COUNCILLOR Eileen Berry has become Winchester’s 815th mayor at the traditional annual ceremony held at the city’s Guildhall.

The Conservative local politician, who has served on the council for the past 11 years, formally received the chain of office from outgoing incumbent Cllr Ernie Jeffs.

Cllr Berry has long yearned for the role and announced to a packed Bapsy Hall: “I accept with great pride my office as mayor. I promise you all that I’ll do nothing but my best.

“I want my year to be colourful, happy and full of joy.”

Banging her hand on the table to stress her words, she added: “I’m here for you – and that’s my pledge.”

Buglar Colour Sergeant Mike Rimmer of The Waterloo Band and Bugles of The Rifles Regiment played Winchester’s 12th century moot horn as the mayoral party processed in past assembled guests and banks of councillors.

Later there was a musical interlude while Cllr Berry retired to change into her official robes of office, during which some of her favourite tunes were performed.

These included Clair de Lune and the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from musical Les Miserables, which was sung by her grand-daughter Amy Berry.

Once the group had returned to the hall Cllr Berry was handed her mayoral jewellery and a chunky cluster of keys to the city, which she jangled.

The new mayor, who is a widow and declines to give her age, was born in Windsor, moving to Winchester when she was 16.

A keen supporter of the arts, she has written poetry all her life, used to run Winchester’s Stage Door fancy dress shop and was a member of the St Cross drama group for seven years.

Outgoing mayor Cllr Ernie Jeffs told how he and his wife Barbara had attended 525 official functions during his year in office.

Among them were 19 garden parties, nine processions through Winchester, 22 theatre productions and 21 school events, not to mention 23 carol services and five nativities, including one in which the “Virgin Mary” repeatedly dropping the baby Jesus doll on his head.

Cllr Berry and Cllr Jeff’s predecessors stretch all the way back to around 1200, when the city was first given permission during the reign of Richard the Lionheart to create the role.

Until the 16th century the mayor-elect was required to travel to Westminster to receive royal assent.