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London's Government in 1731: Part 2
Posted on Sep 06, 2006 - 01:35 AM by Bill McCann

"London in 1731" is a wonderful guide book to the city which was penned sometime in the early 18th century and subsequently brought up to date. The author is supposed to be a Portuguese merchant named Don Manoel Gonzales but the internal evidence demonstrates that this is almost certainly a nom de plume. It is more likely that our author was an accomplished native of London. The guide was edited by Professor Henry Morley and published by Cassell as part of their wonderful little National Library series in 1888. Here is his description of the way in which London was governed in his day. Our second instalment introduces the election procedures for the Mayor and sheriffs. We also learn the scandalous fact that a licence to preach religion cost a lot less than a licence to open an alehouse!




I shall now give some account of the election of the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, &c., who are chosen by a majority of the liverymen.

The Lord Mayor is elected on Michaelmas Day (from among the aldermen, by the liverymen of the City, who return two aldermen that have served sheriffs to the Court of Aldermen for their acceptance, who generally declare the first upon the liverymen's roll to be Lord-Mayor) sworn at Guildhall on Simon and Jude, and before the barons of the Exchequer at Westminster the day following.

The Lord Mayor appears abroad in very great state at all times, being clothed in scarlet robes, or purple richly furred, according to the season of the year, with a hood of black velvet, and a golden chain or collar of S.S. about his neck, and a rich jewel pendant thereon, his officers walking before and on both sides, his train held up, and the City sword and mace borne before him. He keeps open house during his mayoralty, and the sword-bearer is allowed 1,000 pounds for his table. The Lord Mayor usually goes to St. Paul's, attended by the aldermen in their gowns, and his officers, every Sunday morning; but especially the first Sunday in term-time, where he meets the twelve judges and invites them to dinner after divine service is ended.

The sheriffs are chosen into their office on Midsummer day annually by the liverymen also; to which end the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs meet in the council-chamber at Guildhall, about eight in the morning, and coming down afterwards into the Court of Hustings, the recorder declares to the livery men assembled in the hall that this is the day prescribed for the election of these magistrates for the year ensuing: then the Court of Aldermen go up to the Lord Mayor's Court till the sheriffs are chosen; the old sheriffs, the chamberlain, common serjeant, town clerk, and other City officers remaining in the Court of Hustings, to attend the election. After the sheriffs are chosen, the commons proceed to elect a chamberlain, bridge-masters, auditors of the city and bridge-house accounts, and the surveyors of beer and ale, according to custom. The old sheriffs are judges of these elections, and declare by the common serjeant who are duly chosen. The sheriffs thus elected take the usual oaths in this court on Michaelmas eve, and the day after Michaelmas day are presented to the Barons of the Exchequer, where they take the oath of office, the oaths of allegiance, &c. The chamberlains and bridge-masters are sworn in the court of aldermen.

Where a Lord Mayor elect refuses to serve, he is liable to be fined; and if a person chosen sheriff refuses to serve, he is fined 413 pounds 6s. 8d., unless he makes oath he is not worth 10,000 pounds.

When the alderman of any ward dies, another is within a few days elected in his room, at a wardmote held for that purpose, at which the Lord Mayor usually presides. Every alderman has his deputy, who supplies his place in his absence. These deputies are always taken from among the Common Council. The aldermen above the chair, and the three eldest aldermen beneath it, are justices of peace in the City by the charter.

The Lord-Mayor's jurisdiction in some cases extends a great way beyond the City, upon the river Thames eastward as far as the conflux of the two rivers Thames and Medway, and up the river Lea as far as Temple Mills, being about three miles; and westward as far as Colney Ditch above Staine Bridge: he names a deputy called the water-bailiff, whose business is to prevent any encroachments, nuisances, and frauds used by fishermen or others, destructive to the fishery, or hurtful to the navigation of the said waters; and yearly keeps courts for the conservation of the river in the counties it borders upon within the said limits.

The sheriffs also are sheriffs of the county of Middlesex as well as of London. And here I shall take an opportunity to observe, that the number of aldermen are twenty-six; the number of Common-Council men two hundred and thirty-four; the number of companies eighty- four; and the number of citizens on the livery, who have a voice in their elections, are computed to be between seven and eight thousand.

