Former MP Sir Tony Baldry has been officially appointed as High Steward of Banbury in a ceremony at the town hall.
The role of High Steward of Banbury has been revived after a gap of almost 50 years and the town’s former MP was appointed to the position by the town council on Tuesday.
The post had been occupied continuously from the time of Queen Mary Tudor until 1968 when the previous holder of the post – Lord Saye and Sele of Broughton Castle, the father of the current lord – passed away.
And in addressing the audience at Tuesday’s ceremony, he gave a passionate speech about the town.
He said: “It is an enormous privilege to have been installed as High Steward of Banbury. I am very conscious that in the succeeding years, this post has been held by men ofoutstanding public service and the strongest of local connections.
“I am very conscious of the example of those who have gone before me that they have set a very high standard. The specific duties that go with this post I understand are few.
“But having also recently been made a Deputy Lieutenant by the Lord Lieutenant, I hope that I will be able to combine both these duties and responsibilities to help wherever possible support local organisations and charities and all those organisations and initiatives which help strengthen the fabric and wellbeing and flourishing of Banbury.”
“Over the years, I look forward to supporting you and successive Mayors - you being the First Citizen of Banbury.
“Thank you for the opportunity you have given me to continue to serve Banbury and serve this community.”
And Sir Tony was also key to stress the importance of one of Banbury’s most prominent and oldest buildings.
St Mary’s Church on Horse fair is Grade I-listed building but is currently in need of major repairwork on its roof.
And in his first act as High Steward, he announced a contribution of £5,000 to support urgent repair works to get the church roof fully restored.
He said: “This is an important building, not just in terms of its heritage and as a place of worship, but also as a significant cultural centre, used by a whole range of local arts organisations, such as the Banbury Operatic Society.
“It is also one of the few places in Banbury in which a sizeable public meeting can take place. I think for some time it has been known that water ingress, as a consequence of the soft Hornton stone, had done some damage to the roof of St. Mary’s.
“I think it is not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that if we hadn’t commenced this repair work at this time, there could have been a complete catastrophic collapse of the whole of the roof.
“The architects and contractors have now revised this project to allow for the introduction of new steel work to support the church roof and effectively “retire” the failed timber trusses.
“However, this extra work, not surprisingly, involves extra costs, and it is estimated that the project is going to cost a further £60,000.
“I hope that as many people and organisations in the town as possible will feel able to give of their means to the cost of these vital repairs to the roof of St. Mary’s.
“Can I give to you from Pippa and myself, as my first act as High Steward, a contribution to this fund of £5,000 and I very much hope that the town council will feel able to generously lead the contributions to this appeal given the importance of St. Mary’s for civic events.
“It lies at the heart of the community in Banbury and I think we would all wish to ensure that it is structurally sound for future generations and many years to come.”