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Sheriffs and Aldermen  


A sheriff in medieval times Both the offices of Sheriff and Alderman date back to the Middle Ages and reflect their long-standing importance in the government of the City of London.

The office of Sheriff is of greater antiquity than any other in the City of London. Until the institution of the Mayoralty in 1189, Sheriffs or 'Shire Reeves' governed the City as the King's representatives, collected royal revenues and enforced royal justice.

Today two Sheriffs are elected on Midsummer's Day every year in Guildhall by the City livery companies. Their duties include attending the Lord Mayor in carrying out his official duties, attending the sessions at the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey and presenting petitions from the City to Parliament at the Bar at the House of Commons.

Since 1385 when the Court of Common Council stipulated that every future Lord Mayor should "have previously been Sheriff so that he may be tried as to his governance and bounty before he attains to the Estate of Mayor", the shrieval year of an Aldermanic Sheriff is a sort of testing-ground for a person who aspires one day to be elected Lord Mayor of London.

 Sheriffs Richard Sermon and Fiona Woolf
This year's Sheriffs are Richard Sermon and Fiona Woolf. Download their CVs here:

Sheriff Richard Sermon (27kb)
Sheriff Fiona Woolf (24kb)

Learn more about the Sheriffs' roles.

 References to aldermen or 'elder men' can be traced back to Saxon times, but the first mention of an alderman of London by name appears in 1111. The Court of Aldermen administered the City before the evolution of the Court of Common Council but its functions contracted as those of Common Council developed. Today the full Aldermanic Court, summoned and presided over by the Lord Mayor, meets on about nine Tuesdays in the year in the Aldermen's Court Room in Guildhall. At Court of Aldermen meetings, aldermen wear violet gowns. Fur-trimmed scarlet gowns and chains of office are worn on certain ceremonial occasions.

Aldermen have jurisdiction over their wards and for centuries the 25 wards of the City have each elected one alderman. They also serve on Common Council committees, act as governors and trustees of a variety of schools, hospitals, charitable foundations and trusts with ancient City connections and are also occupied with livery companies, ceremonial events and Freedoms of the City.


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Last modified: 28 September 2010 | Author: Elizabeth Pountney
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