Gasps heard and public removed from meeting after suggestion Cromer and Sheringham will have to share a town crier

Sheringham's current town crier Tony Nelson. Nobody has come forward to replace him, meaning the rol

Sheringham's current town crier Tony Nelson. Nobody has come forward to replace him, meaning the role could be merged with Cromer. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

They are neighbouring seaside towns separated by just five miles, but with a rivalry going back centuries.

Cromer Town Crier, Jason Bell. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Cromer Town Crier, Jason Bell. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Despite their proximity, Cromer and Sheringham have developed very distinct identities, with their own mayors and town councils, and strong civic pride on both sides.

But in one particular area, a merger between the two may be on the cards – with the suggestion that they share a town crier.

The dramatic proposal emerged at a recent Sheringham town council meeting, when the mayor David Gooch revealed that no-one has come forward to express an interest in replacing the town's current town crier, Tony Nelson, who is stepping down after 29 years in the role.

To keep the role going, it was suggested that Cromer's crier, Jason Bell, might also serve Sheringham,

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However, the merger – or what some might see as a takeover – has proved instantly controversial.

Councillors were left audibly gasping by the suggestion at Tuesday's meeting, and one said he was so outraged by the move he felt unable to express himself frankly in an open session. Councillors then voted to close the meeting to the public.

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Before the public were removed, Mr Gooch had said: 'We have been inundated with people not wanting to do the job. We have not had a single enquiry.

'So we have to make a conscious decision about whether Tony will be our last town crier or whether we pursue another alternative. It is not unheard of to have a town crier who represents two towns. You have to decide whether you want to have a town crier or not.'

The meeting heard that Cromer town crier, Jason Bell, had offered his support to Sheringham.

The roots of town crying are lost in the mists of time. The role is believed to have emerged in France and was imported to Britain with William the Conqueror.

Early criers were 'heralds' bearing news. They broadcast events to the illiterate population who could not read, before taking on more ceremonial roles.

Original criers wore plainer clothes for their bulletins. Modern costumes have a military air, and tend to be bright red or blue tunics with extravagant lace cuffs, feather-trimmed tricorn hats and buckled shoes.

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