Mayor Impey takes office for fateful year

Mayor Henry Impey

  • Henry Impey and Mayor's Sergeant Frederick Rignall.

Mayoral Day [Saturday, November 9th, 1918] was celebrated in Luton in an atmosphere of expectation. The possibility of a peace proclamation or the signing of the armistice by Germany attracted even a larger crowd than usual, and the ceremony was performed with due solemnity.

Punctually at noon the Council assembled, those present being the Mayor (Councillor Charles Dillingham in the chair), Aldermen E. Oakley, H. O. Williams, T. Cain and H. Arnold; Councillors G. Warren, A. B. Attwood, W. J. Primett, H. Impey, W. W. Merchant, R. F. Briggs, J. Unwin, J. H. Hawkes, C. W. Escott, S. Green, M. Barford, W. A. Rainbow and J. Bone, with the Town Clerk (Mr William Smith) in robes, Mr C. F. Fairfax (Assistant Town Clerk), Dr W. J. Cox (Medical Officer of Health), Messrs E. A. Mander (Borough Accountant), J. W. Tomlinson (Borough Engineer), Chief Constable C. Griffin, C. Wright and A. E, Slough (Inspectors), A. Cooper (Baths Manager), Mrs Hurry and Miss Beasley (Town Clerk's Department), F. J. Rignall (Mayor's Sergeant).

The public included the Mayoress and Miss Dillingham, Mrs and Miss Impey, Mrs Escott, Mrs William Smith, Mrs Needham, Mrs T. Keens, Miss Sear (Board of Guardians), Messrs Cyril Dillingham, G. E. Marten, Willet Ball, W. H. Cox, H. and W. Moody, C. Green, F. Thurston, H. Sell, W. Allen, Baxter Hart, H. Gregory, H. Shane, A. Firmin, Arnall, R. Gibbs, C. Hewitt and many others.

The Mayor at once called upon Councillor Yarrow, who said: “We meet today to perform a very important and interesting function, viz to elect the gentleman who shall discharge the duties of chief magistrate and occupy the civic chair for the coming year, and to invest him with the insignia of office. I have therefore the greatest pleasure in moving the resolution: -

“The Henry Impey Esquire, of Whitecroft, London Road, a Councillor of this Borough, be and he is hereby elected Mayor of the Borough of Luton for the ensuing year.

“I think it is very gratifying, Mr Mayor, that since the incorporation of the Borough the Council have always been able to find candidates able and public-spirited enough among those elected by the burgesses to transact the work of the town, to stand for this important position. The gentlemen who in the past have served the office of Mayor have invariably been selected on the ground of ability, couple with long and faithful service, and I am pleased to say that the subject of this resolution is no exception to the rule.”

Councillor Yarrow then detailed Councillor Impey's positions as a Corporation servant, and said he was presented by the Council with a certificate of merit testifying to the faithful and efficient service he had rendered for 12 and a half years.

“Seventeen years ago Councillor Impey was elected a member of this Council. Since then he has continuously represented the East Ward and assiduously attended to the duties of important committees to which he has ben annually elected.

“On the Parks Committee, to which he was relegated the carrying out of the Land Cultivation Order, Councillor Impey, as Chairman, by his valuable service and the aid of his colleagues and the Borough Surveyor, was successful in helping 1,780 persons to take up derelict or other land for allotment purposes – about 250 acres in addition to that cultivated before the war. The importance of this is obvious when one sees the plentiful supply of vegetables in the town and neighbourhood, and some weeks ago, the Minister of Agriculture, attending the exhibition of Luton Allotment Holders, paid a well-deserved compliment to Councillor Impey for his great part in this work.

“It has been repeatedly said that men are born to greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them, but neither of these conditions apply to Councillor Impey. The high position in which he finds himself is the result of courage, perseverance and indomitable persistence, qualities we all admire in a man, especially if he aspires to a leading position, for we all know that Councillor Impey is a fighter and does not go round a corner to say what he means, but hits out straight, possibly too much so on occasion, to his own disadvantage.

“If I may use a paradox, his chief fault is a virtue all possess more or less – the liking to have one's own way, but if at times he oversteps the boundary line, his honesty of purpose is so apparent that he is freely forgiven; hence his exalted position today.

“I am glad to present another side of Councillor Impey, for behind a somewhat stern exterior is a warm and kindly heart, which few know better than some at this table who have worked with him so many years on the Board of Guardians. Few have championed the cause of the deserving poor or been more sympathetic and solicitous for the welfare of unfortunate little children under the care of the Poor Law. On the Bench, where he will preside as chief magistrate, I am sure he will lean on the side of mercy rather than mete out strict justice, and any extenuating circumstances will meet with his consideration in favour of the accused.

“For some years Councillor Impey has represented a division of this town on the County Council, thus being in the unique position of serving on three public authorities. He is also Chairman of the Committee of the Waste Paper Scheme, the willing workers of which have been so conspicuously successful. With a recognition of his religious work at his own particular church [Mount Tabor], I think I have said sufficient to justify a claim to the wisdom of the Council in their choice of the gentleman to preside over the destinies of the town during the ensuing year.

“Mr Mayor, we are entering on the most eventful year the town has ever experienced, and epoch in our history. Pre-war conditions will not suffice today; we must be prepared as a Council to adapt ourselves to new conditions, determined to do our share in the great work of reconstruction. Great and urgent questions have already been foreshadowed which will need most serious attention. Foremost is the question of a Housing and Town Planning Scheme which, is carried out on the lines suggested, will mean a large expenditure.

