The City of London 'Knowledge' that every London cabbie should know.

The London cabbie is an iconic symbol and a national treasure known and recognised the world over. I was raised to believe that the London cabbie was the gold standard of taxi driver and their knowledge of London lore was second to none. When it came to deciding who would be best man at my wedding, the choice was simple and a London cabbie did the honours.

Recently my bubble of confidence in the London cabbie has been burst by a series of embarrassing tweets from cabbies unable to differentiate between the Lord Mayor of the City of London and the Mayor of London. In my view no self-respecting London cabbie should be plying for hire on the streets of London who does not know the difference and is unable to give a potted history of the office of Lord Mayor over his (or her) left shoulder to a captive audience while the meter is running. An exception might be made for the suburban cabbie who never strays beyond Edmonton or Catford, but no Green Badge cabbie (i.e., one permitted to work throughout London) can be excused.

The time has come for every London cabbie to refresh their knowledge of the City of London and this instalment starts at the very top with the Lord Mayor. This knowledge is primarily aimed at cabbies but it is in no way restricted to that noble profession. In fact this knowledge should be common to anyone who lives and works in London.

Why does London have two Mayors?

Simple answer: It doesn't.

London has 32 Mayors, one for each of the 31 boroughs (excluding Westminster) and one for the Metropolis as a whole. In addition the City of Westminster (which counts as a borough) has a Lord Mayor, and then there is the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of London for the City of London.

So all told that's 32 Mayors and 2 Lord Mayors.

If you add the Statutory Deputy Mayor for London, the number rises to 35, and the Mayor of London may also appoint other non-statutory deputies, which have numbered as many as 8. Each of the London Boroughs usually appoints a Deputy Mayor, adding a further 32.

London has a cumulative surfeit of Lord Mayors, Mayors and Deputy Mayors that can reach 70+.

What's the difference between the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayor of London?

Simple answer: 811 years.

The Lord Mayor of London is the world's oldest democratically elected head of local government. He is elected for a single one-year term from among the City's twenty-five Aldermen. He is head of the Corporation of London, Chief Magistrate of the City and Her Majesty's representative in the Square Mile. The Lord Mayor is unpaid and resides in the Mansion House during his year in office. When travelling overseas the Lord Mayor has cabinet minister rank and in the City takes precedence before all persons except the Sovereign. The first Mayor of London was Henry FitzAilwyn de Londonstone who took office in 1189AD. Candidates for the office of Lord Mayor must be Aldermen in the City of London and have served as Sheriff. The Lord Mayor arrives for his first day at work in a golden coach during the annual Lord Mayor's Show - the world's largest unrehearsed street pageant. The Lord Mayor ranks among the peers as an Earl and is the only civil officer permitted a military bodyguard by the Crown (the Pikemen and Musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company).

The Mayor of London is an elected politician who, with the London Assembly, provides strategic government for the Greater London area (i.e., the metropolis). The office has existed since 2000AD and Mayors serve a 4 year term of office. The Mayor of London works from City Hall and is a salaried position. The Mayor of London usually arrives for work on a pushbike or by public transport. Past Mayors of London have been notable for their collection of newts and for unruly blond hair.

Why is the City separate from the rest of London?

Simple answer: Romans.

The City of London was founded by the Romans in or around 43AD. The Romans fortified the City with a wall, parts of which still exist. The approximate interior area of the walled City was one Roman square mile. In fact the City is about 1.16 statue square miles in size today. The City was all that there was of London until the 17th century when expansion westward began. The Greater London area we known today is largely a creature of the Victorian era.

As the metropolis grew the City remained a thing apart from the rest of London. The City retains its own government in the Court of Common Council, has its own Police Force (The City of London Police), its own system of elections that involve residents, business and modern and medieval guilds (Livery Companies in City parlance) and continues to have its own Lord Mayor.

Who elects the Lord Mayor of London?

