There was universal approval when the retiring mayor of Winchelsea, Cynthia Feast, announced the appointment of an honorary freeman for the town. It is a distinction rarely awarded and the recipient was Philip Laverton, Winchelsea’s postman for 24 years and an anchor of the community.
This was the first act in the ancient mayor-making ceremony which took place on Easter Monday in the medieval Court Hall as it has done annually since the 1660s. The climax of the event was the swearing in of the new mayor and the handing over of the mayoral robes and chain of office, a complicated bit of choreography nimbly executed in the small space of the Court Hall, packed full as it always is on this occasion with members of the Corporation and guests from the community, the County and the Cinque Ports.
Fulsome thanks were given to Cynthia Feast, the first woman to hold the post, for the humour, dedication and empathy with which she fulfilled her role over the past year. She hands over to John Rodley who has a long association with the town, now retired after a distinguished naval career and more recently a senior administrative role with the Judicial Appointments Commission. He has served as churchwarden of Winchelsea Church and as deputy mayor. Berenice Scott joins the Corporation as a new freeman. David Page becomes Deputy Mayor.
After the ceremony, everyone moved on to enjoy a reception in the New Hall where a much larger group of friends and neighbours were able to congratulate John and to welcome Deborah as mayoress. Though the Corporation no longer has local government responsibilities, the mayor continues to represent Winchelsea among the Cinque Ports, and the jurats have an ongoing role in the conservation of the medieval gates and ancient monuments of the town.