“I daresay there will be a difference of opinion as to whether the public authorities will be the most suitable to carry out the work, also whether the financial loss anticipated should not be borne by the State, knowing that the national dearth of houses is chiefly owing to war conditions, and whether the 25 per cent loss to be charged on the local rates will not seriously handicap arrears of other important social work.

“The Chairman of the Sewage Committee has asked us to prepare for a large and costly drainage scheme to meet the pre-war growth of the town, which abnormal conditions prevented being carried out. Then there is the £80,000 extension scheme of the Electricity Works which, happily, does not affect our financial burden; the proposed transference of Poor Law administration from the Guardians to this body; the all-important welfare scheme of nursing mothers and children.

“These and many other urgent matters which call for our immediate concern show that the incoming Mayor will have no small burden to carry during his year of office, and it will need the united and whole-hearted support of his colleagues, which I know will be forthcoming, to successfully carry out the onerous tasked which lie before him.

“May he and Mrs Impey be blessed with good health during the coming year, and may it be our national joy to soon hear the glorious Proclamation of Peace.”

Councillor Rainbow said he had the greatest pleasure in seconding the nomination, because Councillor Impey was a man of the people, and not only inside but outside would he be one of the most popular of recent years.

He had known Councillor Impey for over 30 years, and his character and conduct had been of the highest, and his public service stood out by reason of thoroughness. Councillor Impey was independent in his views, and he gave to matters that came before the Council enthusiastic support when he believed them right. He had every confidence that Councillor Impey would carry out the duties with credit to himself and his colleagues.

Great matters would have to be considered affecting the general welfare, and they were fortunate in having at the head of the Council a practical man with a great knowledge of the town. There was no necessity to enter into the work of Councillor Impey on the County Council and the Board of Guardians.

The speaker concluded with the hope that Councillor and Mrs Impey would enjoy good health and a happy term of office.

The Mayor read the resolution and, amid applause, declared it unanimously carried. The Mayor and Councillor Impey then retired to the Mayor's Parlour for the robing, and three minutes later returned. The new Mayor then took the oaths.

The newly-elected Mayor said: “On an ordinary occasion I should not feel nervous addressing my colleagues, but it is very difficult to control one's feelings at a time like this to sufficiently express what is in my mind to do justice to the occasion and position.

“I am deeply indebted to Councillors Yarrow and Rainbow for their too kindly remarks in submitting my name, and I can assure the Council that I feel very much the confidence shown by their unanimous vote which has placed me in this position.

“Some 38 years ago, through that principle I have repeated advocated as a member of the Council, of giving lads an opportunity to enter offices under the Corporation without a premium. I was elected out of 45 applicants as a pupil in the Surveyor's office. I served eight and a half years under the late Mr W. H. Leete and then, feeling that an outdoor life was necessary, I took the position of sanitary inspector, to which the Council added building and drainage inspection.

“I served in that department four years. The town had then a population of 20,000, and from 1880 to 1885 was growing as fast as at any time in its history. Only Alderman Oakley and Councillor Guilder are left of the members of the Council at that time.

“I have watched the progress of the town since then and it has been wonderful – having now an estimated population of 60,000. The Borough Accountant was at that time a lad under me.

“The present is overshadowed by the great world war, and most things have to stand on one side so that it can be successfully carried on. The events of the last two or three weeks have enabled us to see the dawn of the sun of peace rapidly rising, and very shortly, we confidently believe, it will be shining in full meridian splendour, and thus close a chapter of unparalleled tragedy and heroism in world history (applause). We wait with every confidence the announcement of final and complete victory over the powerful enemies to liberty and righteousness (applause).

“We acknowledge out gratitude to the great God of the Universe, and also to our leaders – civil, military and naval – and last, but no means least, to the unequalled heroism and determination of our brave soldiers and sailors, assisted by the helpful work of the men and women at home, the whole working together against a dastardly and barbarous foe whose principle has been that might is right.

“I shall be expected to say a few words as to the immediate future, which is pregnant with great possibilities. Locally, we have to deal fire and foremost with the great housing scheme. The thousand houses suggested by the Housing and Town Planning Committee, to my mind, are rather under than over the estimate. This will probably mean an expenditure of £250,000.

“Then there will be required a number of schools, and that will probably mean another £100,000. There is the sewerage and storm water scheme and the expansion of the sewage farm to cope with the growing needs of the town, and that is estimated to require about £100,000. Another large estimate is for road work about £50,000 - bringing us to an undertaking of work necessitating the expenditure of approximately £500,000.

“Other matters that must sooner or later engage the attention of the Council are the extension of the borough, the enlargement of the Council, the expansion of the electricity undertaking, and the taking over of the trams (hear, hear).”

In conclusion the Mayor said that with the assistance of his colleagues, the Town Clerk and other officials, he would endeavour to fulfil the office with honour and credit, and would try to remember he was not the Mayor of a sect or party but of the whole town. He loved his native town, and all his efforts would be directed towards the welfare of his fellow burgesses.

Councillor Attwood then proposed a vote of thanks to the outgoing Mayor, who was presented with a silver epergne bearing the borough coat of arms and the inscription 'Presented to Councillor Charles Dillingham JP by the Council and Officers of the Borough of Luton upon the conclusion of his Mayoralty - 9th November, 1918'.

Impey headline

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: November 9th, 1918]