Winchelsea Corporation Seal

Hopefully, this is the last we will hear of Speaker’s Day for the next seven years! Aside from the things we cannot control, namely the weather and problems with the transport infrastructure, things are pretty well in place for this event. One factor that was not taken into account when the date was chosen is that it conflicts with the England vs Argentina match in the Rugby World Cup and sincere apologies for that.

Anyway, all things being equal, we are expecting all the Cinque Port Towns, except Deal, to be here, plus a full turn out of Cinque Port Confederation Officials, the Lord Warden, Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff. Eighty invited guests will take lunch in the New Hall and the New Inn is looking after another twenty.

Weather permitting, please do try and come and watch the parade. Its planned start time is 10.40 from High Street by the Court Hall, then making its way anti-clockwise around the Church via German Street, Back Lane, St Thomas’s Street and the High Street. It will be led by Sussex Brass and firmly marshalled by the Guy Fawkes Society.

The high point of the day will be the Church Service, where an enhanced choir led by Marion Lovell, with David Birchenough on organ will provide magnificent musical accompaniment. This is a public service and, again, please do come along if you can. Of necessity, much of the Nave will be given over to allocated seating, but there will be space in the Lady Chapel, but please be seated by 10.50 latest. A large number of people, not all of whom can be present, have given time to the organisation of this important event and the Corporation is really grateful to you all

The minor works in the Lower Court Hall described in the last issue of this magazine were duly completed, including the hanging of the Legges and the plumbing and carpentry repairs. The painting of the east and west walls of the Museum will be undertaken during the winter closed period, with the support of the Friends of the Ancient Monuments and Museum.

Outside, the planned work on the New Gate should have been completed by the time you read this, again supported by the Friends. The planned work on the Town Sign has been funded, due to the excellent work of the Millennium Artefacts Committee and it is intended that contractors start in November, with completion in the first quarter of next year. Conservators will take the shield and boat away for re-gilding at their establishment in St Leonard’s. It is also hoped to be able to clean and retouch the Town model over the winter period.

Looking ahead, the Fabric Committee will be planning further external work on the Court Hall, but the views of the Conservation Officer are the next step in this. When it next meets, it will also update the five-year maintenance plan on the basis of works completed this year.

Some 53 properties in the Town are subject to a request from the Corporation for payment of the Queen’s Dues. The Chamberlain commenced his rounds at the end of September and will call again in November. The origin of this tradition is that when Queen Elizabeth I visited Winchelsea in the late sixteenth century she was apparently horrified by the state of the town, by then in serious decline due to the silting up of the harbour and the loss of its function as a port. In an act of generosity she not only granted land to the Corporation but also passed on the income from her dues, this being a sort of ground rent paid to the monarch since Edward I purchased the land on which New Winchelsea was built.

Sadly neither she, nor her successors, allowed for inflation, but they represent the Corporation’s only remaining fixed income stream, following its loss of revenue raising powers with the 1883 Municipal Corporations Act. The money raised – amounting to about £47 a year goes to the Ancient Monuments Account, which supports work on the Gates and the Court Hall. If the Chamberlain does call, or drops a request through your door, your contribution will be very much appreciated.

The document listing the properties over which crown gave authority to collect the dues is held in the archives at the East Sussex Record Office dating from 1586. A framed print of the first page is on display in the Museum.

The 2020 book is now open. Please contact the Mayor to make a booking and an appropriate agreement form to cover the period of use will be provided before the event takes place.

 John Rodley, Mayor of Winchelsea