Sharon, originally from Henley, served on Henley Court Leet for two years after it allowed women to join in 2005. Tracy is married to long-serving town crier David Parkes, who is also a past high bailiff and Faye, 17, is the daughter of incoming low bailiff Martin Burden and his consort Rosa.

Sharon, the first woman to be elected, moved to Alcester in the summer with husband Peter.

She said: “I have always had strong links with the Court Leet in Henley where my father was ale taster for many, many years. My son Alex joined Alcester Court Leet in 2012 when he lived in the town, so as you can see it has played a strong part in my life.

“I did not, however, seek election to break down barriers, herald in a feminist manifesto or virtue signal for quality. I stood purely as I felt I have the skills and passion to serve the Court Leet well and uphold its tradition of helping this great community of Alcester.

“Many fear the breaking of traditions and I understand that point of view, however, history shows that many traditions have indeed been broken and to the betterment of society.”

Alcester new high bailiff Mark Venables pictured with fellow officers on Saturday morning. Photo: Mark Williamson. (59927864)

Tracy has lived in the centre of the town for nine years. She said: “I’m very pleased to be a member of Alcester Court Leet for the upcoming year and look forward to serving the high bailiff in my role as I’m sure all the newcomers will be. Together as a court we shall strive to uphold the traditions that have been in place for well over 700 years while at the same time raise valuable funds for charities and organisations connected with Alcester.”

After being at her husband’s side when he served as high and low bailiff, as well as supporting him during his 13 years as town crier, Tracy felt she has gained the experience needed to carry out the duties of a Court Leet officer.


She added: “Lord Hertford made his decision [to allow woman to join the court] last year, a decision that has been welcomed and enabled me to embark on another journey in this wonderful town of Alcester. Long may it continue.”

Faye Burden has just started doing her A-levels and is the daughter of the incoming low bailiff Martin Burden. She was not able to be present on the evening due to being unwell.

On the night, there was a visible shift in protocol as for the first time men and women were not segregated. In another historic first, Lesley Henderson, wife of outgoing high bailiff David Henderson, took the ancient oath of Frankpledge, which effectively qualified her as a juror and the right to elect new officers.

“It’s a great honour to be making history by being the first female to take the oath,” she said.

Another 36 people, including 21 women, then collectively took the oath and paid their Frankpledge penny - £2 in today’s money – to the court.

Charlotte Parr, a member of the Equaleety campaign group who was part of the silent protest at last year’s elections, was among the oath takers.

She told the Herald: “I am really relieved at how welcoming everyone has been. It’s been respectful and really well conducted. I’m heartened by the language used, I feel included and welcomed. I am really delighted to be able to go downstairs, vote and be part of Alcester history. “This is what I campaigned hard for.”

President of Alcester and District History Society, David Moulson was also present on the night. He said: “I think it is brilliant. We’ve seen women take the Frankpledge which is great. It’s a bit of history and brings the Court Leet into the modern era and unleashes the talents of women for the benefit of the town.”

Steward of the manor, Steve Brown, who oversaw the elections, told the audience: “The Court Leet in Alcester is very important and represents 700 years of tradition. The definition of tradition is handing something on to the next generation for safekeeping. Please keep hold of that thought.”

Mr Henderson added: “It’s been a historic night. To get to this point in time – and it’s great that we’ve got here – has not been easy. There have been issues and we’ve had fallouts. I therefore want to say a big, big thank you to everyone this evening. You have all been respectful of each other.”

After the ceremony, the newly appointed high bailiff Marc Venables told the Herald: “It was very diplomatically conducted and from herein we have got an exciting future ahead of us.”

The Court Leet historically belongs to the lord of the manor, currently Lord Hertford, and is largely ceremonial. It still, however, plays a significant role within the town, officiating at and organising events whilst raising funds to support good causes.