Victorian London - Organisations - City of London


The city and liberties of London are under three distinct modes of government, Civil, Military, and Ecclesiastical. The Civil divides it into wards and precincts, under a Lord Mayor, twenty-six Aldermen, two Sheriffs, 236 Common Councilmen, a Recorder, or Common Serjeant, a Remembrancer, a Town Clerk, a Water-Bailiff, and various subordinate officers; the Military is under the authority of a Lieutenancy, vested in the Mayor, Aldermen, and principal Citizens, the City being by charter a county corporate and lieutenancy in itself; and the ecclesiastical is directed by a Bishop, Archdeacon, and subordinate Clergy. The Civil Government of the City bears a general resemblance to the legislative power of the empire; the Lord Mayor exercising the functions of monarchy, the Aldermen those of the peerage, and the Common Council those of the third branch of the legislature; the principal difference is, that the Lord Mayor himself has no negative. The laws for the internal regulation of the City are wholly framed by these officers, acting in common council; and the administration of them is also exclusively in the corporation, the Lord Mayor being the chief magistrate, and all the aldermen justices of the peace. The Lord Mayor is chosen annually, in the following manner - On the 29th of September, the Livery, in Guildhall or common assembly, choose two aldermen, by show of hands, who are presented to a court, called the Court of Lord Mayor and Aldermen, by whom one of the aldermen so chosen (generally the first in seniority) is declared Lord Mayor elect; and on the 9th of November following he enters upon his office. Should a poll be demanded, it commences upon an appointed day, and terminates upon the sixth day following. Although the office of the Lord Mayor is elective, his supremacy does not cease on the death of the sovereign; and, when this happens, he is considered as the principal officer in the kingdom, and takes his place accordingly, in the privy council, until the new king is proclaimed. His power is very extensive; for he is not only the monarch's representative in the civil government of the City, but also first Commissioner of Lieutenancy, perpetual Coroner and Escheator Within the city and liberties of London, and the borough of Southwark; Chief Justice of Oyer and Terminer, and goal delivery of Newgate; Judge of the Court of Wardmote at the election of aldermen; Conservator of the rivers Thames and Medway; perpetual commissioner in all affairs relating to the river Lea; and Chief Butler to the King at all coronations. No corporation business is valid without his authority, and no election of a mayor for the next year is legal without his presence, he being living. The inauguration of the chief magistrate is attended by much civic festivity; and the annual cavalcade, generally called the Lord Mayor's Show, excites great interest, and exhibits no ordinary display of municipal splendour. On the ninth of November, that being the day upon which the Lord Mayor elect enters upon his office, the Aldermen and Sheriffs attend him to Guildhall in their carriages, and about noon proceed to London Bridge. where the Lord Mayor elect, the Aldermen, Recorder, and Sheriffs, go on board the splendid city barge, and, attended by the several city companies in their barges, adorned with flags and pendants, proceed in great state to Westminster, where his lordship, who has previously been presented to the Lord Chancellor for the Sovereign's approval, after certain ceremonies, takes the prescribed oaths before the Barons of the Exchequer, whom he then invites to the banquet. He then proceeds with his several attendants to the other courts of law, to invite the judges to dinner, and afterwards returns by water to Blackfriars' Bridge. The Lord Mayor, having landed, returns, attended as before; the business of the day being concluded by a grand banquet, given at Guildhall, which is elegantly decorated for the occasion, when about thirteen hundred persons sit down to dinner, among whom may be generally distinguished some branches of the royal family, the members of the administration, the great law officers, the judges, and many noblemen and gentlemen of the first families in the kingdom. The two Sheriffs are chosen annually by the livery, not only for the City, but for the county of Middlesex, the same persons being sheriffs for London, and jointly forming one sheriff for the county; and it is their duty to inspect the prisons, summon impartial juries, keep the courts of law, and execute all writs and judgments. They are sworn in at Westminster, on the 30th of September. The number of Aldermen is twenty-six, that is, one for each ward; they are chosen for life, by the householders of the several wards, being freemen, one for each ward, except Bridge Ward Without, on a vacancy for which, the senior alderman, or Father of the City, as he is commonly called, is removed to this ward, and a new alderman is elected for the ward which be vacates. The aldermen are the principal magistrates in their several wards, and one of them sits daily at the justice room in Guildhall Yard, to hear complaints. The Common Councilmen are chosen annually, upon St.Thomas's-day, by the householders, being freemen, in their several wards, the number for each ward being by ancient custom, the body corporate having regulated The debates in the Common a power to extend the numbers. The debates in the Common Council are occasionally highly interesting and its sittings open to the public.
    The Livery is a numerous, respectable and important elective body, being the livery of the several companies, in whom reside the election of members of Parliament, the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, Ale- Conners, and Auditors of the Chamberlain's accounts, all of whom are chosen by their respective guilds or companies, from among the freemen forming the body of the livery. The Lord Mayor, Aldermen, Common Councilmen, and Livery of London form altogether the most important popular assembly (the Commons'  House of Parliament excepted) in the empire. On occasions of the greatest moment, their decisions have been regarded as the voice of the nation; their example has inspired general patriotism and the legislature itself, when under evil influence, has been arrested in its course, and has prudently listened to warnings solemnly pronounced by the great assembly. 
    There are various courts in the City for the trial of civil and criminal causes, as well by the judges of the land as by the officers of the corporation. The Lord Mayor, the Recorder, the Common Serjeant (the principal law officers of the City), and the Aldermen are judges to try capital offences and misdemeanours in the City of London and County of Middlesex. The principal courts are held at Guildhall, and at the Sessions' House in the Old Bailey. Southwark was long independent of the City of London; but in consequence of the inconvenience arising from the escape of malefactors into that district, Edward III granted it to the City in consideration of the annual payment of 10l. It was then called the village of Southwark; and afterwards the Balliwick, a bailiff being appointed by the corporation to govern it. In the reign of Edward VI. it was formed into a twenty sixth ward, under the name of Bridge Ward Without, and it is always bestowed on the senior alderman, it being considered as a sinecure, and consequently as beset adapted for the "Father of the City." Here, at the Town Hall, St. Margaret's Hill, a court of record is held weekly for the Lord Mayor's steward, and also a quarter sessions for the borough by the Lord Mayor and aldermen. 
    Westminster, in respect to its local jurisdiction, is a distinct city, the government of which, both civil and ecclesiastical, was once vested in the abbot and convent of Westminster; but, since the Reformation, in the dean and chapter, the civil part being by them committed to laymen. Of these, the High Steward, who is generally a nobleman of rank, has an under steward, who officiates for him, and is commonly chairman of the quarter sessions. Next to the High Steward is the high bailiff, chosen also by the dean and chapter. His power resembles that of a sheriff; for by him juries are summoned, and he makes the return at the election of members of parliament.
    The chief regulations of the suburbs is vested in the justices of the peace for Middlesex and Surrey; the former of whom hold their meetings at Hicks's Hall, on Clerkenwell Green, and the latter at the Sessions house, in Horsemonger Lane, Southwark.


