12 - Sources on Lord Mayors of London
This leaflet summarises the sources relating to Lord Mayors of the City of London.
The Lord Mayor of London is elected from amongst the 25 [26 before 1978] Aldermen of the City by a body called Common Hall. Common Hall consists of the Liverymen (senior members) of the City of London Livery Companies (the successors of the medieval trade and craft guilds). In order to be eligible for election as Lord Mayor, an Alderman has to have served a one-year term as one of the two Sheriffs of the City.
There is a complete typed list of all Lord Mayors of London from the earliest times to the present day, with their dates in office. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) also has manuscript and card indexes to all Lord Mayors and Sheriffs, and to most post-17th century Common Councilmen (councillors) of the City of London. All the Aldermen (including all Lord Mayors) of the City of London from the earliest times up to 1913 are listed and indexed, sometimes with brief biographical information, in AB Beaven, The Aldermen of the City of London (London, 2 volumes, 1908, 1913) available both at LMA and Guildhall Library. A third volume covering the 20th century Aldermen is in course of preparation.
MASL (Mayors and Sheriffs of London), the researched and referenced open-access database of the mayors, sheriffs, and wardens of the City of London from 1190 to 1860 provides lists of sources (both print and manuscript) for all of its information, and includes company (originally craft/trade guild) memberships or occupations for as many as possible of the sheriffs as well as the mayors. Users may search the database 1190-1558 by a name, office, year(s) or combination of search terms. The years from 1558 to 1860 are currently in pdf format, awaiting funding for database reprogramming which will make it possible for them to be fully machine-searchable as well. Editor Anne Lancashire regularly updates the site, adds additional related information, and is currently working on extending the database to 1900 (and eventually from 1900 to the present). Her contact information is provided on the database’s home page.
Many (but by no means all) Lord Mayors, Sheriffs, Aldermen and Common Councilmen are the subjects of biographical notes, compiled by staff over the past 30 years or so. These vary in content and length from very sketchy (dates of office, perhaps a parent&s name, an address, etc.) to very full. If you are interested in particular individuals, especially if they were well known either in the City or in national circles, it is always worth checking with staff to see if there are existing biographical notes.
A similar source is the Noble Collection which includes a set of very variable notes on many City figures. Some include detailed genealogical notes, others contain a bare précis of a person&s career. There is sometimes an overlap between the Noble Collection and the biographical notes.
Some of the better-known Lord Mayors, Sheriffs, Aldermen and Common Councilmen are the subject of biographical entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). Some of those who died 1851-1900 are also included in F Boase, Modern English Biography (1892-1921, reprinted 1965) or Who Was Who 1897-1980 (7 volumes, published by A and C Black, London, 1929-1982), with a Cumulative Index ... 1897-1980, (1991)). Biographical details of many Aldermen and Common Councilmen c. 1660-1689 are published in J R Woodhead&s The Rulers of London 1660-1689 (London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 1965).
Guildhall Library also has microfilms of the City&s local newspaper, the City Press (succeeded by the City Recorder) from 1857, and The Times (1785 to date), as well as some other London newspapers. These often cover elections and admissions of Sheriffs and Lord Mayors and major civic events involving them, such as royal entertainments. The more famous characters will also have obituaries in The Times. LMA and Guildhall Library have access to The Times on line from 1785-1985. The less famous characters often have an obituary in the City Press, which is not indexed, so a date of death needs to be known before a sensible search can be made. Copies of most British newspapers are held by the British Library Newspaper Library, Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5HE.
LMA also holds the annual City of London Corporation pocket books from 1788 (with gaps, especially in the earlier period, not name indexed), which were published annually and which list the names, addresses, wards and committee service of each Common Councilman and Alderman for each year.
We also hold a printed list of portraits of Lord Mayors held here and elsewhere which is indexed both by name and year of accession.
Anyone wishing to stand for election as a Common Councilman, Alderman, Sheriff or Lord Mayor of the City of London first had to be a Freeman of the City of London.
We hold City Freedom admission papers from 1681 (with a few gaps), which usually give a father&s name and other details depending on the date and type of document present in the admission papers (see Information Leaflet No.14). Further detailed information about the contents of the City Freedom admission papers is available in My Ancestors Were Freemen of the City of London by Vivienne E Aldous (Society of Genealogists, 1999).
In practice, all Aldermen, and thus all Lord Mayors, are not only Freemen of the City of London, but also Liverymen of one of the City Livery Companies. The archives of most of the City of London Livery Companies are held by LMA (see Information Leaflet No.16 - Searching for members or those apprenticed to members of City of London Livery Companies).