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Plaque to honour first female mayor set to be unveiled

Former grocery store where Elsie Kimber lived and worked to be marked

John Garvey


01635 886628

Plaque to honour first female mayor unveiled

A PLAQUE honouring Newbury’s first female mayor is to be unveiled outside her former grocery store.

Elsie Kimber (1889-1954) was elected to the office in 1932 – the first woman incumbent since the borough was created in 1596. 

The plaque will be located at 64 Bartholomew Street, now Hillier & Wilson Estate Agents, but formerly Kimber’s Grocery and Provision Merchants, informally called ‘Kimber’s Corner,’ which she ran from 1939 until her retirement in 1953.

The plaque will be unveiled by the current mayor of Newbury, Margo Payne, at 11am on Monday, September 17.

Chairman of the Newbury Town Council Heritage Working Group Anthony Pick said: “Elsie Kimber was a pioneer in our local government. 

“She was elected the first female Newbury Town councillor in 1922 and was appointed its first female alderman in 1943.

“Her interests included housing, slum clearance, public health and education. 

“She taught swimming to children, and her reputation was of ‘one who had an infinite capacity for taking pains – we are very pleased to be able to honour her memory in this way.”

It was not until 1993 that female mayors were addressed as ‘Madam mayor’ – until then, the term ‘Mr mayor’ was so ingrained that it was used even for women. 

There have now been a total of 20 different female mayors of Newbury, including the present incumbent.

Mrs Payne, said: “In this year of all years [the centenary year of female suffrage] I’m delighted we’re acknowledging Elsie Kimber, the first lady mayor of Newbury.

“Her service to Newbury spanned many years as a councillor from 1922, as mayor in 1932 and finally an alderman in 1943.

“A fine example to us all as one of the first women in local politics.”

Elsie Kimber was born at 64 Bartholomew Street and was one of the first intake to the Newbury County Girls’ School when it opened in 1904. 

She joined her father, Ernest Kimber, in his grocery business and ran it after his death until she retired.  She was also the first woman delegate to the All England Grocers’ Conference.  During the Second World War she served as an ARP Warden.

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