Past Mayors, Freemen and Jurats were unanimous in their invitation to John Rodley to serve as Mayor of Winchelsea for a second term from Easter Monday 2019 to 2020. The Speakership of the Cinque Ports, currently held by the Mayor of Hastings, falls to Winchelsea every seven years and John will take on those wider responsibilities in May. The main ceremonial event will take place in October when the Lord Warden and representatives of all the Cinque Port towns will gather in Winchelsea for Speaker’s Day.

All the Cinque Port Mayors have received a New Year message for HMS Kent, their collectively adopted warship. The Commanding Officer writes: “Twelve months ago our empty vessel was sat in a Devonport shed, stripped of equipment and personnel. Gradually the ship has taken shape, floating up and emerging fresh from her near two-year refit. The Ship’s Company has formed, moved on board and taken our home and fighting vessel to sea, testing and proving not only the kit, but crucially our ability to operate it. Returning to Portsmouth in the summer and recommissioning following refit, we have spent much of the last three months at sea.

This included a rewarding visit to Stavanger (testing sensors and the local brew) noise ranging on the west coast of Scotland and participation in war games. Whilst the Christmas break feels particularly well earned, it also provides an opportunity to look back and recognise the successes we have achieved and to offer a word of thanks. When we return to sea in January, our operational journey will be firmly underway as we train to hone our warfighting skills. We shall return to Plymouth for the rigours of work-up under the Flag Officer Sea Training, before deploying as part of the NATO exercises Joint Warrior and BALTOPS in the Baltic Sea.”

The Cinque Port Mayors, along with other local dignitaries, were deployed to Margate in early January for the annual Blessing of the Seas Service. This is timed to coincide with Epiphany and is led by the Greek community. Past Mayors have experienced some atrocious conditions, but this year was cold and dry and, standing on the beach as the tide came in, it was touch and go as to whether we would be seen as part of the deterrence posture against illegal immigrants, or part of the problem. However, the presence of Mace Bearers ensured there was no trouble with the UK Border Force and all passed off peacefully.

Not including Corporation events, the Lower Court Hall was booked for 244 events in 2018. These included the Post Office and meetings of Icklesham Parish Council, but use was also made 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.

Thanks to the work of David Page, a new version of the Visitor Map is now available and a revised Town Guide will soon be printed by the time the Museum reopens in the spring. The Corporation also approved a balanced budget for the year ahead. On matters of fabric, hopefully, the plaque will have been placed on the Court Hall by the time you read this, with those for the Pipewell and New Gates following shortly. The painting of the Lower Court Hall is also underway and thanks are again due to FOAM for funding these projects.

The priority now is to obtain estimates for restoration work on the Town Sign and repair work to the Court Hall and the Fabric Committee is working towards this, as the five-year plan nears completion. Icklesham Parish Council is also planning to undertake some care and maintenance work on the Lookout and it is hoped that this will be undertaken when the weather improves.