Tele Kids Shun Town’s Ancient Tradition

(Alcester Chronicle 1978?)

A centuries-old Court Leet tradition fell flat on its face this week
and it is all the fault of television.

For it seems the children of Alcester would much rather watch “The Sweeney” than wait outside the Town Hall for the customary penny-throwing ceremony of the Court Leet Annual Dinner.

That is the conclusion drawn by High Bailiff John Buchanan who collected over £2 in copper coins from dinner guests only to find that for the first time in living memory, there were no children waiting outside to throw to.

“It was a bit embarrassing,” he told the Chronicle afterwards. “It has always been the custom that the High Bailiff passes round a hat during the dinner and the guests contribute pennies which are later thrown to the children of the town.

“It wasn’t until afterwards that we realised the throwing of the pennies clashed with “The Sweeney” on television.

“I suppose it is a sign of the times that children would prefer to watch television than pick up a spot of extra cash for the sake of tradition. I think it also indicates that Alcester children are obviously not short of a bob or two.”

“Next year we will let the schools know when and where the ceremony is taking place to ensure that this does not happen again.”

The absence of Alcester’s well-heeled, square-eyed youngsters means that the pennies will be lumped into the High Bailiff’s Charity Fund.


Rap for Critics

The High Bailiff’s after dinner speech included a rap for critics of the Court Leet and an appeal for cash aid to bolster the amenities of the town hall. Mr Buchanan told the 102 guests at the men only dinner that he was fed up with unwarranted attacks on the work of the Court Leet. He said the main targets for the critics were the Court Leet’s non profit making functions such as the receptions and the High Bailiff’s Ball.

He maintained that functions such as these which returned hospitality promoted the social life of’ the town and represented the town at a civic level were vital. “A lot of these critics forget that if Alcester had a mayor instead of a High Bailiff these sort of events would be paid for out of the rates,” said Mr Buchanan. And he added that if locals gave way to such criticism the town could be dubbed “Stingy Alcester”. He announced that he was hoping to refit the kitchen of the town hall and redecorate the ground floor of the building in time for the takeover of the hall by the Charity Commission in the New Year.


Cash Appeal

And he appealed to local businessmen for cash aid to help with the project, which he said would encourage more use of the building. He said the kitchen refit would involve the installation of proper sink units, cupboards and worktops as well as a new cooker and fridge. He put the cost of the refit as at least £2,000 and said any donations of cash and kitchen furniture would be gratefully received. Mr Buchanan also hinted at possible additions to the ranks of the Court Leet. He said he wanted to see the number of serving members increased by two to make 20. He explained that this could be done by reviving two ancient appointments.


Chimney Peeper

“There are plenty of options but the ones which most appeal to me are those of Chimney Peeper and Proctor.” he said. “The Chimney Peeper would not require an expensive robe – which is obviously in its favour.”

Grace before the four course turkey dinner was said by the Court Leet Chaplain, the Rev. Arthur Stally, and the toast “Our Gracious Sovereign” was proposed by the Constable of the Court Mr Aubrey Gwinnett. The toast to “The Bishop, Clergy and Ministers of all Denominations” was given by Mr E. J. Nicholson, Low Bailiff of Henley-in-Arden. The Rev. Stally gave the the reply. The Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force” was proposed by the Marquess of Hertford. Mr Tony Preston, deputy managing director of Yorkshire Television and a former commissioned officer with the Gloucester Regiment in Korea, gave the reply. Town Steward Mr Bill Roberts formally proposed the toast to the Lord of the Manor and the toast to the High Bailiff was proposed by Low Bailiff Mr Les Pritchard. “The Town and Trades of Alcester” was proposed by the High Bailiff of Bromsgrove and Mr Tony King of the Alcester Chamber of Trade replied. The toast to the visitors was proposed by the Marshall of the Court, Mr Peter Robinson, and Mr Michael Casey replied. Last year’s High Bailiff was toasted by Mr Alf Thompson and Mr Lawrence Haines duly responded. Toastmaster was Town Crier and Beadle Mr Bill Malin. Two cases of six bottles of wine were donated by the Mayor of Alcester’s twin town Vallet. These were raffled raising £71 for the High Bailiff’s funds.