In our nation’s history only two monarchs have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee, and the events of last year’s festivities are still fresh in our minds. During this special year we also celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Town’s Charter.
2013 is the centenary of the death of Philip Edward Tillard, known as Edward Tillard, who was Mayor of Godmanchester four times, including at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Born in Alwalton in 1836, Edward was a barrister of the Inner Temple in earlier life, a partner in the banking house of Vesey, Desbrough and Co in Huntingdon, a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Lieutenant for the old county of Huntingdonshire. The Town Hall was built in 1844 and a mayor’s robe was first introduced in 1861. To celebrate the 1897 Jubilee, the Town Council proposed that a Mayoral Chain should be commissioned. The chain, of ‘a Roman Design’, was commissioned from the London jewellers, Watherston & Sons, and presented on the evening of June 10th 1897, Edward Tillard being the first mayor to wear it. The Town Hall was extended in 1899, and with the installation of the Mayoral Board in 1911 completing the civic aspirations of our forefathers
Amongst those who contributed to the appeal, were Edward Tillard’s family and a number of their relations – the Baumgartners of Island Hall, the Bearts of the Chestnuts, the Bevans of Farm Hall and the Roopers of Abbots Ripton Hall, donating four of the medallions and two of the Tudor Roses. Edward Tillard, as had his father and grandfather before him, took an active interest in the old County Hospital (Millfield Park), and held a commission in the old Hunts Militia when the 7th Earl of Sandwich was Colonel.
In 1882 Edward Tillard was instrumental in the putting up of a stained glass window in our Parish Church, as a memorial to his grandparents, Dr John and Philippa Baumgartner; paid for with family subscriptions from their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
When Edward Tillard died at his residence, The Holme, in Post Street (a house he had rebuilt), as a mark of respect the bells heralding the new Mayor were silenced on account ‘of the (his) grave symptoms’ It is appropriate that the last public meeting he attended was to consider the placing of a window commemorating his aunt, Emma Baumgartner – the last of 7 family windows by the renowned stained glass artists of the day. Edward’s Memorial, the splendid ‘Tower screen’ at St Mary’s, was commissioned by his widow, Iona Bonham Carter, daughter of John Bonham Carter MP, who came from one of the great Liberal political dynasties. This memorial screen was designed by W D Caroe, a major figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement. In Edward Tillard’s obituary the writer stated ‘who’s philanthropic and generosity will be sorely missed’.
As Mayor of Godmanchester during Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee I have had the honour and privilege of not only being able to represent the Town, but also of claiming Philip Edward Tillard as my kinsman. Edward was my great grandfather’s first cousin. Like him, I am descended from Dr John & Phillippa Baumgartner of Island Hall. It must be unique to have a ‘Jubilee Mayor’ during each Jubilee coming from the same family!
Last year’s Civic Service was a celebration of the signing of the Town’s first Charter of 1212. This splendid occasion was attended by 8 mayors and 5 council chairmen from all over Cambridgeshire. The Bishop of Ely was our preacher. Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey Bt, a Deputy Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire, deputised for the Lord Lieutenant. Sir Charles is also a descendent of Dr John & Philippa Baumgartner and his great grandmother was born at Island Hall, where the Civic Reception was held, so it was quite a family occasion.
I hope that during my time as Mayor of Godmanchester I have been able to convey a sense of history and tradition in what was a unique year of celebrations for the town.
Cllr Christopher Vane Percy Town Mayor of Godmanchester