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The people helping Newbury on its way to a prosperous future

PUBLISHED: 09:58 11 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:58 11 July 2017

David Fenn in his mayoral gowns

David Fenn in his mayoral gowns

Archant

The market town is steeped in history. Claire Pitcher caught up with two of the people keeping it ticking towards a prosperous and community spirited future

Meeting Mr Mayor

Newbury’s very first mayor was appointed as far back as 1596, with the town’s first charter; his name was Bartholomew Yate. That means there have been 421 mayors of Newbury. Practically every single one is listed on the walls of the Town Hall Chamber along with the latest, the 421st, David Fenn. After six years, David retired from his role as Conservative councillor for Falkland last year: “At one of my final council meetings, someone suggested I could become Deputy Mayor that year and then Mayor for 2017. I wouldn’t have considered it if I weren’t retiring – a mayor can have over 200 appointments in the year.”

We are chatting in the Mayor’s Parlour in the Town Hall; a very odd room with flowery wallpaper, antique furniture and a heater on the wall that looks like something from the 1970s. It’s like stepping back in time, even an old computer on the desk looks like it hadn’t been used for years.

David and his family have lived in Newbury for 40 years. Brought up in Oxford, he met wife Marion when she moved to the city from Norfolk with her job as a midwife. “My family are so supportive,” he says. “We have four children and seven grandchildren, and almost all of them came to the Mayor Making in May. Our daughter lives close by and has a three year old and 18-month old. We look after them three days a week.”

With grandchildren to visit and babysitting, along with his Mayoral duties, David doesn’t get as much time as he would like to spend on his other passion – his allotment. “My wife is the Steward at Wash Common allotments. We spend all the time we can spare there.” Instead, there’s a steady schedule of visits to “schools, fetes, charities, musical concerts; you need a different hat for each one,” he says. “I’m not really used to public speaking, I have to say.”

Having lived in the town for so many years and been in politics making important decisions for Newbury, David has a unique view of how the area has changed over the decades. “The biggest impact has been Parkway; before the area was just backyards and parking. It’s so much better now.”

At the time of writing, David was gearing up for another grand opening the day after – the revamped Victoria Park. “There’s a new bowling green, new tennis courts (you can book online or pay £36 a year for family membership) then there’s the splash park which opened last year for young children. Hopefully by next year there will be a café, too. That will be a big attraction.” But changes can be good and bad: “The southern end of Newbury has in some ways become run down. However, we are building more houses and flats in the town. One of the more elaborate developments has been the racecourse.”

David’s very much at the start of his year-long stint as Mayor, with lots more engagements in the diary. “What I’m looking forward to most is meeting a lot more people and finding out how they make a difference for Newbury.”


The Right Hand Woman

Joyce Lewis made her home here over 30 years agoJoyce Lewis made her home here over 30 years ago

They say behind every great man there’s a greater woman and civic manager Joyce Lewis is the organiser of David’s diary. He himself admits: “She’s so good – you can rely on her notifying you of engagements. Everything just runs so smoothly with her. It’s great she’s still here helping me.”

Joyce was also a major part of the Mayor Making back in May, as she was again recognised for her dedication in supporting services to the town. “I was warned at the ceremony that it was going happen, which was just as well because I probably would have been so embarrassed,” she reveals. “I always say I’m a good ‘number two’, I’m not upfront. I’m good at directing the mayor to be up there, but I’m uncomfortable with being in the limelight myself.”

Originally from Liverpool, Joyce left as a young woman when she moved to London for work. “The personnel company I was working for was relocating to Newbury and I was asked to go. We came and looked around and thought how nice it was. We wanted to move out of London anyway, and had been looking at options. This just seemed idyllic.”

With her husband originally from Cornwall and her family still in Liverpool, Newbury seemed the perfect halfway house. “Not just that. You’re only a short distance from the coast and lovely countryside. We just thought Newbury was a lovely location. The town is very welcoming. My opinion hasn’t changed in the 30 plus years we have lived here.”

Twenty-five years ago Joyce decided to apply for a part time position at the Town Council and says the job has evolved: “My employers have changed, everything’s changed in the time I have been here and I think that’s why I’ve continued, because it’s never stood still.”

However it’s not just colleagues she enjoys working with: “I meet the people who are involved in charities, support groups, lots of social groups. Our whole society is supported by all the charity work that goes on in this community and I’ve been privileged to have learnt a lot from and met amazing people.”

So with half the working week taken up in Newbury, what does Joyce do to relax at home in Thatcham? You probably won’t be surprised to hear that her community work doesn’t end at the Town Hall. “I’m a member of Newbury Soroptimists, a ladies group involved in organising fundraising events. We put together the pancake race in Newbury. I’m also a volunteer for The Bruce Trust, which has four wide beam canal boats which enable elderly, disabled and disadvantaged people to get out into the countryside on the canal and enjoy the scenery.”

In many ways, Joyce shares the same opinion of Newbury as the mayor: “Everywhere evolves,” she points out. “We have a growing population so you’ve got to cater for that. It is a shame to lose green spaces to houses, but people have to live somewhere. On the whole I think Newbury changes for the better and as long as it heart remains as it is I think it will continue to be a lovely place to live, work and be involved with.” 


More…

Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire James Puxley on escorting the Queen round Windsor and traffic on the M4 - A few centuries ago our Lord Lieutenants might have to fight invaders, but the present one’s battles tend to involve the M4 jams, Angela Knight discovers

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