Making a Mayor: Nigel Foot takes up the chain at Newbury, 14 May 2023

Councillor Nigel Foot was elected as Mayor of Newbury for the municipal year 2023/24 at the Town Council’s annual Mayor Making ceremony on Sunday 14 May 2023. Councillor Andy Moore was elected to support him in the role of Deputy Mayor.

The event was held in The Corn Exchange with over 250 guests in attendance. It was attended by members of the Council, local dignitaries, community organisations and their friends and families.

The Town Council, along with the Town Marshal and Macebearers, processed through the Market Place to the Corn Exchange to start the ceremony. Following the ceremony, a Civic Service was held at St Nicolas Church with refreshments in the Church Hall afterwards.

Outgoing Mayor, Councillor Gary Norman shared his highlights from his year as Mayor of Newbury and a long-service award was given to Councillor Sue Farrant who was recognised for her 10 years of service as a Councillor including her role as Mayor of Newbury Town Council in the Year 2000.

Councillor Pam Lusby-Taylor and Councillor Vaughan Miller expressed their delight in proposing Councillor Nigel Foot as the Mayor of Newbury for the municipal year 2023/24.

The new Mayor announced that he was looking forward to the year ahead in office and that his chosen charity would be West Berkshire Homeless. After declaring his acceptance of office, Nigel Foot said, “I am honoured and humbled and will do my very best to do justice to this historic role.” He was invested by receiving the chain and badge of office.

The Mayor also formally invested his wife, Councillor Sarah Slack, as his Mayoress. Councillor Andy Moore was invested as Deputy Mayor of Newbury, and he is looking forward to supporting the Mayor over the course of the year.

Musical accompaniment to the ceremony was provided by Sing for Fun, a group that makes community singing accessible to everyone, regardless of experience.

A civic service followed in the Corn Exchange lead by Rev Will Hunter Smart who is also the Mayor’s newly appointed chaplain.

The role of the Mayor

According to Newbury TC’s website, “The Mayor, apart from members of the Royal Family or the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire who represents them, takes precedence over all persons in the town. The Mayor is the first citizen of Newbury and represents the Council, all political groups and the people of Newbury. The Mayor is a Public Relations Officer for the town and must be non-political at all times during their term of office. The Mayor, by virtue of the office, also presides at the meetings of the Council where it is their duty to keep order, control the conduct of debate and carry out the procedures outlined in the Council’s Standing Orders.”

More information on the Mayor of Newbury, including contact details, can be found here.

The history of the office

The following information was taken from the leaflet accompanying this year’s Mayoral civic service:

In 1568 when Elizabeth I visited her Newbury manor, the town laid on a grand welcome; the bells rang out and the streets were sanded. Recognition for the Borough came on 28 May 1596 when the Queen granted its first known Charter.

This document gave the town certain rights and benefits to be a “free Borough of itself”. It ordered that a Court of Record be held every Tuesday in the Guildhall, which stood in the Market Place. Four lawyers were appointed to assist with the proceedings, known as the Corporation of Newbury, a group of officials were appointed to govern the town, consisting of a Mayor, a High Steward, six Aldermen and twenty-four Capital Burgesses. One Alderman was also chosen to act as Justice of the Peace who could, in conjunction with the Mayor, decide any cases except those of murder, or loss of life or limb.

Although the position of High Steward was a job for life, the Mayor was elected each year, on St. Matthew’s Day. The Charter names the first Mayor of Newbury as Mr. Bartholomew Yate and the first High Steward as Sir John Woolley, who was the Queen’s Latin Secretary. To this day, Newbury has an annual Mayor Making ceremony, which takes place in May.

Of the four annual fairs granted to the town, the only one that remains today is the Michaelmas Fair in October. The original fairs were held on the Day of Annunciation (25 March), St John the Baptist’s Day (24 June), St. Bartholomew’s Day (24 August) and St. Jude’s Day (28 October). Each fair had its own court, called a Court of Pie Powder (meaning ‘dusty feet’), which settled any disputes arising from the trade at the fair. The Corporation had to pay an annual sum of £3 to the Exchequer for the right to keep tolls and fees raised from the fairs.

Alterations to the Charter were made by later monarchs, but Newbury’s status as a Borough remained largely unchanged for the next four centuries.

In the 1974 reorganisation of local government, Newbury Borough Council ceased to exist. Twelve Charter Trustees were appointed (later reduced to ten) to preserve the rites and ceremonies of the Borough and, from their ranks, a Mayor was selected each year.

In 1996, four hundred years after the granting of the Royal Charter by Elizabeth I, Newbury Town was greatly honoured by a visit of Her Majesty the Queen on 25 October. The visit was in recognition of the town’s special 400th anniversary year.

It was not until 1997 that Newbury regained its own Council. There are now 23 elected Town Councillors, representing the town’s five wards (Clay Hill, East Fields, Speenhamland, Wash Common and West Fields). The Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected by their fellow Councillors and hold office for twelve months.

On the walls of the Council Chamber in the Town Hall, there are large boards bearing the names of all Newbury’s Mayors since 1596. They are a reminder to today’s Mayor and townspeople that Newbury has a long and distinguished civic history.

The photo at the top of the post shows, left to right: Garry Poulson, Councillor Nigel Foot, Anthony Hewitt; the Mayoral procession; current Mayor Nigel Foot and previous Mayor Gary Norman. 

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