Much Wenlock’s mayor-making, or the Annual Town Council meeting (not to be confused with the easily-confused Annual Town Meeting), is usually held in the first fortnight in May. This is the formal meeting where the mayor for the “ensuing year” (the next twelve months) is elected by Town Councillors from their number, along with the deputy mayor.
This is a grand occasion full of pomp and ceremony. The outgoing mayor parades down the High Street from the Corn Exchange to the Guildhall with his or her entourage, including the Town Clerk and the Rector, following the town’s mace which is usually carried by a police officer.
The incoming mayor invites most of the guests who watch the ceremony. Town Councillors are present as of right – indeed they are formally summoned, and should attend unless there is an exceptional reason for their absence. Their spouses or partners are invited, along with local dignitaries such as the mayors of Bridgnorth, Broseley and other nearby towns. The new mayor’s family and friends may be present, and usually the splendidly panelled Council Chamber in Much Wenlock’s Guildhall is packed. Curiously, there are rarely if ever any chairmen of neighbouring parish councils – leaders of communities that make a significant contribution to the economic and cultural lifeblood of the town.
Of course, some of the invitees are Much Wenlock residents, but there’s no room for local residents to drop in and see what’s going on and witness this highlight of the civic year. This a pity because, although there’s no business discussed, the mayor and deputy mayor are voted in and there are speeches about achievements over the past year, and future aspirations. The ceremony is somewhat stuffy and scripted but is a spectacle that has taken place in similar form for decades if not centuries, in the Guildhall. The mayor’s chaplain (Revd Matthew Stafford) is appointed and then normal Town Council business is deferred – in this case to Thursday 17th May.
Following the formal meeting, the new Mayor, the attendees and sometimes additional guests are invited to a drinks and buffet at the Town Council’s expense (using your money, of course) in Priory Hall. The business of the next Council year starts on Thursday 17th May.