Military activities have played a big part in the history of Henley. The Battle of Duke Street was one of the skirmishes in the Civil War. Captain (later) Sir Winston Churchill commanded the Henley squadron of the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. In the two world wars Henley men fought and fell with the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry whose regimental badge, a bugle horn hangs from the shoulder of both the lion and the ox on the Town’s crest.
It was therefore fitting that the Henley Army Cadet Force were invited by Henley Mayor, Councillor Sarah Miller to look around Henley Town Hall on Saturday and learn about the history of the building and the council. Sarah chose L/CPL Grace Iveson as her Mayor’s cadet for the rest of her Mayoral year in September.
Former Mayor, Councillor Ken Arlett helped with the tour as he is very knowledgeable about the history of the Town Hall on Saturday. He said, “We’ve shown them the Mayor’s parlour and told them about previous Town Clerks, the Coopers (there were five of them) and Lucy Cooper who did all the watercolour paintings in there and artist John Piper who they didn’t know about. We then went into Committee Room to show them all the Mayor’s portraits and told them about Charles Clements who built many houses in Henley and who had his office buildings across the road. If you look up on the top of the roof – there is a range of tiles. He would show these and ask people which ones they would like.”
The cadets were then invited to go into the Council Chamber and learnt about how Council meetings are run and how the public can come along and ask questions. They then got to host their own mini meeting where they got to ask the Mayor questions including Is being Mayor fun? What was the biggest challenge through Covid? How do you become Mayor? What does the Council do? Is there a secret room/passage way?
Sarah enthused, “I love being Mayor and I love the parlour. It is a very rewarding and busy job but I have help from Leena my PA with organising my diary. I’ve met some fantastic people who do things under the radar.” Commenting about the building she said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was haunted.”
Grace, “I’ve been to the Town Hall with the Mayor a couple of times already and my Dad and my step Mum recently got married in here (Council Chamber). I haven’t been in the private parts before and I really liked the Committee Room with all the pictures on the wall of old Mayors and you can see through history. I do a lot of debating myself, perhaps I will suggest to the Mayor a youth debating club which would be fun. The Mayor’s chain was surprisingly heavy when I tried it on.”
Sarah said, “I was invited to the Army Cadet Force barracks in Friday Street back in August, during my visit we discussed the fact that the cadet corp would love to be more involved in events and activities in the town. An initial suggestion I had was to visit the Town Hall one afternoon to learn more about Henley’s historic civic building. they were all really delighted with the invitation. Judging by the empty Heroes and Quality Street tins, I would say they thoroughly enjoyed the chocolates as well! It was a lovely afternoon and they are very welcome any time.”