The Mayor of Evesham is a role first created by Royal Charter issued by King James I in 1605. The charter itself is now preserved in the Almonry Museum.
The very first holder of the role was Robert Allen, of whom we know very little other than that he was a “Gentleman” – that is, a member of the landed gentry with an independent income derived from landholdings rather than needing to earn a living through occupation or trade.
For the first two centuries of the council’s history, the Mayor was almost invariably a member of the upper classes, usually a Gentleman but occasionally an Esquire (the order of gentry immediately above Gentleman) or a Reverend, and on one occasion a Baronet. This changed following the Victorian reformation of local government in the early 19th century which, for the first time, required councillors to be elected – previously, the council appointed its own members to replace any who retired or died. Elected councillors brought an entirely new dynamic to the council, and hence to the role of Mayor. Occupations on the Mayoral name boards from the 19th century include Surgeon, Solicitor, Market Gardener, Auctioneer, Architect and Draper. In the 20th century, along with a large number of Market Gardeners – reflecting the town’s economy – the list of occupations expanded to include Schoolmaster, Amusement Caterer and, in 1964, Housewife. Probably the most unusual occupation on the name boards is from 1990, when Councillor Diana Raphael was listed as “Ferryman”. Taking us into the 21st century, the occupations now include Website Developer, Publican and Charity Worker.
The Mayor of Evesham is appointed for a one year term, which begins in May at the start of the civic year. Consecutive terms of office are possible, and it is not uncommon for a Mayor to do two, or sometimes three, consecutive terms. However, more than three consecutive terms of office is very rare, with only three Mayors (out of over 400) serving four or more. These include the record holder, William Thomas Allard, who served six terms from 1866 to 1871 and then stepped in to serve a partial term for the remainder of 1872 when his successor died in office!
Other notable past Mayors include Henry Workman, whose five-term Mayoralty saw the construction of the bridge and gardens that bear his name, Henry Smith, who with his brother William founded the company now known as WH Smith, and Amy Nightingale, the town’s first female Mayor.
Traditionally, Mayors are entitled to wear civic regalia signifying their office. Evesham is no exception, and the current robes and chain of office date from 1974. The chain is made from gold, and bears the town’s crest on the badge. Each individual link of the chain bears the name of a former Mayor; the chain is regularly refreshed with the addition of new links with the names of recent Mayors added and older links removed and placed in the Almonry Museum. This ensures that the chain itself never wears out, as no individual link remains a part of it permanently.