Tributes paid to “feisty and outspoken” and “thoughtful and truly caring” former Swanage Mayor

The funeral is to take place of one of Swanage’s most remarkable residents, Julie Wheeldon, who will be best remembered not only for serving three terms as the town’s mayor in the 1990’s but also for leading the campaign against the plans for a marina in Swanage.

Described by her family as a real character, who led a very full and colourful life, Julie’s funeral will take place on Thursday 19th November 2020 at St Mary’s Church in Swanage. She died at the age of 85.


A prominent opponent of the marina plans

She was first elected as a Swanage Town councillor in 1987 as a prominent opponent of the marina plans that were proposed as part of the redevelopment of the Grosvenor Hotel site.

Her opposition to the building of a marina, saw her take the fight up to the House of Lords and was delighted when she and the Swanage delegation won, leaving the developer aghast and, allegedly, with his bottles of celebratory champagne unopened

Julie Wheeldon

Welcomed the first Corfe to Swanage passenger train

She became mayor in May 1994 and served three terms until May 1997. During that time, she welcomed the first Corfe to Swanage passenger train into the station in 1995 and carried out the grand opening of Prince Albert Gardens in September 1996.

Julie also oversaw the construction of the Co-op supermarket in 1994 to 1995, on land that was then part of the station yard and under council ownership. She continued to serve on Swanage Town council until 2006.

She also served from 1988 on Purbeck District Council and was chair of the planning committee for many years.

Knowing her own mind to the last, Julie left detailed instructions for her funeral. She has requested for her coffin to be brought into the church to the Charles Aznavour song ‘She’ and to leave to the tune of ‘Nellie the Elephant’!

Julie also asked current Dorset Council councillor for Swanage and former colleague, Bill Trite to read the eulogy.

“She used her familiar forthrightness, her ability to dispute, her colourful language for causes beyond herself”

He remembers her as a strong individual with a warm heart:

“To say that Julie Wheeldon was a once-met-never-forgotten individual, or a larger-than-life character, is true, but that only hints at her personality and her story, as does that familiar description of her as one-of-a-kind – although a one-off she certainly was.

“One friend likens her life to the passage of an iceberg, with at least four-fifths of it unknown and unseen by the uninitiated observer.

“For us mourning her, we do so because when we looked beneath the surface we found someone most thoughtful, humane and truly caring, in addition to someone traditionally-minded, patriotic, realistic and worldly.

“Routinely she used her familiar forthrightness, her ability to dispute, her colourful language for causes beyond herself, causes which were good and right and just and in the public interest and the interests of this town.

“She would talk to anyone and listen to anyone, and if she could help someone in some way she would always do so, even in cases where she had already indelicately explained to the person concerned that he or she was the author of his or her own misfortune.”

Julie Wheeldon (R) & Les Hayward first train Corfe Castle

Julie Wheeldon as the Mayor of Swanage with Les Hayward, who was the Chairman of Corfe Castle Parish Council at the time, when the first train for 23 years ran from Swanage to Corfe Castle on 12th August 1995

The family ran Maidment’s, the grocery store in Station Road

Julie wasn’t Swanage born and bred but came originally from Hertfordshire, moving to the town in the mid-1960s with her parents Frank and Amy Hayward and brother Victor. The family ran Maidment’s, the grocery store in Station Road, which is now the clothing shop, Saltrock.

Julie went on to marry William Wheeldon at Poole Registry Office and they had a daughter Lucie, who was born in Swanage and is still a resident.

After the campaign against the marina, Julie became heavily involved in politics. Bill Trite explains more:

“Julie became Mayor in 1994 and found she had inherited a situation requiring a period of calm, mutual toleration and drawing together – qualities not always associated with someone seen as feisty and outspoken.

“That year and Julie’s two further years as Mayor were characterised by consolidation and re-unifying of the town showed the true breadth of her abilities and her determination that Swanage under her leadership should resume the nature and persona which had first meant so much to her.

“We shall indeed not see her like again.”

“All those that knew her will have their own stories to tell”

Many remember her fondly including the current Swanage Mayor, councillor Mike Bonfield. He said:

“During Julie’s time serving Swanage as a councillor and Mayor of the Town, she also served as a Purbeck District councillor. She worked tirelessly for the area and its residents – Julie was a one-off and all those that knew her will have their own stories to tell.

“Since finishing her time as a councillor, Julie still gave her time to help others in her own special way. Thank you from Swanage Town Council and the residents of Swanage

“Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time.”

But last word has to go to Julie Wheeldon, herself. Following one of her infamous outbursts, she was reported as saying:

“Unfortunately, I am a larger than life character and I don’t suffer fools gladly.”

Many may say that it was entirely fortunate!

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