Many people ask about the institution of the Mayor of Hayle. The following is offered for interest and information.
Local government in England for towns with a long history and large population rested in the creation of a “Charter Borough”. This was achieved by the granting of a Charter of Incorporation by the reigning monarch, vesting authority in the Mayor and Corporation to administer the town – Penzance, 1614, St Ives 1639.
Rural areas tended to be administered by the rule of the “squire” or lord of each manor, parish meeting (vestry) or local justice of the peace.
Local government in all areas dates from a number of Parliamentary Acts passed in the nineteenth century – starting in 1835 (Municipal Corporations Act). These gave extra powers to existing organisations to cope with the increase in urban living and the need for water supplies, sewerage, law and order, medical and Poor Law provision.
Under the terms of the local Government Act of 1858, two local ‘boards’ were created in Hayle on 16 March 1866. In 1894 these were changed into urban district councils – Hayle Urban District (9 members) in the western end of the town, Phillack Urban District Council (15 members) at the eastern end.
These were abolished in 1934 and absorbed into West Penwith Rural District Council, leaving the former Hayle and Phillack councils as parish councils which were amalgamated to form the new Hayle Parish Council in 1935.
So, in this area, there were four forms of local government – county council, the rural district council, urban councils: Penzance and St Ives, and the parishes.
The existing system of local government was created in 1974. The county council remained but all other statutory requirements became the responsibility of the new Penwith District Council. Under this act the ‘parish’ level remained, but larger areas could establish themselves as ‘town councils’ – still with only parish responsibility but with the right to create a mayor. It was under this arrangement that Hayle created its first mayor although some councillors were anxious that such titles might incur greater expense! Interestingly Penzance gave up its mayor, only to reinstate the office at a later date. St Ives kept its mayor but still only retained parish powers. This is why Penzance and St Ives have robes and maces and all the paraphernalia which are relics from their charter status.
Hayle adopted ‘town’ status on the 1 April 1974. The minutes show that the former chairman, John Sleeman, now took the title of mayor. Hayle’s first was also its shortest serving as he completed his term and handed the mayoralty to WE Garnish Esq two months later!
The council minutes of 27 April 1977 explain that Councillor Fred Ponting suggested that a better type of medallion should be acquired. He said the existing one was “very cumbersome and there has been criticism of it from outside the town.”
The matter created debate among the councillors for some time and mention appears on several sets of minutes but finally a new silver chain was designed and made by Robin Kewell in the shape of a six point star (each point representing one of the manors making up the town- Riviere, Pulsack, Trevassack, Trelissick, Bodriggy and Penpol). The chemical symbols for iron and copper surround a central boss depicting the SS Cornubia sailing across the bay.
A special meeting was held on 25 September 1980 for the “acceptance and dedication of the new Mayoral Insignia”. Councillor Ponting, the man who had originally raised the issue was the first mayor to wear the chain. Robin Kewell gave his services ‘free of any charge to the townspeople’ and J&F Pool Ltd donated the cost of the bulk of the materials used. Reverend Harwood performed the blessing and the High Sheriff of Cornwall, Mr Gerald Pawle, made the official presentation. In 1985 a medallion was provided for the mayor’s consort.
Mayors must be serving members of the council and are elected each May for a term of one year. Many mayors have served for two terms. The mayor wears the chain of office at all times when acting as ‘the mayor’. It distinguishes them as the leader of the community and is their badge of office.
Hayle’s silver chain is very special and much admired. It is totally individual and unique, an expression of the town itself!