Strand Gate Winchelsea

It’s worth noting how delightful the town looked over the Christmas period. A collective thank you must go to all those who contributed to that and perhaps a mention of those who ‘took charge’ is appropriate. We think of Nigel Aston in the Church, Cheryl Fraser-Sampson with the Christmas Windows, Peter Cosstick with the churchyard Christmas tree and John Spencer with the tree at the Town Well. It all looked good and did a lot of good as well. Many thanks.

The new year has opened with the annual pilgrimage of Cinque Port Mayors to Margate for the Blessing of the Seas, led by the local Greek Community. Often in the past, the weather has not always been so blessed, but on this occasion it was perfect, leading to, possibly, less sympathy than usual for the small boy cast into the sea to recover the crucifix. He was, however, very well looked after at the subsequent lunch for some 300 people. Lunch was followed by seven speeches, three spiritual and four secular: fortunately no contribution was required from the Speaker of the Cinque Ports! The ceremony was led by the Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, a rather witty American, who had, himself, recovered the crucifix some 45 years ago at a similar, but probably warmer, ceremony in Florida.

Dover Castle

Three events in December are worthy of mention. The induction of the new Deputy Constable of Dover Castle, Brigadier Peter Rowell took place at the Castle early in the month. He is the 215th individual to hold that post, so the ceremony, conducted by the Lord Warden, his Chaplain and the Seneschal was rich in history and tradition. About 70 people were present in a relatively small room, which seemed to become much small when four rather large buglers, drawn from the Welsh Guards entered to open proceedings with a fanfare.

And still on an Army theme, it was a privilege to be invited, as Speaker, to Lydd to take part in a cheque presentation to the Gurkha Welfare Trust. The money had been raised at a Brigade Band Concert in the town and amounted to £2,500. It is expected that this money will be used to support welfare projects in Nepal.

Finally, it was a great pleasure to present the annual awards at the Sea Cadet Headquarters in Rye. Pleasingly, it was very well attended by Cadets, parents and supporters and the Unit has clearly enjoyed a successful year. This should bode well for the future and Rylan Carter, the present Mayor’s Cadet has signed up to continue for the year ahead.

Winchelsea Court Hall

Not including Corporation events, the Lower Court Hall was booked for 223 events in 2019. This is some twenty less than 2018, but still featured use by a wide range of local groups and societies. It is really pleasing that this community asset has been so well used and hopefully that will continue to be the case in the year ahead. The Corporation has held the hire charge at £10 an hour for 2020.

In the winter months users will probably need to make use of coin operated electricity meter to make the heaters work. It is not a particularly sophisticated bit of kit, but it seems to work reasonable well when fed on the occasional pound coin. We have found that it will eat physically smaller coins (20p, 5p and 1p coins) but its inbuilt weight sensor will not allow it to transfer these into electric heating. A number of these have been found in the box and these could cause damage, so it would be much appreciated if users stuck to the pound coin diet that the box really prefers.

The continued operation of the Post Office, of course, depends very much upon Anthea and her heavy equipment. In order to help her, the Gentlemen of the West High Street, Richard, Karl and Alfred are kindly sharing the task of helping her in and out of her car and the Court Hall when she visits. This is incredibly helpful and is much appreciated.

In December, we were visited by the Area Manager of the Post Office and the Area Manager of McColl’s, the chain which holds the franchise and directly supports Anthea. They were able to meet a number of people in the Post Office on the day and were made aware of how important this service is in meeting a clear community need. They seemed to be committed to maintaining that service, but it did depend on the availability of people to keep it open and on it being used by the town.

Financially, the Corporation has approved a balanced budget for the year ahead. Last year, it adjusted its financial year to match the calendar year, thus making the last financial year (or more correctly period) 10 months long. At the end of that period its cash resources were about £1.500 less than at the start of the period on 1st March. This figure is subject to independent examination, but is largely due to project income and expenditure occurring on different sides of the end of the last financial year.

On matters of fabric, The Corporation agreed its updated five-year maintenance plan and the year ahead includes works on the Court Hall, including the Museum and the Strand Gate. The Town Sign work, funded by the Millennium Artefacts Committee should be completed by the middle of March and reports are that the restoration work is progressing well.

Estimates are being sought for repair to the Court Hall High Street door. There is an emerging concern about dampness on the West Wall of the Museum. We know that some significant repointing is required on the external wall, but had hoped to paint the wall internally in January. In preparing for that, there was more dampness than had been expected and drying out may first be necessary.

John Rodley, Mayor of Winchelsea