Simple answer: Members of modern and medieval Guilds and Aldermen

The Lord Mayor of London is elected from among those Aldermen who have served as Sheriff but have yet to serve as Lord Mayor. Every year a shortlist of candidates is chosen from among the Aldermen and the senior members of the City of London's 110 Livery Companies give their approval to one of the candidates by acclamation at a meeting in Guildhall known as Common Hall. The Aldermen then vote for their preferred candidate.

Who elects the Sheriffs?

Simple answer: Members of modern and medieval Guilds

Every year the senior members of the City of London's 110 Livery Companies elect two Sheriffs, usually one is an Alderman and the other not. The election is conducted at a meeting in Guildhall known as Common Hall. The Sheriffs reside in the Old Bailey have have their own London Hackney Carriage as a day-to-day runabout.

The London Hackney Carriage for the City's Sheriffs
Who elects the Aldermen?

Simple answer: Residents and Businesses

Each of the City's twenty-five wards has an Alderman, nominally elected for life, but presenting him or herself for re-election every six years and retiring at seventy. An Aldermen must first be a Freeman of the City of London and be a resident or business voter in the City. The residents of each ward along with the business voters elect the Alderman for their ward.

How does one get to become a Freeman of the City of London?

Simple answer: Servitude, Patrimony or Redemption

There are essentially two paths to the Freedom, either be presented by a Livery Company, or be nominated by two Liverymen or two members of the Court of Common Council. Most Freemen are admitted on being presented by a Livery Company. Membership of a Livery Company is by servitude (apprenticeship), patrimony (inheritance) or redemption (payment of a fine).

How does one get to join a Livery Company?

Simple answer: Servitude, Patrimony or Redemption

The precise requirements for admission to the Freedom of a Livery Company vary from one to the next, some are open to anyone with a strong professional link to their trade, some are closed companies that do not accept membership applications and are by invitation only, others apply rigid professional membership qualifications, others focus on membership by inheritance and selected invitations to senior members of their profession. There is no single set of criteria for membership of a Livery Company that applies to them all.

Is there a Livery Company for Cabbies?

Simple answer: Yes

The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers is the Livery Company for the Hackney Carriage Trade; it received its Royal Charter in 2013. It admits licensed Hackney Carriage Drivers and those associated with the trade (e.g., directors of companies that service and supply the trade). As with all Livery Companies the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers engages in Charity, Education, Fellowship and support to the Trade but is emphatically not a trade union, neither it is a lobbying or representative body charged with campaigning on behalf of cabbies. There are other bodies that exist for those purposes.

Letters Patent granting arms to the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers, the Company's Royal Charter and the Letters Patent elevating the Company to Livery status, all on display in St Bartholomew the Great (West Smithfield)
There are also several Freemen and Liverymen of the Worshipful Company of Carmen who own vintage Hackney Carriages, including some which are horse drawn. You may see some of these at the annual Cart Marking Ceremony in Guildhall Yard.

A Taxi in the annual Cart Marking Ceremony
Where I can learn more?

Simple answer: Buy The City of London Freeman's Guide which is available from the City Information Centre, Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Library, St Paul's Cathedral Store (in the crypt), Daunt Books (Cheapside), HM College of Arms, the Museum of London or from Amazon as a hardback or eBook.

The front cover of The City of London Freeman's Guide LORD MAYOR'S edition


  1. A fascinating article. I didn't previously know that the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers, which represents a long-standing profession, received a Royal Charter only as recently as 2013.

    1. Indeed, age of trade, craft or profession is not a reliable means to determine the age and precedence of a Livery Company. The Weavers have the oldest original documentary evidence in their Royal Charter granted in 1155AD, although they are mentioned in the Pipe Rolls at Parliament dated 1130AD. No doubt some Livery Companies predate the Norman Conquest.

      Several Livery Companies have received Royal Charters in this century, including the Marketors, Information Technologists, Air Pilots and many others. The man who guided them all through the trials and tribulations of the Privy Council receives the City's prestigious Root & Branch Medal from the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House tomorrow. I shall be there to see him receive it!


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