The following e-mail messages were exchanged in January and February between the Corporation and the local authority responsible for Winchelsea in Victoria, Australia:
Dear Cllr Hodge,
Please forgive me for writing to you from, as it were, out of the blue. Many years ago, we in Winchelsea in Sussex maintained a link with Winchelsea in Victoria and I have only recently learned, possibly incorrectly, that the town now forms part of your area of responsibility. Along with many others in this country, we have felt so sorry for all those affected by the fires afflicting parts of Australia. I am not sure whether or not these are directly impacting on you, but I realise that as a nation you are all equally affected at this very difficult time. I wonder if I could, through you, extend our thoughts and good wishes to your people in general and to the town of Winchelsea in particular.
Mayor of Winchelsea
Firstly I am terribly sorry it has taken me so long to thank you for your email. The fires in Victoria were horrendous and extremely damaging to the areas affected. It will take years to recover. Luckily our area in the south-west of State was extremely fortunate not to have a fire. The Otway Nation Park surrounds many of our coastal towns, Winchelsea is an inner hinterland, rural area. We usually have hotter weather in February so we were on full alert. The weather changed and we have had huge rainfalls which is such a relief and these rains have now doused all the fires in the East of Victoria and New South Waled as well. Now we have flooding in areas, this weather is certainly changing and challenging. Our forest area is now quite sodden so we are hoping the fire season has passed us by (for this year). Thank you for reaching out and please pass on my thanks to your council.
Mayor, Cr Rose Hodge
Ward Councillor – Torquay
As you will be aware, the Mayoring Ceremony on Easter Monday will be slightly different this year. Coffee will be provided in the Lower Court Hall for travelling guest only. There will then be a very short swearing in of the new Mayor, David Page, at a Hundred in the Lower Court Hall, in the presence of any Freemen who wish to attend. At 11am, David will lead a procession to the Church where he will conduct the rest of the ceremony. After introductions and the Proclamation of an Assembly by the Town Clerk, new Freemen and Honorary will be appointed, after which the past Mayor will deliver a report of last year’s activities. The new Mayor will then be formally robed by the Chamberlain and Sergeant-at-Mace and will then appoint his Jurats and officers for the year ahead. On completion, a simple reception will be held in the Church, to which all present are invited. The whole Town is being informed of this experiment via a leaflet drop, but the Corporation does hope that opening the ceremony up to general attendance will maintain the traditions, while being a bit more inclusive and available to all. It will be very helpful to hear opinions and suggestions after the event.
HIGH SHERIFF OF EAST SUSSEX
Mrs Violet Hancock completed a distinguished year in office at the end of March. She has been a great supported of Winchelsea and will be much missed. The new High Sheriff Mr Andrew Blackman of Fairlight, who has visited us before representing the Lord Lieutenant and he has been invited to the Mayoring.
Pleasingly the dampness in the Museum, reported in the last issue seems to be under control, but we are advised that it would be best to do some repointing of the external west wall before next winter. A project to undertake this is now being worked up, with the intention of doing it in August/September. This means that the internal painting will be deferred until the autumn. The care of the Court Hall is the Corporation’s first priority and the 5 year maintenance plan for 2020 envisaged wood and stonework around the High Street door and bird protection around the guttering on the south side. It is hoped that these can still be undertaken, but a discussion with FOAMs will be necessary, once costings are in. It is also planned to remove vegetation and do some repointing work on the Strand Gate, but this is a second priority. Discussions with Icklesham Parish Council have been held with a view to their undertaking some minor works on the Lookout.
Right at the end of February, the New Gate was assaulted by a large lorry from Northern Ireland, carrying wood pellet fuel, known locally as an Arlene Special. Why it should have attempted to pass through a gap which was clearly not adequate for it is, as ever, a mystery, but by dislodging a number of low level stones it did manage to squeeze though. The Gate has been declared safe by East Sussex Highways and the lorry owner’s insurers will pay for repair costs, which are now being worked up.
The Corporation’s Accounts to the end of the last reporting period, 31 December 2019, have been confirmed by independent examination and results will be reported at the Mayoring ceremony. The accounts reflect the move from accruals accounting to the simpler receipts and payments basis. The last reporting period also establishes the alignment of the Corporation’s financial year with the calendar year. While these changes prevent a direct year on year comparison of performance, essentially, things are in reasonable shape. The Corporation is also delighted and grateful that Deborah Upton has agreed to take on the role of Treasurer from 1 May.
Bookings and payments for the Court Hall should continue to be made with and forwarded to John Rodley.
The Corporation has endorsed the recommendation of the Museum Committee that the entry charge to visitors should remain at £2 for the year ahead. Last year saw a slight dip in visitor numbers and it is hoped that will be reversed in the coming season. Certainly, some reorganisation of exhibits, particularly at the west end, has much improved display and appearance and efforts are being made to attract more visitor parties, rather than rely on passing trade. This, of course, has to be balanced against the availability of volunteers to open the Museum. Traditionally, the Museum has not opened on Mondays, except for Bank Holidays and, following a study of patterns last year, it has been decided not to open on Sundays either in 2020. This will be kept under review. Of course, there is no change in the policy of free admission to residents and people under 16. Other work done over the winter has been the renovation of the Town Model, which has been re-cleaned and the paintwork re-touched by Heather Little. IT is also intended to exhibit a new display, loaned by Ann Haddock, of a model of the Town Sign and the drawings that were done by John.
I would just like to sign off by saying that it has been a great privilege to occupy the office of Mayor for the past two years and that of Speaker of the Cinque Ports for the last year. My thanks go particularly to my fellow members of the Corporation, but also everyone who has had a hand in organising and running the very many events that have gone on in the Town in that time. Thank you all so much for your support.
John Rodley, Mayor of Winchelsea