Putting our residents first
Top menu
Search our website: Search

The history of the office of Mayor

The origin of the office of the Mayor goes back to the days when the Mayor had much wider authority and power than they do today.

However, the importance of the position is still widely recognised and remains the highest office that the residents of Hillingdon, through their elected representatives, can confer. The Mayor should be non-political and must be seen to represent every section of the community regardless of political persuasion.

The Mayor is the first citizen of the borough. This means that only HM The Queen, members of the Royal Family and the Lord Lieutenant take precedence over the Mayor at events in the borough.


The word 'Mayor' and 'Major' derive from the same Latin word 'Magnus' meaning great. The office of Mayor, together with the feudal system was brought to this country by the Normans; as such an office had existed on the continent at least since the 5th century.

The English word Mayor was first recorded in 1260.  It means an officer with delegated jurisdiction or executive functions under the monarch.

There has been a Lord Mayor of London since 1189.  During the Middle-Ages other borough towns adopted the title of mayor for their senior official.  There was no mayor in the Hillingdon area at this time as not even Uxbridge was an official borough.

Nineteenth century reforms

The powers and functions of the mayor varied from town to town.  In 1882 the Municipal Corporations Act set out regulations for the election of mayors. He was to be elected annually by the councillors, alderman or other people qualified to vote. His term of office was one year, but he could be re-elected. He was able to appoint a deputy to act in his place, for example during illness or absence.  A mayor was ex officio a justice of the peace for the borough during his year of office and the next year. He could be paid as much as the council thought reasonable.

In 1955 Uxbridge became a borough, with a Mayor.  The first mayor was Cllr. James Cochrane, the last Chairman of the Uxbridge Urban District Council and first Freeman of the Borough of Uxbridge.

The London Borough of Hillingdon

Hillingdon was created in 1965, under the Local Government Act 1963.  It was formed by joining the borough of Uxbridge and the three urban districts of Ruislip-Northwood, Hayes and Harlington, and Yiewsley and West Drayton.  The first Mayor of Hillingdon was Alderman C.J. Gadsden, who had been Mayor of Uxbridge in 1962-63.   

The mayor is elected annually from among the councillors and takes office after the council meeting in May.  There is a Mayor and Deputy mayor, the Mayor retiring each May and the Deputy Mayor stepping up to take the office for the next year, with a new Deputy Mayor.    

Today the office of mayor does not entail any important administrative duties, and is generally regarded as an honour conferred for local distinction, long service on the Council, or for past services. The mayor is expected to devote much of his (or her) time to civic, ceremonial, and representational functions. The mayor is the public face of the council. His or her administrative duties are to act as returning officer at parliamentary elections, and as chairman of the meetings of the council. It is the mayor who has the duty of receiving important guests to the borough, such as the Queen.

Women mayors are also known as "Mayor"; the wife of a mayor is known as the "Mayoress".  A mayor who is not married can nominate any other person to be their consort during their term of office to accompany them on their ceremonial duties.

The importance and role of the Mayor today

It has been said that there are three main important roles for the traditional Mayor in today's local authorities and society:

  • As a symbol of the authority
    The insignia of the mace, robes, chains of office etc is a clear symbol of the Mayor's Authority in that area. The Mayor, through the office of Mayor and its trappings, connects the present day with history and acts as a symbol of continuity.
    Until 1974 the use of the term "Corporation" symbolised the fact that the people were considered part of the Council and this strengthened the symbolism of the Mayor being the First Citizen who spoke for the whole town or city and gave an identity.
  • As a symbol of open society
    A modern role for the Mayor is that the office symbolises an open society. The choice of Mayor is no longer restricted and the First Citizen can (and does) come from any class, gender or ethnic background. The First Citizen is no longer the privilege of the white middle/upper class male and the new diversity reflects the more open and democratic society we now live in.
  • As an expression of social cohesion
    The many, often social, engagements that are undertaken by a mayor are an expression of giving cohesion to the life of the city or town.

Other important officials

The Lord Mayor of London

The Lord Mayor of the City of London takes precedence over all London Borough Mayors, except the Mayor of the Borough in which the function is being held. There is no Deputy Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor of London is styled 'The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of London' and should not be confused with the recently elected Mayor of London who has London-wide responsibilities.

The Lord Mayor of London's role is complimentary to that of the role of the Mayor of London. Although involved in many of the same issues as the Mayor, the Lord Mayor, as head of the Corporation of London, acts as a representative of those who live, work or run business in 'the square mile'.

Read more about the Lord Mayor of London »

The Mayor of London

This is a relatively new position introduced by the Greater London Authority Act in May 2000. The London Mayor is directly elected every four years by the electorate of Greater London as a whole. He is accountable for the 'strategic government of Greater London'. His main responsibilities are transport, economic development, the police, civil defence and fire services, planning, the environment and the coordination of London-wide events.

Read more about the Mayor of London »

The Lord Lieutenancy

The Lord Lieutenant of Greater London is the Sovereign's Representative in Greater London (but not the city) and, as such, should be accorded due precedence. The Vice Lord Lieutenant, or a Representative Deputy Lieutenant, should be given the same precedence if acting specifically for the Lord Lieutenant, but not otherwise.

For each London Borough there is a Representative Deputy Lieutenant whose job it is to act for the Lord Lieutenant within the Borough. Except when officially acting for the Lord Lieutenant, a Representative Deputy Lieutenant has no precedence by virtue of office, but should be given suitable recognition. Hillingdon's Deputy Lieutenant is currently Bruce Houlder CB QC DL.

Read more about the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London »

The High Sheriff (The Shrievalty)

The High Sheriff of Greater London is appointed annually and is responsible for the administration of justice within Greater London (other than the City). The High Sheriff is accorded precedence immediately after the Lord Lieutenant.

The High Sheriff should be invited to major civic functions particularly any that are attended by the Sovereign or a Member of the Royal Family.

Read more about the High Sheriff of London »

Is there anything wrong with this page?

* What would you like to report?
Broken link
Out of date information
Missing information
Report a problem with a service

* Please provide further details:

Please include your email in case we need further details (optional):

This feedback tool is for improving our pages. To report a problem with a service, please email: contact@hillingdon.gov.uk

Your feedback could not be sent - please ensure you have completed all fields.

Thank you for your feedback.

Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 02 Jun 2017 at 11:52