Bideford was governed by a Provost until 1573, and from old records it would appear that such a gentleman held that office for quite a long period of time – some in excess of twenty years.
In 1573 the famous Sir Richard Grenville gained for Bideford a Charter of Incorporation from Queen Elizabeth 1st. This original document can still be seen today in the Museum at the Burton Art Gallery. This Charter gave Bideford the status of ‘Borough’ and as such the authority to elect its own Mayor, together with other privileges. The first mayor of Bideford was John Salterne.
Since that year Bideford has annually elected a person to fill that esteemed position, and in recent years the election ceremony has usually taken place during the month of May. Councillors are elected by the people of the town, but the selection of Mayor is made by the Councillors.
This year, 2004, sees the welcome return of Peter Christie to be the Mayor of Bideford. This will be his second term of office as he was previously elected on 23rd May 1985. He was the first Green Party Mayor in this country. He is a well known North Devon historian, and is greatly interested in the regeneration of this town. His Mayoress will be Annette Goodwin and the Deputy Mayor will be the current Mayoress Mrs. Marion Sankey. The election ceremony will take place at the Town Hall at 7pm on Thursday 20th May 2004.
Each and every Mayor of Bideford since 1573 has left his or her mark on this town. The name of each has been recorded with one exception. That was in 1646 when on the visitation of ” The Plague ” the Mayor of that year fled the town, and the renowned John Strange took his place.
A tradition connected with the election of a new mayor is the Mayoral Parade which will be held on Sunday 23rd May 2004 when the parade will march from The Pill to St. Mary’s Church, Bideford for a service commencing at 11am.