THE new and potentially last ever mayor of Christchurch was sworn in at a prestigious ceremony on Tuesday evening.

During the traditional mayor making event at Highcliffe Castle, West Highcliffe ward councillor Lesley Dedman officially took over from Nick Geary in the ceremonial position.

Cllr Dedman, who has a strong history in local government, has served on Christchurch Borough Council since 2011.

Before this she had been elected as a member of East Dorset District Council and Ferndown Town Council, where she served as Mayor from 2007 to 2009.

On being chosen as mayor of Christchurch, Cllr Dedman said: "It is an honour and privilege to be Mayor of this ancient borough, and I look forward to carrying out my duties, attending events and meeting people across the borough.”

Cllr Dedman was born and educated in London and upon leaving school travelled widely with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Merchant Navy.

Starting married life in Wales, where she lived on and ran a small farm, Cllr Dedman has now lived in Dorset for over 30 years.

She is a proud mother of four and grandmother of six. As a former smallholder, animals still figure largely in her life, and she has two Labradors and a black cat, all of whom can be seen accompanying her on walks in Mudeford.

Her nominated charity this year is The Dorset Community Foundation, who raise funds for those most in need across Dorset.

Speaking to the Daily Echo before officially taking on the role of mayor, Cllr Dedman admitted it was sad that the proposed merger of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch councils could spell the end of the borough's historic mayoralty, which dates back to 1297.

However she said if it was to be the final term for the role, she was determined to make it a good year for residents.

"It is possible this could be the last year Christchurch borough has a mayor," Cllr Dedman said.

"We haven't been told much about what a charter mayoralty will involved but it will mean that we lose that connection without a borough."

At Tuesday's council meeting Cllr Peter Hall was elected to serve as deputy mayor.