The City of London is run totally differently from any other part of London and I never really understood why, so to try and make some sense of it I’ve decided to unravel some of its history and workings and find out more.
It’s not my intentions for this article to appeal mainly to those who suffer from insomnia, and so I’ll gloss over much of it and just concentrate on the main reasons why the City has become what it has today.
There’s no official date as to when the City of London came under municipal control, but there’s proof that it was before the Norman Conquest, and that probably makes it the world’s oldest continuously elected local government authority.
In Saxon and medieval times, the authority was principally administered by Aldermen (Elder men), and they still hold important positions today. One Alderman is elected from each one of the 25 wards that make up the City of London.
As far as voting is concerned, both residents and businesses are allowed to vote, but as there are more businesses than residents that fulfil the requirements, then the businesses tend to have more say on the outcome.
I couldn’t possibly say whether this was by accident or design but bearing in mind that from Medieval to Stuart times the City was the major source of loans to the monarchy, it’s not difficult to see how it would have gained favourable rights from the Crown.
If you’re still with me, you’ll probably see where all this is leading to because the City of London is one of the main financial centres in the world today, and the corporation makes no excuses for representing and supporting the financial services industry alongside its normal functions of a local authority.
In earlier times most of the money was made by traditional trading methods such as making and selling goods. These trades were governed and looked after by institutions called Livery Companies, and you’ll notice any number of guild halls dotted around The City. At present there are over a hundred livery companies, with such names as the Worshipful Company of Saddlers etc., the oldest known one being the Weavers Company which started out in 1155.
These guilds and livery companies are still relevant today, and even I had to take City & Guilds exams when I was learning my trade, and new ones are still being formed. What’s more, the Lord Mayor has to have been a member of one of the livery companies in order to be elected, which is why you’ll see many of these companies participating in the Lord Mayor’s Show. The Lord Mayor of the City of London is a totally different person to the Mayor of London by the way, who looks after the affairs of the other 32 boroughs.
The Lord Mayor holds office for a year and lives and works in the Mansion House which is opposite the Bank of England and the former Royal Exchange. He has his own church next door at St Stephen Walbrook, but the best place to see what the City of London Corporation is really all about is the Guildhall.
This short summary about the City of London Corporation is just that – a summary, but for all its quirky traditions and ceremonies, it still has a very important part to play in London’s economic prosperity, as well as other aspects of everyday life. I just hope you’ve managed to stay awake long enough to try and understand it all.