Most people would think of London as one great big city, but there are really two cities within London: the City of London and Greater London. The City of London in many ways is the “original” London. When the Romans came in 43 A.D., they created the settlement of Londinium and built walls for protection. The London Wall essentially formed the edges of the city. In fact, the City of London itself does not extend much beyond the Wall and certainly not below the Thames.
Following his domination of London, William the Conqueror built what is perhaps London’s first landmark, The Tower of London. At the time, its multiple-stories were designed to remind Londoners who was in charge. Perhaps the most influential moment of in the City of London’s history was the Great Fire of 1666, which raged for days and destroyed about 60% of the city, including Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. As the city was rebuilt, Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt St. Paul’s and many other churches within the city.
As the population of London grew, the original City of London couldn’t hold everyone and began to expand outward. Many cities existed outside of London began to be absorbed into the growing metropolis while maintaining their own administration. The cities finding themselves part of the new London included the City of Westminster, Shoreditch, Greenwich, Bethnal Green, Islington, Fulham, Chelsea, Hammersmith, Paddington, Kensington, and more. By 1889, the administrative district of the County of London was formed and only eleven years, later, the county was divided into the City of London and 28 metropolitan boroughs.
By 1965, the County of London and the County of Middlesex were abolished and combined into what is now known as Greater London. In essence, what was the County of London essentially became ceremonial and Greater London became a city in its own right. Well before this point, however, the administration of both cities was kept separate. Perhaps the first real distinction between them was with the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Created by Sir Robert Peel, the Metropolitan Police was created to police the area beyond the City of London. Even today, the police service for the City of London and Greater London are separate. As part of this, while the head of the Metropolitan Police carries the rank of Commissioner, the only other person in England with that title is the Commissioner of the City of London Police Service.
The cities are run by two separate administrative firms. The City of London is governed by the City of London Corporation, while Greater London is governed by the Greater London Authority. They both have separate mayors and governing bodies. Presently, the Lord Mayor of the City of London is Fiona Woolf, while Boris Johnson holds the title of Mayor of London, the “Lord” title dropped to distinguish the two positions. Each borough within Greater London maintains its own borough council, the GLA was created to coordinate the local authorities and the Mayor of London was created to give the city one person to represent it. With the creation of the GLA in 2000, the Lord Mayor title became largely ceremonial and the Mayor of London is the most powerful city official in the region.
Despite being only one square mile, the City of London is governed by the Court of Aldermen (consisting of 25 Aldermen elected for a period of six years) and the Court of Common Council (consisting of 100 Common Councilmen elected among the city’s wards). Meanwhile, the Greater London Authority has the Greater London Council with 25 elected assembly members. While the Mayor, Boris Johnson, belongs to the Conservative Party, the Labour Party controls the Assembly with 12 members. The rest of the Assembly includes 9 Conservatives, 2 members of the Liberal-Democrats, and 2 members of the Green Party.
City services are also divided, with the GLA solely responsible for passenger transport and fire response. The GLA and the CLC both handle housing, strategic planning, transport planning, and highways. The City of London and other boroughs’ councils are responsible for all other city services. The GLA coordinates land use planning throughout Greater London and it’s the responsibility of the Mayor of London to produce the strategic plan, dubbed “The London Plan” to which the boroughs (including the City of London) must comply. Additionally, the London Sustainable Development Commission exists to craft the city’s energy policy and reduce emissions.
In the end, London is more than just one city. The story of London is one of two cities of the same name—and many other cities as well. As the city grew, its administration changed to handle the massive metropolis it formed. Now what we think of London includes both the City of London and Greater London.
Utter bollocks. The vast majority of council services in Greater London are provided by the 32 boroughs and the City of London. The only difference between the Mayor of London’s powers and responsibilities in regard of the 32 boroughs and the City of London is in regard of policing. The London Government Act 1963 that created Greater London gave the City of London the same powers and responsibilities as the 32 London Boroughs it created. There are 32 Mayors and 2 Lord Mayors in Greater London as 31 boroughs have Mayors and the City of Westminster a Lord Mayor. There was no ‘Lord’ to drop from the Mayor of London’s title.
‘The cities finding themselves part of the new London included the royal City of Westminster, Shoreditch, Greenwitch, Bethnal Green, Islington, Fullham, Chelsea, Hammersmith, Paddington, Kensington, and more.’
I would be interested to know when these became cities…Westminster I know of..but I always thought the others were villages until they were swallowed up into the City we know today???
Thank you for such interesting information about London, It is mostly everyones’ favorite, here in Malta…
Patrick Burns says
I know that in the past, to be designated as a “city,” it had to be the seat of a Bishop, and therefore, have a Cathedral.
Paul Anghinetti says
Westminster is a London borough with City status but is not a royal borough. The present borough was created in 1965 by the merging of the City of Westminster as existed before then with the metropolitan boroughs of Paddington and Saint Marylebone. The Administrative County of London was created in 1889 by taking various civil parishes from the counties of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent and absorbing them into this newly-created county. Those civil parishes in turn were given metropolitan borough status in 1900/1901. In 1965, the much-larger County of Greater London came into existence when the existing boroughs of the County of London were joined by numerous local authority areas within the counties of Middlesex (which disappeared completely as an administrative county), Kent, Surrey, Essex (all that part of what today is Greater London east of the River Lea was in Essex) and Hertfordshire – these local authority areas merging with others to form the thirty-two boroughs of today (i.e., the Metropolitan Borough of Islington merged with the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury to form the London Borough of Islington). Three of these boroughs (Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea, and Kingston-upon-Thames) have Royal Borough status rather than London Borough status. Greater London remains a county – the only part which is entitled to be be known as the City of London is the 1.12 square miles of the City of London, which has always remained aloof from all this administrative hullabaloo. Within the City of London, the Lord Mayor is second only to the reigning monarch and thus by tradition (although merely as a courtesy) the monarch seeks permission from the Lord Mayor at Temple Bar before entering the city. I may be mistaken but as there appears to be no Act of Parliament (and never has been, as far as I’m aware) which permits the abolition of historical counties, those places within what is now Greater London are in theory still within their original county.
One of the great attractions of London is that it can be said to be made up of many small villages which were gradually joined up with the whole to make the large city.
When you visit different parts of London you see the original high streets which at one time would have been the commercial centre of the village. Good examples of this are Richmond, Wimbledon, Highgate, Hampstead, and so on.
This merging helps to give London more variety and character in the residential suburbs than most other cities in the world.
Paul Anghinetti says
London is not a large city – it measures only 1.12 square miles.