The twelve principal companies are:

  1. The Mercers;
  2. Grocers;
  3. Drapers;
  4. Fishmongers;
  5. Goldsmiths;
  6. Skinners;
  7. Merchant-Tailors;
  8. Haberdashers;
  9. Salters;
  10. Ironmongers;
  11. Vintners;
  12. Clothworkers

The others are:

13. The Dyers; 14. Brewers; 15. Leather-Sellers; 16. Pewterers;
17. Barber-Surgeons; 18. Cutlers; 19. Bakers; 20. Wax-Chandlers;
21. Tallow-Chandlers; 22. Armourers; 23. Girdlers; 24. Butchers;
25. Saddlers; 26. Carpenters; 27. Cord-wainers; 28. Painter-stainers;
29. Curriers; 30. Masons; 31. Plumbers; 32. Innholders;
33. Founders; 34. Poulterers; 35. Cooks; 36. Coopers;
37. Tilers and Bricklayers; 38. Bowyers; 39. Fletchers; 40. Blacksmiths;
41. Joiners; 42. Weavers; 43. Woolmen; 44. Scriveners;
45. Fruiterers; 46. Plasterers; 47. Stationers; 48. Embroiderers;
49. Upholders; 50. Musicians; 51. Turners; 52. *Basket-makers;
53. Glaziers; 54. *Horners; 55. Farriers; 56. *Paviours;
57. Lorimers; 58. Apothecaries; 59. Shipwrights; 60. *Spectacle-makers;
61. *Clock-makers; 62. *Glovers; 63. *Comb-makers; 64. *Felt-makers;
65. Frame-work Knitters; 66. *Silk throwers; 67. Carmen; 68. *Pin-makers;
69. Needle-makers; 70. Gardeners; 71. Soap-makers; 72. Tin-plate Workers;
73. Wheelwrights; 74. Distillers; 75. Hatband-makers; 76. Patten-makers;
77. Glasssellers; 78. Tobacco-pipe makers; 79. Coach and Coach-harness makers; 80. Gun-makers;
81. Gold and Silver Wire-Drawers; 82. Long Bow-string makers; 83. Card-makers; 84. Fan-makers.

The companies marked with an * before them have no liverymen, and all the freemen of the rest are not upon the livery, that is, entitled to wear the gowns belonging to the respective companies, and vote in elections, but a select number of freemen only. Every company is a distinct corporation, being incorporated by grants from the crown, or acts of parliament, and having certain rules, liberties, and privileges, for the better support and government of their several trades and mysteries: many of them are endowed with lands to a great value, and have their masters, wardens, assistants, clerks, and other officers, to direct and regulate their affairs, and to restrain and punish abuses incident to their several trades; and when any disputes arise concerning the due execution of these charters, the Lord Mayor has a supreme power to determine the case and to punish the offenders.

The military government of the City of London is lodged in the lieutenancy, consisting of the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and other principal citizens, who receive their authority from his majesty's commission, which he revokes and alters as often as he sees fit. These have under their command six regiments of foot, viz.:- 1, The White; 2, the Orange; 3, the Yellow; 4, the Blue; 5, the Green; and 6, the Red Regiment--in every one of which are eight companies, consisting of one hundred and fifty men each; in all, seven thousand two hundred men: besides which there is a kind of independent company, called the artillery company, consisting of seven or eight hundred volunteers, whose skill in military discipline is much admired by their fellow-citizens. These exercise frequently in the artillery ground, engage in mock fights and sieges, and storm the dunghills with great address.

The Tower Hamlets, it has been observed already, are commanded by the lieutenant of the Tower, and consist of two regiments of foot, eight hundred each: so that the whole militia of London, exclusive of Westminster and Southwark, amount to near ten thousand men.

London, like other cities of the kingdom, is, or ought to be, governed by its bishop in spirituals, though his authority is very little regarded at present. The justices of peace at their sessions may empower any man to preach and administer the sacraments, let his occupation or qualifications be never so mean; nor do they ever refuse it to a person who is able to raise the small sum of pence being less a great deal than is paid for licensing a common alehouse. A clergyman indeed cannot be entitled to a benefice without being, in some measure, subject to his diocesan; but he may throw off his gown, and assemble a congregation that shall be much more beneficial to him, and propagate what doctrines he sees fit (as is evident in the case of orator Henley): but to proceed.

The diocese of London is in the province of Canterbury, and comprehends the counties of Middlesex and Essex, and part of Hertfordshire; the British plantations in America are also subject to this bishop. To the cathedral of St. Paul belongs a dean, three residentiaries, a treasurer, chancellor, precentor, and thirty prebendaries. The Bishop of London takes place next to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, but his revenues are not equal to those of Durham or Winchester. The deanery of St. Paul's is said to be worth a thousand pounds per annum, and each of the residentiaries about three hundred pounds per annum.

The parishes within the walls of London are ninety-seven; but several of them having been united since the Fire, there are at present but sixty-two parish churches, and consequently the same number of parish priests: the revenues of these gentlemen are seldom less than 100 pounds per annum, and none more than 200 pounds per annum. They appear to be most of them about 150 pounds per annum, besides their several parsonage houses and surplice fees; and most of them have lectureships in town, or livings in the country, or some other spiritual preferment of equal value.


 

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