is the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City.
, Lord Mayor of the City of London 2006–2007, during the Lord Mayor's Show of 2006.
The City has a unique political status, a legacy of its uninterrupted integrity as a corporate city since the Anglo-Saxon period and its singular relationship with the Crown. Historically its system of government was not unusual, but it was not reformed by the Municipal Reform Act 1835 and little changed by later reforms.
It is administered by the City of London Corporation, headed by the Lord Mayor of London (not the same as the more recent Mayor of London), which is responsible for a number of functions and has interests in land beyond the City's boundaries. Unlike other English local authorities, the Corporation has two council bodies: the (now largely ceremonial) Court of Aldermen and the Court of Common Council. The Court of Aldermen represents the wards, with each ward (irrespective of size) returning one Alderman. The chief executive of the Corporation holds the ancient office of Town Clerk of London.
The City is a ceremonial county which has a Commission of Lieutenancy headed by the Lord Mayor instead of a Lord-Lieutenant and has two Sheriffs instead of a High Sheriff (see list of Sheriffs of London), quasi-judicial offices appointed by the Livery Companies, an ancient political system based on the representation and protection of trades (Guilds). Senior members of the Livery Companies are known as Liverymen and form the Common Hall, which chooses the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs and certain other officers.
The City is made up of 25 wards. They are survivors of the medieval government system that allowed a very local area to exist as a self-governing unit within the wider city. They can be described as electoral/political divisions; ceremonial, geographic and administrative entities; sub-divisions of the City. Each ward has an Alderman, who until the mid-1960s held office for life but since put themselves up for re-election at least every 6 years. Wards continue to have a Beadle, an ancient position which is now largely ceremonial whose main remaining function is the running of an annual Wardmote of electors, representatives and officials. At the Wardmote the ward's Alderman appoints at least one Deputy for the year ahead. Each ward also has a Ward Club, which is similar to a residents' association.
The wards are ancient and their number has changed three times since time immemorial
- in 1394 Farringdon was divided into Farringdon Within and Farringdon Without
- in 1550 the ward of Bridge Without, south of the river, was created, the ward of Bridge becoming Bridge Within;
- in 1978 these Bridge wards were merged as Bridge ward.
A map of the wards as they were in the late 19th century.
A map of the wards since 2003
Following boundary changes in 1994, and later reform of the business vote in the City, there was a major boundary and electoral representation revision of the wards in 2003, and they were reviewed again in 2010 for change in 2013, though not to such a dramatic extent. The review was conducted by senior officers of the Corporation and senior judges of the Old Bailey; the wards are reviewed by this process to avoid malapportionment. The procedure of review is unique in the United Kingdom as it is not conducted by the Electoral Commission or a local government boundary commission every 8 to 12 years, which is the case for all other wards in Great Britain. Particular churches, livery company halls and other historic buildings and structures are associated with a ward, such as St Paul's Cathedral with Castle Baynard, and London Bridge with Bridge; boundary changes in 2003 removed some of these historic connections.
Each ward elects an Alderman to the Court of Aldermen, and Commoners (the City equivalent of a Councillor) to the Court of Common Council of the Corporation. Only electors who are Freemen of the City of London are eligible to stand. The number of Commoners a ward sends to the Common Council varies from two to ten, depending on the number of electors in each ward. Since the 2003 review it has been agreed that the four more residential wards: Portsoken, Queenhithe, Aldersgate and Cripplegate together elect 20 of the 100 Commoners, whereas the business-dominated remainder elect the remaining 80 Commoners. 2003 and 2013 boundary changes have increased the residential emphasis of the mentioned four wards.
Census data provides eight nominal rather than 25 real wards, all of varying size and population. Being subject to renaming and definition at any time, these census 'wards' are notable in that four of the eight wards accounted for 67% of the 'square mile' and held 86% of the population, and these were in fact similar to and named after four City of London wards:
Extract of census 'wards' where approximate to underlying legal wards
||% of the City of London
||% of built-upon land: commercial
|Cripplegate [east half of Barbican neighbourhood]
|Aldersgate [west half of Barbican neighbourhood]
|Farringdon Without [and much of Castle Baynard]
|Portsoken [contains Aldgate Underground station]
The City has a unique electoral system. Most of its voters are representatives of businesses and other bodies that occupy premises in the City. Its ancient wards have very unequal numbers of voters. In elections, both the businesses based in the City and the residents of the City vote.
The City of London Corporation was not reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, because it had a more extensive electoral franchise than any other borough or city; in fact, it widened this further with its own equivalent legislation allowing one to become a freeman without being a liveryman. In 1801, the City had a population of about 130,000, but increasing development of the City as a central business district led to this falling to below 5,000 after the Second World War. It has risen slightly to around 9,000 since, largely due to the development of the Barbican Estate. In 2009, the business vote was about 24,000, greatly exceeding residential voters. As the City of London Corporation has not been affected by other municipal legislation over the period of time since then, its electoral practice has become increasingly anomalous. Uniquely for city or borough elections, its elections remain independent-dominated.
The business or "non-residential vote" was abolished in other UK local council elections by the Representation of the People Act 1969, but was preserved in the City of London. The principal reason given by successive UK governments for retaining this mechanism for giving businesses representation, is that the City is "primarily a place for doing business". About 330,000 non-residents constitute the day-time population and use most of its services, far outnumbering residents, who number around 7,000 (2011). By contrast, opponents of the retention of the business vote argue that it is a cause of institutional inertia.
