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Which Unique Custom Has Been Kept Alive in High Wycombe, England?

Many mayors are weighed down with a lot of responsibility, but in the English town of High Wycombe, the mayor has to be extra careful about what he carries. Since 1678, the mayor has taken part in an annual weigh-in, during which his or her weight is checked and compared with the year before. Any gain is accompanied by boos from the crowd that gathers for the ceremony. Of course, today the test doesn't carry any real repercussions, but back in the day, any weight gain suggested that the mayor was "getting fat" at the taxpayers' expense. In fact, the first mayor put on the scale in the 17th century was known as a corrupt official who drank too much. Today, the ceremony is more about tradition than a true test of the mayor's mettle, but that doesn't mean the townsfolk don't take it somewhat seriously. The officials who weigh the mayor dress up in period clothing, the mayor steps onto a scale that dates back to the 1700s, and a town crier announces the results.

England and its mayors:

  • London's first mayor, Henry fitz Ailwin, was the only one to hold the post for life, from 1189 until his death in 1212.

  • Sir Thomas Bludworth, Lord Mayor of London when the Great Fire of 1666 began, notoriously shrugged it off as a minor event.

  • Benjamin Gott, once the mayor of Leeds, owned the largest factory in the world. After a fire destroyed much of the mill, Gott rebuilt it with fireproof materials in 1805, and much of it still remains standing.

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