When people think of London government, what they’re really thinking of is the Greater London Authority. The City of London is its own unique municipal government apart from the GLA and has been since the 12th Century when there wasn’t much outside of the old city walls. The City of London Corporation is the primary government entity, and its long history means that it is full of interesting anecdotes, historical moments, and facts. From the Lord Mayor to Roman ruins over the corporation’s building, enjoy these ten things you may not have known about the London government within the London government.
Early London Government
Prior to the Norman Invasion of 1066, much of the governance of the city was handled at a general assembly between city leaders and the citizens known as a Folkmoot. The Folkmoot acted as both a legislature and a court in which citizens could bring their grievances. The Folkmoot was held three times per year at Michaelmas, Christmas, and Midsummer, as well as special emergencies. The meeting was called by the ringing of the bells of St. Paul’s.
One Mile or Two?
The City of London is two square miles and affectionally referred to as “The Square Mile” by locals. Out of a population of over 9 million in Greater London, the LoC has authority over roughly 9,000 residents.
Small Area, Big Impact
Because of its small size, the City of London is actually the smallest city in the United Kingdom.
Presumption of Incorporation
While the official year of incorporation is 1189, no one knows when exactly the City of London Corporation was formed as there were no founding documents. As a legal body, the City of London Corporation is incorporated “by prescription,” meaning that because it’s so old, everyone just assumes it was incorporated.
Take That to the Bank
There are 500 banks with offices located in the City of London. Prior to 1980, it was the law that every bank operating within the city had to have an office within ten minutes of the Bank of England so that the head of the BoE could call other banks’ officers into his office for emergencies. Today there are more Japanese banks located in the City of London than in Tokyo.
City that Never Sleeps
With so many banks and corporations having their offices in the City of London, the City’s business hours are 24/7. More international phone calls are made from the City of London than anywhere in the world.
In addition to being its own government within London, the City of London Corporation has a separate police service from the Metropolitan Police. The City of London Police is responsible for all law enforcement within the city boundaries.
The Old Ways
We think of guilds as organizations from the Medieval Period, but they are still alive and an important part of the City of London governance. There are 110 Livery Companies within the City of London representing trades and businesses from fishmongers to world traders. The Livery Companies elect the Sheriffs for the City of London and endorse the election of the Lord Mayor. To serve as Lord Mayor, a candidate must have served as a Sheriff, so it’s wise to be on the companies’ good side.
Political Life of a Gadfly
As mentioned, the Lord Mayor of London is selected by the Livery Companies after having served as a Sheriff. The period in office is only one year and is celebrated with a big procession known as the Lord Mayor’s Show when the new Lord Mayor is inducted into office.
Beneath Your Feet
The City of London Corporation operates out of the Guildhall and can argue that it has been an important meeting point for centuries before the LoC even existed. In 1988, archaeologists discovered an ancient Roman amphitheater in the Guildhall yard. The amphitheater was originally built in 70 AD as a wooden structure before being expanded into a stone complex that could house 6,000. The amphitheater was largely dismantled after the Romans abandoned London, but you can still see the ruins when you visit the Guildhall.