Marlborough’s new mayor took office amid an evening of civic pageantry on Monday night and issued a challenge to residents to back the town council’s £1 million town hall improvement project.
Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson revealed that a public consultation meeting would be staged in the coming months and called on the town to back the controversial scheme that has angered those who believe it too costly in the current economic climate.
He referred to the need for continuity in the ancient office he had been honoured with, the heritage of Marlborough dating back to its prehistoric landscape and the variety of its splendid architecture in buildings erected during all the past centuries.
“Our town hall has suffered from the traditional British disease of being a little bit under-maintained for many, many years,” he declared. “But not quite enough to keep abreast with what’s needed, one that will slip into unusability unless we act.”
The Edwardian 1902 building needed a energy management system and better use made of its unused space. “A lot needs to be done now because if it isn’t done now it will be much more extravagantly expensive later.”
And the 66-year-old mayor told Marlborough News Online: “In a very short time you could end up like Devizes with one historic building being practically boarded up. There had been lots of talk of the town hall losing £45,000 a year as a result of our vision for 2015.”
“That’s absurd as I see it. The town hall is not only an asset but the community focus. A town has to have somewhere for official functions to take place, where, for legal reasons, the town council hold its meetings.”
“It has to have a place where old ladies can play bingo and where other things can happen, like our successful royal wedding festivities, the literary festival and so on.”
“A town of any substance has to have that focus, its own headquarters. The works that are envisaged are absolutely a necessity and vital investment for the future.”
“The town hall project is a real instance of how we have a responsibility for those who follow us.”
The mayor making was attended by a cross-section of local people and representatives of Marlborough’s organisations, plus members of the 4th Military Intelligence Battalion, whom the town council is honouring with the Freedom of Entry march past next month.
It was boosted too by the presence of Wiltshire’s new High Sheriff, Mr Robert Hiscox, chairman of the international insurance company, who lives at Rainscombe Park, Oare.
Former mayor Nick Fogg, proposing Mr Kirk Wilson as the new mayor, said he had served the town council with distinction and proved himself to be “an inspired clever iconoclast.”
He came from a background of being educated at Shrewsbury, a contemporary of Christopher Booker, Richard Ingrams and Michael Palin. Quoting his own version of the school’s Latin motto, he said that it meant, “If you are happy in yourself, then don’t let anyone bother you.”
“That’s a very good quality to have and he will bring a refreshing touch of eccentricity to the mayoralty. He has a positive vision towards everything we do.”
Tributes were also paid to out-going mayor Councillor Andrew Ross, who has raised £6,000 during his year in office to support increasing sporting facilities and events in Marlborough.