The Non-Conformist Mayors

  • 15 Jan 2012
  • Worcester People and Places
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Not until 1828 were Dissenters allowed to hold public office. When they did there was sometimes an inclination to break with accepted customs. Mr. Richard Padmore in 1849, was the first Non-conformist Mayor, and declined to have a procession to either the Cathedral or his place of Worship, Angel Street Chapel, and he would not wear a mayoral robe.

On Mayor's Day it was for long the custom to celebrate the election of the Chief Magistrate by taking wine and cake together, but in the mid-19th century a lunch was given.

Thomas Rowley, another Non-conformist, returned to the traditon by attending service 'in state' at the Cathedral, but discontinued the practice of giving an official breakfast to the City Fathers on Sunday morning as a preliminary to the religious observances. He gave one on a week-day, and afterwards the company went to the Cathedral. However, discreditable scenes used to happen at these breakfasts, with grabbing and clutching of food and wine by 'individuals whose appetites were better than their manners', and the practice was discontinued.

When Mr. Townsend was Mayor, he followed tradition by going to the Cathedral but towards the termination of his year of office he invited his colleagues to accompany him to Angel Street Chapel, which they did. Thomas Rowley Hill received them, and the mace-bearers placed the insignia of office on the communion table in front of the pulpit, but Mr. Hill was observed to quietly remove them from the table to the floor, whereupon the classic direction 'Take away that bauble'  flashed through many an observer's mind.

Joseph Wood, the well-known builder, was Mayor 1860-61, and was a Non-conformist who did not hesitate to enforce his views on Lord's Day observance in the teeth of violent opposition. He closed all shops and beer houses at certain times on Sunday. Satirical rhymes were sung about him, and his effigy was burnt on Pitchcroft - yet even he did not dare to appoint a Non-conformist as his official chaplain. It was not until 1910,  in Mr. Thomas's year of office that this was done.