Council gives the Honorary Freedom of Harrow to Christine Bednell

councillor

A former councillor who has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Harrow’s young people for nearly 50 years has been awarded the Freedom of Harrow – the first woman to receive the honour.

Conservative Christine Bednell, who is passionate about education in the borough, was given the rare accolade at a Harrow Council meeting on Thursday to recognise her 47 years of “outstanding and  diligent service”.

Harrow Council Leader Graham Henson (Labour) told the Chamber: “This is a remarkable achievement: She is the first lady to be given the Freedom of the Borough of Harrow and it is great in a centenary year of women getting the vote.”

Before being handed a special scroll by the Mayor of Harrow, Ms Bednell heard tributes from dozens of councillors from across the parties.

Some said they had been lucky enough to work alongside her and others said they had the privilege of enjoying her legacy.

All paid tribute to her decades of dedicated service to young people and education and the difference she has made to the residents of Harrow.

They praised Ms Bednell’s “wisdom” and “expertise”, spoke of her as “a mentor” and “sounding board” no matter what their political alignment. She was described as “an absolute ideal councillor”; a “Harrow girl through and through” who is “above party politics”.

She modestly said she found it difficult to believe the words of praise spoken could be about her, before adding: “I’ve cared for the people of Harrow. I never had children myself but I felt I had thousands in Harrow. I wanted to do my best for them and hope that I did. I am honoured to be the first woman in her own right to receive the Freedom of Harrow and I hope I am not the last.”

Ms Bednell, who grew up in Harrow, was first elected to the Council in May 1968 as a member for the ward of Wealdstone North, and then again in 1974 for the ward of West Harrow. She has represented Stanmore Park ward since 1986.

In May this year she retired having completed 47 years as a Harrow councillor. She joins an elite group of people to be given the Freedom of the Borough – a title which is ceremonial and does not bring any right or privileges – including Sir Roger Bannister and Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse.

Former Harrovian and wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was the first person to receive this honour when he was made a freeman posthumously in 1955, the year after Harrow was incorporated as a borough.

Previously, the Council has conferred Honorary Freedom of the Borough upon:

  • Sir Winston Churchill (1955)
  • (William Allen (1968)
  • A. E. Amor (1968)
  • Charles Jordan (1968)
  • Francis Telfer (1968)
  • George Gange (1977)
  • Horace Cutler (1977)
  • Christ Church Roxeth (1994)
  • Church Lads’ and Church Girls’ Brigade (1994)
  • Sir Roger Bannister (2004)
  • Sir Paul Nurse(2011)
  • The Girls’ Brigade North West London District (2014)
  • 1454 (Harrow) Squadron Air Training Corps (2014)