Town to get new High Steward

By Rebecca SheppardA TOWN is to get a new High Steward after a five-year gap. Professor Ivor Crewe, 57, vice-chancellor of Essex University, is set to become the High Steward of Colchester, a role dating back to 1635.

By Rebecca Sheppard

A TOWN is to get a new High Steward after a five-year gap.

Professor Ivor Crewe, 57, vice-chancellor of Essex University, is set to become the High Steward of Colchester, a role dating back to 1635.

He will be officially presented with the title at a special meeting of Colchester Borough Council on June 30, following a vote by full council.


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Prof Crewe said: “I am greatly honoured to become the next High Steward of Britain's oldest recorded town and I hope to serve the town as well as my illustrious predecessors have done.”

A writer, broadcaster and consultant on voting and public opinion, Prof Crewe has written 10 books on elections, parties and public opinion in Britain, is president of Colchester's Civic Society and was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Essex in 2002.

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The High Steward is an honorary title as the holder has no official responsibilities and will not have an allowance.

The council's former mayor Nigel Chapman called for the reinstatement of the role throughout his year in office. It had been left vacant for five years after the death of Conservative Lord Alport.

Mr Chapman said: “This is an honorary thing, a civic role. Really it is what the High Steward makes of it.

“Lord Alport had a voice in the House of Lords, so was able to put across Colchester's voice in the national scene.

“Hopefully, when Ivor is out doing his work for Essex University something in the back of his mind will remind him of his role of High Steward and he will be able to think of what he could do for Colchester.

“It is just really to recognise someone who is appreciated locally and who has a high regard of the borough and wants to work for the future of the borough.”

The mayor and Andrea Hill, council chief executive, recommended Prof Crewe for the role.

Mr Chapman said: “People were not nominated for the role, but we did consult members and it evolved so Ivor was put forward. But there were no other nominations to vote on and no-one else was rejected.”

However, on the streets of Colchester many people did not know who Prof Crewe is and some said they would like to be involved in the election of a figurehead for Colchester.

Mark Leech, 33, from Wivenhoe, said: “I do not know who he is. It is obviously something people need educating about.

“If I knew more about it, I would possibly be interested in voting for a High Steward. Perhaps someone well-known like Bob Russell would be good for the role.”

Steven McGeary, 17, from Witham, also felt the High Steward should be a recognisable public figure.

“I think it would be a good idea and there would be some benefit to it. But I do think the person should be recognised, like a footballer or someone. We have already got a mayor who does the main stuff and represents the town,” he said.

Tina Dennis, 39, from Colchester, said she had doubts about the role. “I would want to know if it is just something else to use taxpayers' money on,” she added.

“It should be someone we know, like someone who is famous or instantly recognised, not someone who is just voted in by his peers.”

Lisa Bowden, 31, from Colchester, did know who Prof Crewe is, but said she thought the role was not relevant to her.

She added: “I know he is the vice-chancellor of Essex University, but only because I went to the university. I am afraid I think it is a load of nonsense and I am not personally interested in the role.

“It is not something I would be interested in voting for. It is very removed from my life. I think people should concentrate on doing things for Colchester, not going about in robes.”

HIGH STEWARD FACTFILE

n The role dates back to a ceremonial charter of 1635 which Charles I granted to the borough. It set out the High Steward should attend civic events and be an ambassador for the borough.

n High Stewards were traditionally lawyers appointed by the Lord of the Manor. In the 17th Century they acted as a go-between for the king and the borough.

n Henry Rich, the first High Steward of Colchester, was beheaded by Parliament for leading a royalist uprising during the Siege of Colchester.

n Maldon MP John Round was Colchester's longest-serving High Steward, holding the office for 42 years.

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