Malmesbury is mourning the loss of a former mayor, Freeman and former fireman Martyn Snell.

Serving town councillor Mr Snell died on Saturday after a long illness.

Friends have paid tribute to a community stalwart known for his strength of character and commitment to Malmesbury, where he lived for about 50 years.

Malmesbury Mayor John Gundry said: “He gave years of unstinted service to the town council and we are all shocked.

“We thought he was getting better and we were very pleased to see him at council meetings in February and March.

“It was a great pleasure to have him back and he was so pleased to be back.

“It’s a tragedy.”

Current Warden of the Warden and Freeman, Dave Ashford, said: “As far as I am concerned he was a very good servant to the Freemen.

“He was High Steward at the time and has been for a couple of years or so.

“Everything he did was for the organisation.

“I got on with him very well; he called a spade a spade and that’s what I like.”

Councillor Julie Exton recalled how Coun Snell had been her support network when she first joined the council.

“This past year he has been a real support to me as a councillor,” she said.

“He’s really helped me out.

“It’s just so sad.

“It is the anniversary of my mum’s death too and then to lose a good friend as well...I will just really miss him.”

Fellow town councillor Steve Cox said: “He was a man who worked very hard for the town and he was mayor in 1985 so it shows how long he has been involved.

“He was a very decent man who did a lot for the community.”

Mr Snell completed 42 years of service with the fire service in Malmesbury.

He began working as a retained fireman in Malmesbury on July 9, 1969, with his first drill night taking place at the then newly-built fire station in Gloucester Road on the official opening evening.

In 1972 he was promoted to leading firefighter, a post he held until 1995 when he was appointed as a sub officer in charge of the station.

Mr Snell retired from operational firefighting duties in 2000 after 31 years of service.

When he first joined the fire service Mr Snell was employed by Malmesbury Borough Council as a plumber and handyman, but he later worked for Wessex Water for 12 years as a divisional superintendent with the construction section.

In April 1993, the service also became his ‘day job’, when he took up the post of fire hydrant technician. He continued this until September 30, 2011.