The City of London (Ward Elections) Act 2002, a private Act of Parliament, reformed the voting system and greatly increased the business franchise, allowing many more businesses to be represented. Under the new system, the number of non-resident voters has doubled from 16,000 to 32,000. Previously disenfranchised firms (and other organisations) are entitled to nominate voters, in addition to those already represented, and all such bodies are now required to choose their voters in a representative fashion. Bodies employing fewer than ten people may appoint one voter; those employing ten to 50 people one voter for every five employees; those employing more than 50 people ten voters and one additional voter for each 50 employees beyond the first 50. The Act also removed other anomalies which had been unchanged since the 1850s.
Inner Temple and Middle Temple (which neighbour each other) are two of the few remaining liberties, an old name for a geographic division. They are independent , historically not governed by the City of London Corporation (and are today regarded as local authorities for most purposes) and equally outside the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. They are within the boundaries and liberties of the City, but can be thought of as independent enclaves. They are both part of Farringdon Without.
Within the City, the Corporation owns and runs both Smithfield Market and Leadenhall Market. It owns land beyond its boundaries, including open spaces (parks, forests and commons) in and around Greater London, including most of Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath. The Honourable The Irish Society, a body closely linked with the Corporation, also owns many public spaces in Northern Ireland. The Corporation owns Old Spitalfields Market and Billingsgate Fish Market, in the neighbouring London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It owns and helps fund the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court for England and Wales, as a gift to the nation, having begun as the City and Middlesex Sessions.
The City has its own independent police force, the City of London Police—the Common Council (the main body of the Corporation) is the police authority. The rest of Greater London is policed by the Metropolitan Police Service, based at New Scotland Yard.
The City has one hospital, St Bartholomew's Hospital, also known as 'Barts'. Founded in 1123, it is located at Smithfield, and is undergoing a long-awaited regeneration after doubts as to its continuing use during the 1990s.
The City is the third largest UK patron of the arts. It oversees the Barbican Centre and subsidises several important performing arts companies.
The London Port Health Authority, which is the responsibility of the Corporation, is responsible for all port health functions on the tidal part of the Thames, including various seaports and London City Airport. The Corporation oversees the running of the Bridge House Trust, which maintains London Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge. The City's flag flies over Tower Bridge, although neither footing is in the City.
The boundary of the City
City of London welcome sign
The size of the City was constrained by a defensive perimeter wall, known as London Wall, which was built by the Romans in the late 2nd century to protect their strategic port city. However the boundaries of the City of London no longer coincide with the old city wall, as the City expanded its jurisdiction slightly over time. During the medieval era, the City's jurisdiction expanded westwards, crossing the historic western border of the original settlement—the River Fleet—along Fleet Street to Temple Bar. The City also took in the other "City bars" which were situated just beyond the old walled area, such as at Holborn, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate. These were the important entrances to the City and their control was vital in maintaining the City's special privileges over certain trades.
Most of the wall has disappeared, but several sections remain visible. A section near the Museum of London was revealed after the devastation of an air raid on 29 December 1940 at the height of the Blitz. Other visible sections are at St Alphage, and there are two sections near the Tower of London. The River Fleet was canalised after the Great Fire of 1666 and then in stages was bricked up and has been since the 18th century one of London's "lost rivers or streams", today underground as a storm drain.
The boundary of the City was unchanged until minor boundary changes on 1 April 1994, when it expanded slightly to the west, north and east, taking small parcels of land from the London Boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. The main purpose of these changes was to tidy up the boundary where it had been rendered obsolete by changes in the urban landscape. In this process the City also lost small parcels of land, though there was an overall net gain (the City grew from 1.05 to 1.12 square miles). Most notably, the changes placed the (then recently developed) Broadgate estate entirely in the City.
Southwark, to the south of the City on the other side of the Thames, was within the City between 1550 and 1899 as the Ward of Bridge Without, a situation connected with the Guildable Manor. The City's administrative responsibility there had in practice disappeared by the mid-Victorian period as various aspects of metropolitan government were extended into the neighbouring areas. Today it is part of the London Borough of Southwark. The Tower of London has always been outside the City and comes under the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Arms, motto and flag
The Corporation of the City of London has a full achievement of armorial bearings consisting of a shield on which the arms are displayed, a crest displayed on a helm above the shield, supporters on either side and a motto displayed on a scroll beneath the arms.
The coat of arms is "anciently recorded" at the College of Arms. The arms consist of a silver shield bearing a red cross with a red upright sword in the first quarter. They combine the emblems of the patron saints of England and London: the Cross of St George with the symbol of the martyrdom of Saint Paul. The sword is often erroneously supposed to commemorate the killing of Peasants' Revolt leader Wat Tyler by Lord Mayor of London William Walworth. However the arms were in use some months before Tyler's death, and the tradition that Walworth's dagger is depicted may date from the late 17th century.
The Latin motto of the City is "Domine dirige nos", which translates as "Lord, direct (guide) us". It appears to have been adopted in the 17th century, as the earliest record of it is in 1633.
A banner of the arms (the design on the shield) is flown as a flag.