Connected with the election of a new Mayor in High Wycombe are the customs of ‘tolling out’ and ‘weighing-in’. The former, which ceased with the Municipal Corporation Act, arose from the behaviour of Mr. Henry Shepard in 1678 who was reported as being drunk and misbehaving himself. It was decreed that the great Bell should be rung out in testimony of his misdemeanours. So according to this ancient custom the Mayor was ‘tolled out’ by tolling the great bell on the morning of the Mayor’s election. The party then proceeded in state to Church, and afterwards a drummer who continued to drum the old Mayor out preceded the procession. This was followed by the ‘ weighing-in’ ceremony, which took place in the bar Iron Warehouse in White Hart Street.
In later years, after the new Mayor had donned his robes of office, the whole council would leave the upper room of the Guildhall and troop down to the yard in front of the ‘Falcon’ where the weighing machine would be set up. Here, starting with the mayor, all the Aldermen, Councillors and Officers of the Borough Council would be weighed. As their weight was recorded, the Macebearer would shout out the weight, adding the words ‘and some more’ if the Mayor had gained weight over the year, or ‘and no more’ if he were the same or had lost weight.
The spectators would be waiting for the call, and if the words ‘and some more’ were heard, the person being weighed would be jeered, as it was believed that they had grown fat at the expense of the townspeople. If the words ‘and no more’ were shouted out, then cheers would be the reward.
The ceremony is believed to go back to medieval times, but it fell into disuse and was revived in 1892. During the Great War it was again suspended, but revived in 1917. These ancient customs still exist today, in part. In 1999 the procession to the Guildhall was once again preceded by a drummer from the local Sea Cadet Corps, High Wycombe Unit 181, TS Jaguar (Miss Michelle Gatcombe), and this custom, revitalised by Cllr Peter Cartwright – Mayor 1999-2000 has continued since. A quarter peal of bells is rung from the Tower of All Saints’ Church upon election of the new Mayor and of course the weighing in of the Mayor, Honorary Freemen, Honorary Burgesses, Charter Trustees and Officers is still continued.
Mayor weighing, which is unique to High Wycombe, follows the annual meeting of the Charter Trustees which takes place on the third Saturday in May.