History of the Mayor of Hillingdon

Learn about the history of the Mayor's office.

Office of the 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.


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, whereby an office had existed on the continent since at least 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.

19th century reforms

‚ÄčThe 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, and 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, as well as the following year, and 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 to 1963.

    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 is generally regarded as an honour conferred for local distinction, long service on the council, or for past services. As the public face of the council, the Mayor is expected to devote much of their time to civic, ceremonial, and representational functions, while also acting as returning officer at parliamentary elections.

    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 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.
    • As a symbol of 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, symbolising 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.
    Page last updated: 06 Oct 2022