It’s an odd little ceremony which took place in the city’s Abbey on Saturday morning.
A 500-year-old building which was temporarily closed to the general public – aka milling tourists – while a group of costumed people called The Charter Trustees elected the 791st Mayor of Bath.
Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones takes on a ceremonial role as First Citizen in an ‘office’ that can be traced back to 1230.
Once the Mayor held the keys to the city’s four gates – today he or she is expected to work as an ‘Ambassador for Bath’ – a non-political role promoting the city, nationally and internationally, and supporting the local community.
The Charter Trustees are the 32 councillors elected to represent the wards in the city on Bath and North East Somerset Council.
They meet four times a year and annually elect one of their number to be their Chairman and Mayor – along with a Vice Chairman and Deputy Mayor.
This year those joint roles will be filled by Cllr Anthony Clarke.
This meeting is open to the general public and held in Bath Abbey. The Trustees and some ‘distinguished’ guests walk in – and out – in procession.
Many have ceremonial robes and are proceeded by mace and sword bearers – carrying some of the historic civic regalia.
These Bath councillors maintain the traditions and functions of the Mayor and hold other historic and ceremonial property including 27 royal charters issued by monarchs such as Richard the Lionheart and Elizabeth the First.
As the great West Doors were opened for everyone to parade out – and onto the Guildhall for an informal first meeting with the new Mayor – Bath’s tourists swarmed around the entrance – wondering exactly what this slightly strange, costumed event was all about.
I cannot exactly say the Abbey was overwhelmed by citizens – keen to support this historic event. Only one line of pews were full – before the people making up the procession filled another.
You do have the feeling of sitting in on a private committee meeting where even the passing of the Mayor’s ceremonial robes from one councillor to another is done in a room away from the proceedings.
Maybe a symbolic passing of the chain of office could be done in public?
Speeches are made by incoming and outgoing Mayors and Deputies – with more praise for noble doings made by other councillors proposing and seconding elections and noting the achievement of those who had served in mayoral roles during the past year.
I glanced up to spot a memorial tablet on the Abbey wall which noted the burial in the church of the city’s most famous ‘Master of Ceremonies’ Richard ‘Beau’ Nash.
We need an MC like him today – to mastermind the ‘Mayor Making’ ceremony and maybe encourage more people to come and witness proceedings which could be more crafted towards a modern audience.
Followers of Bath Newseum will know that l am a keen supporter of bringing back a flag for Bath. I want to see the city’s historic coat of arms flying above our public buildings.
I have been told the flag now only represents the Mayor but as his office is in the Guildhall – and the Mayor Making ceremony was held in Bath Abbey – it was a shame not to see the flag fluttering on either one of those buildings.
B&NES can argue it’s the cost of erecting and taking down a flag. They have to pay an outsider to do both! Time for our public body to arrange an ‘insider’ to carry out this operation at less expense. We have National Days to celebrate and foreign dignitaries to welcome. Flags could be used to help do this.
Let me know your thoughts.
Meanwhile, new Mayors are expected to have ‘themes’ for their year of office and Cllr Anketell-Jones has chosen the environment.
It’s a good non-political subject for him to get his teeth into and l think he is going to be quite active in promoting it too.
Now for some of your comments!