Hear ye, hear ye - town crier to return to borough

Hear ye, hear ye - town crier to return to borough

Nicola Hine

Hear ye, hear ye - town crier to return to borough

They've helped open the Olympic Games and aided the search for the owner of an unclaimed lottery ticket in Sunderland this week.

Town criers continue to play their part in more than 200 towns and cities across Britain, taking on tasks from introducing the mayor at civic engagements to opening fairs and festivals and more.

The role has not existed in Maidenhead since 1922 or Windsor since 1892, for reasons unknown - but that is about to change.

Cllr Alan Mellins (left) (Con, Cox Green) has persuaded the Royal Borough to look into taking on its own town crier after doing some research into the tradition.

"The benefits to us all of a town crier being available to create a splendid civic impression, boost awareness of our history, focus attention on the attractions of our area and generally help to develop our visitor infrastructure are, I think, quite obvious," he said.

"It could be great fun for everybody, for residents and visitors alike."

He presented the idea at a full council meeting in Windsor Guildhall on Tuesday last week where approval was sealed with a resounding chorus of 'oyez'.

Further research will now need to be done into exactly what the job will entail and a traditional uniform will need to be designed before applications can open.

A bell believed to have belonged to Maidenhead's town crier is kept by a descendent of Charles William Cox, who was the town's mayor on nine occasions between 1883 and 1927.

Taking on a town crier does not necessarily need to cost the council much money, as in many cases the role is voluntary.

It is expected one will initially be taken on to cover the whole borough, but if it proves successful each town could end up with its own.

The idea to re-introduce the role to the Royal Borough has been praised by Newbury's town crier.

Brian Sylvester has held the position in the nearby Berkshire town since 1999 and says it is a 'privilege'.

The 74-year-old acts as an unofficial master of ceremonies, attending events with the mayor as well as school fetes, shop openings and similar engagements.

"I think it's a wonderful idea to have your own town crier in such an important and historical borough," he said.

"He'll be very popular."

Brian, who is retired, says he brings 'a bit of colour' to occasions in Newbury and described the role as one which emphasises tradition and Englishness, 'like London's red buses and Beefeaters'.

"People love it, they really do," he added.

Qualities required for the job, according to Brian, include a loud voice, being able to smile and laugh with people, and to have the time available to dedicate to it.

Town criers were the chief method of communicating news with the public in medieval England when most people could not read or write.

Nowadays the role is largely ceremonial.

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