The following is an account of time Population of the Metropolis, according to the Parliamentary Returns of 1841 -
City of London, within the walls - 54,626
City of London, without the walls, (including the Inns of Court) 70,382
Borough of Southwark 98,098
City of Westminster 222,053
Parishes within the Bills of Mortality - - 906,828
Adjacent Parishes not within the old Bills of Mortality, including 2669 Metropolitan Police - 521,689
[total] 1,873,676

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

CITY (THE). The general name for London within the gates and within the bars. All the gates have been removed, and the only bar remaining is Temple Bar. Ludgate marked the boundary wall of the City west-ward, and Temple Bar the limits of the liberties in the same direction.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

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City of London (The).?The Municipality of the City originally exercised jurisdiction over London proper, but the town has so outgrown its original limits that the Corporation is now entirely surrounded by rival powers, and may be called in truth an imperium in imperio. The City is divided into wards. each of which returns a member of the Upper House or Aldermen, and again into precincts, returning the members of the Common - Council or House of Commons. The Lord Mayor, who his year of office is the constitutional king of the City, is nominally elected by the members the Livery, but, as a matter of fact, is chosen from the members of the Court of Aldermen in rotation. Occasionally an extremely popular Lord Mayor is re-elected for a second term of office, and instances have been known where a still longer lease of power has been granted; on the other hand, the alderman first on the rota has been passed over and a junior preferred. The Lord Mayor exercises high judicial functions as chief magistrate of the City. The City has from time immemorial enjoyed the great privilege of appointing its own judicial functionaries, and many highly distinguished lawyers have figured on the roll of the Re- corders of the City of London. The Sheriffs of London are also Sheriffs of the county of Middlesex, and are elected by the Livery. The City has its own police, and the Livery possesses many privileges conferred and confirmed by a series of royal charters, of which they are properly tenacious. Within the boundaries of the City the Corporation has taxing power, notably in the case of coal and wine dues. It is difficult to attain to any exact knowledge of the manner in which the civic revenues are expended, but, although it is quite possible that a more economical system of expenditure might be adopted, the vast sums of money disbursed of late years in improvements of great public advantage, such as the Holborn Viaduct, the great meat and poultry market in Smithfield, &c., speak volumes in favour of the public spirit of the Corporation. The official palace of the Lord Mayor is the Mansion House, the head-quarters of the Corporation are at the Guildhall.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879