Lady Wernher for Mayor?

Lady Alice Wernher's generosity in making Luton Hoo Park available for a drumhead memorial service and then a sports day and tea for ex-servicemen resulted in her being suggested as the next Mayor of Luton.

In a letter in the Luton News (August 21st, 1919), “A Lutonian” wrote: Mistakes may be made even by civic rulers, but gratitude is an elementary virtue. The least out local authorities can now do is to express our gratitude to Lady Wernher for doing so well what they failed to do.

“If we could not see our way to grant the use of Wardown and to put our hands into out pockets and prove our gratitude to the men who have fought so nobly for us, sure we van not thank our wise and generous Lady of the Manor for all she has done on out behalf. I suggest, therefore, that the first business of the next Town Council meeting be a vote of thanks to her Ladyship.

“Of course, the best way of showing our gratitude would be to ask Lady Wernher to become Mayor of Luton. I have not the slightest doubt about her qualifications for the position; and if it were put to the votes of the people generally she would receive our unanimous support.

“Since actions speak louder than words, perhaps might second proposal would be the better was of showing our appreciation of her conduct.”


Lady Alice Wernher 1919Solicitor Mr H. W. Lathom put his feelings into verse with this poem which was also published in the Luton News (August 21st, 1919):


Was Luton sane when on that day, when being tired of war,

She held her peace rejoicings in a way we all deplore.

And maddened crowds got out of hand,

For reasons some don't understand,

And made the hall a bonfire grand,

And razed it to the floor.


Crowds don't get mad without a cause, and someone is to blame,

Not only those misguided ones who brought the town to shame,

And brought themselves within the law,

By deeds that now they're sorry for.

There must, we fear, be many more

Who helped to fan the flame.


It is not what they did perhaps, but what they did not do,

Or might have done; the town for weeks was seething in a stew.

The whole things shows a want of tact,

A want of someone strong to act,

A friendly feeling, peaceful pact,

That appertains to few.


Our Lady of the Manor has that tact to a degree,

That sets a grand example unto all who care to see,

Her cordial kindness has no bound,

No tumult happened on her ground,

No better Mayoress could be found,

May I be there to see!



In its editorial column on August 23rd, the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph said no one could, of course, say if Lady Wernher would be disposed to accept the position. But it went on:

“Not only has Lady Wernher succeeded recently where the town's own representatives have lamentably failed, but in all matters in which she has come before the public there has been evinced a capacity and businesslike attitude sufficient to guarantee that she would not be found wanting if installed in the Mayoral chair.

“Be that as it may, the present Mayor and his colleagues will be making a great mistake if they think they can revert to the position as it was before that fateful day, nineteenth of July. For his own sake, his Worship had to flee the town at a moment when wise and courageous leadership was urgently necessary, and for the sake of the town he would do well to relinquish, as graciously as possible, an office for which, during a time of stress, he was found to be, temporarily or otherwise, unfitted.

“If the members of the Corporation imagine that the situation has been cleared up with the bringing to justice of people who took part in the riots, it can only be said that they are sadly out of touch with public opinion.

“Nothing but strong leadership will suffice to restore confidence, inasmuch as the interests of the town have been, and are still likely to be, jeopardised by personal and factious elements.”