, wrote to the Palace to request the opportunity to honour the historic gesture. “It was a privilege to visit to the Palace,” he said afterwards, “and also a wonderful opportunity to recognise the work of Her Majesty The Queen.”

Election time

It’s polling day at the Town and Manor on Thursday 16 June for the purpose of electing five trustees. The last Trustees’ election was held in June 2019, when ten members were elected to the board for terms of either three or six years. Five of those 10 are standing down in rotation for a new six-year term.

“As a trustee, you have a wonderful opportunity to influence our agenda to the benefit of the Charity, Hungerford and its residents,” Peter Joseph, the Constable of the Town and Manor said.

“It’s an exciting time to be joining the board,” said Ellie Dickins, CEO of The Town and Manor. “As we start to properly emerge from the pandemic, the charity recognises there is much to be done in support of the local community.”

Most but not all of those who live in Hungerford can vote (those who can’t include those to the north of the River Dun). Eligible voters will live in the Hungerford Town tithing or the tithing of Sanden Fee (collectively known as the Area of Benefit). Although it’s not ideal that this doesn’t cover the whole of the present-day town, it isn’t practical to alter it: this area was specified when the charity was set up as a charity in 1905 and can be changed only with considerable difficulty and expense.

The polling station on Thursday 16 June will be situated at the Town Hall and will be open from 9am until 7pm. Each eligible voter can vote for up to five candidates in the election. In common with parliamentary elections, eligible voters must be 18 and on the electoral roll.

If you are in any doubt as to whether you’re entitled to vote, please contact the Town and Manor (see below). 

The nominated candidates are as follows:

  • Alistair Fyfe, a member of Hungerford Town Council, where he holds the post of Chair of Planning.
  • Geordie Taylor, who has lived in Hungerford for 35 years and is a former chairman of the town’s cricket club.
  • Jon Dennis, a chartered accountant who has been a trustee for several years.
  • Julian Dickins, another current trustee, he is a solicitor who lives locally and has worked in Hungerford for 26 years.
  • Kate Edwards, a recently retired teacher who has a long history of volunteering and fund raising.
  • Simon Lee-Smith, who has worked in the telecoms industry, primarily in procurement and sales.

More information regarding the election and the candidates can be found on the Town and Manor’s website.

Beating the bounds

The beating of the bounds will take place on Sunday 18 June, starting at 10am at the Marsh Gate on Freemans’ Marsh. This is an ancient tradition to mark out the charity’s boundary with posts branded with the year they were put in place. Historically this happens every five years and this should have happened in 2020: Covid had other ideas, however.

Commoners and members of the community of Hungerford are more than welcome to come and walk around Freemans’ Marsh, along with Hungerford Marsh if time permits. Please come and join in with this ancient tradition. There will be refreshments available at the Freemans’ entrance gate opposite Cobbs Farm afterwards.

Back to its best…

As mentioned last month, the floor in the Corn Exchange has been repaired following last year’s floods and is looking like new. The building is available to hire for events of all kinds. The rates of hire are competitively priced for a venue of this size and all local residents with a Hungerford postcode qualify for a 25% discount.

Please contact Tara on admin@townandmanor.co.uk or call 07880 311731 to arrange a viewing and to talk through your requirements. We can also provide a list of suppliers to help in the organisation of your occasion.

A message from the cattle

The cattle on the Common would like to thank those drivers (over 95%) who are observing the 30mph speed limit. There are, however, those who do not do so. We urge all readers of Penny Post to report these vehicles via email at admin@townandmanor.co.uk or call 01488 686 555 or if they see cattle being chased by cars or motorbikes (as sadly also happens from time to time).

The Wednesday market

The Town and Manor continues to support the weekly Wednesday market. We would like to remind all visitors that the road outside the Town Hall is officially closed to all traffic every Wednesday to ensure the safety of all pedestrians. I politely ask for drivers picking up goods not to use this road as we have had several near misses last year.

We’re also pleased to report that West Berkshire Council has conducted repairs to damaged road surface of the parking bays on which the market sets up. The water main that appears to have been damaged during these works should be being fixed very soon.

Please also observe the no-parking signs in parts of the High Street which apply from midnight on Tuesday.

The responsibilities of the Town and Manor

The Town and Manor of Hungerford is a unique institution, the only such body in England to have survived (in other places, the functions and assets of these organisations have been assumed by local councils). Some reflections on its past, and its present, role can be found here.

Many aspects of the Town and Manor, including its ownership of the Town Hall, make it look like another tier of local government (which it is not) and as a result many people are unsure of what aspects of local life it is responsible for. These are some of the main things that the Town and Manor does, all at no cost to the local residents:

• Hungerford Common (including maintenance, the cattle, the trees and event licences).
• Freeman’s Marsh and Hungerford Marsh (including maintenance, the cattle and the trees).
• The trees in the High Street from the Canal Bridge to the junction of Atherton Road (maintenance).
• The Croft (including grass cutting, trees, posts and event licences).
• The Town Hall (including bookings and maintenance).
• River Kennet and River Dun (including weed cutting, debris clearance and bank maintenance).
• Hocktide (all aspects of the festival).

For any problems, issues or enquiries relating to any of these matters, please email admin@townandmanor.co.uk or call 01488 686555.

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