Elections form an important part of the governance of the City, but to someone not directly involved, their different procedures and electorates can be confusing. This page seeks to clarify the various elections, which are for:

The Lord Mayor

The Sheriffs (and also some other officers, such as Ale Conners and Auditors)

The Aldermen

The Common Councilmen 

The Masters, Wardens and Courts of the livery companies

Following the election of the LM at Michaelmas, a number of ceremonies occur, leading to the LM Banquet on the Monday following the LM Show. All these (eg incl Silent Ceremony etc) are described at this note.

Common Hall

The two sheriffs are elected at Common Hall in Guildhall on Midsummer Day (24th June), and in a similar ceremony, the Lord Mayor is elected at Michaelmas (29th September). 

For a more detailed note on the Common Hall elections for the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs, specifically written with livery masters in mind, please click here.

The Lord Mayor

Eligibility for election requires candidates to be an alderman, and to have served the office of the sheriff. Typically there will be just three or four such qualified candidates, and all liverymen (who have been liverymen since May the previous year) are eligible to vote for two of them, at Common Hall in Guildhall on Michaelmas Day (29th September).

The Court of Aldermen then decide which of the two will be the next Lord Mayor, to take office the following November.

Detailed guidance for livery masters.

To read a copy of the letter from the Town Clerk dated 6th July 2021 setting out the likely progression of aldermen as sheriff and lord mayor over the next two years, please follow this link.

To download a copy of past Lord Mayors, also with current aldermen, please click here.

The Sheriffs

Normally there will be two sheriffs, of whom one will be an alderman, and the other not. Occasionally, when the pool of qualified aldermen to go on to be the Lord Mayor dwindles (see above), the Court of Aldermen will request that two aldermanic candidates stand for election, unopposed. (a more detailed note on Twin aldermanic sheriffs is at this link)

Often there are just two candidates (for two places) but three or more candidates are also quite normal. However regardless of the number, an election will take place. All liverymen, as above, vote for two sheriffs at Common Hall in Guildhall on Midsummer Day (24th June). The Sheriffs take office on Michaelmas Eve (28th September).

Detailed guidance for livery masters.

Also on this day are elected the Auditors, Bridgemasters (2) and Ale Conners (4), now largely symbolic offices, as well as members of the Livery Committee.

To download a database of past Sheriffs, please click here.

For more on the election of the Sheriffs, please follow this link.

The Aldermen

The Court of Aldermen has 25 members, one representing each ward of the City of London. They are elected by the registered voters† within the ward (ie not the livery), and stand for re-election at least every six years  (separately from the Common Councilmen elections, and not all at once, but as vacancies occur). They retire at 70 years of age. The historic requirement that aldermen sit as magistrates in the City of London was dropped in 2013, but many still do.

Except in the City of London, Aldermen elsewhere were abolished  in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, and for other London boroughs where the position was abolished in 1978.

More information about forthcoming elections is available at the City of London website

To see a list of the Court of Aldermen, please click here.

The Common Councilmen

The Court of Common Council has 100 members, a variable number representing each ward of the City of London (on average four per ward). They are elected by the registered voters† within the ward, (the same as aldermen, ie not the livery), and stand for re-election every four years  (on the same day in March, next in 2021). Common Councilmen are the City's equivalent of local government elected councillors, and have similar responsibilities.

Follow this link to read more of the  Election of Common Council

To see the elected members of the Court of Common Council, please click here.

The Masters*, Wardens and Courts of the livery companies

Each of the 110 livery companies has their own method of electing their masters, wardens etc. In every case bar one (the Bowyers) elections for masters and wardens are for one year. (Bowyers for two). Some companies conduct their election at "Common Hall" - this should not be confused with the common halls at Guildhall mentioned above. 

*The Fishmongers', Goldsmiths', Dyers', Saddlers', Blacksmiths', Basketmakers' and  Shipwrights' have a Prime Warden (rather than a Master) whilst the Weavers'  (usually acknowledged as the oldest livery company) have an Upper Bailiff.

To learn more on the variations and quirks of the different livery companies, read this paper. Or to read what their modern day role, go here.

To download an historical archive of past masters of the livery companies, go to this page.

† Registered voters - In the City, uniquely, workers as well as residents have the right to vote. Any organisation that is based in the Square Mile can nominate workers to vote in the ward elections for aldermen and common councilmen. The number of votes is determined by the size of the workforce in each building, not as an aggregate.

© Nigel Pullman 2023