History of the Mayor
The Office of Mayor of Winchester is the second oldest mayoralty in England, dating back to the period when the City was the national capital.
The exact date of the conferment of full mayoral rights is not known, since the original charter cannot be traced. When London petitioned the King for a grant of mayoralty in 1190, Winchester was not cited as precedent (as were certain French cities), but by 1200 there was reference to the mayoralty as an existing office. It is, therefore, safe to say that the office dates back to the 1190s.
By tradition, the Mayor of Winchester stands second only to the Lord Mayor of London in precedence of civic heads.
The earliest Mayors sometimes held the office for several years in succession, but from the 13th century to the present day, the Mayor has been chosen annually. Until the 16th century, the Mayor elect was required to travel to Westminster to receive the royal assent.
Medieval Mayors had wide-ranging executive powers - the only check on their actions was that the succeeding Mayor could withhold any expenses claimed!
The 1835 Municipal Corporations Act removed most of the Mayor's executive powers, though one of the original functions of the office survives - the responsibility for receiving important visitors to the City on behalf of the citizens.
The Mayor of Winchester takes office in May having been elected by fellow members of the Council.
As well as being an ancient and honorable office the mayoralty provides a service to the community both as a non-political Chairman for the Council and as the first citizen of the district. During the twelve month term of office several hundred engagements will be undertaken throughout the area encompassing all levels of the community. Winchester being the county town ensures a considerable civic calendar including major services at the Cathedral, military ceremonies, freedom marches etc.
There are just five cities in the country having official residences for their Mayors. Winchester is justly proud to be one of this select group.
Abbey House is an elegant property, erected around 1700 and sited in the beautiful Abbey Gardens, just off The Broadway in Winchester. The house stands on the site of a monastic establishment known as Nunnaminster, and later as St. Mary's Abbey, which was founded around AD900 by Alfred's Queen Ealhswith. The Abbey survived until the late 1530s, when it was formally surrendered to the Crown as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and many of the buildings were demolished.
Records show that by the early 1700s, William Pescod, the Recorder of Winchester, had built a substantial town house on the site surrounded by formal gardens. The property changed hands several times and following the death of its owner was put on the market.
In 1889, the City Council resolved to buy Abbey House and the gardens "for public purposes". Since that time, the grounds have been open to the public and the house made available to the incumbent Mayor.
During 1982/83 extensive refurbishment was carried out in the eighteenth century style, restoring the house to its original splendour. The furnishings and pictures have been selected from the City's collections.
The residence is the venue for many civic, community and social functions throughout the year. Numerous visitors (many from abroad) are received and appreciate the essentially domestic character of this special house set in the heart of the City.
Contact details for the Mayor at Abbey House
Telephone: 01962 848 259
Address: Abbey House, The Broadway, Winchester, Hampshire. SO23 9BE