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[London Aldermen]

Source: New Picture of London, Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand; by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819

The ALDERMEN are of more remote antiquity than the mayors. The office was of Saxon institution. The name is derived from the Saxon aelder-man, a man advanced in years, and accordingly supposed to be of superior wisdom and gravity. Henry III., after the citizens had suffered many oppressions, restored a form of government, and appointed twenty-four citizens to exercise the power. In his son's reign, the city was divided into twenty-four wards. Till 1394, they were chosen annually; but at that period, when Richard II. removed back the courts of judicature from York to London, it was enacted by parliament that they should "continue in office during life, or good behaviour. From that time, the office of alderman has been for life. There are twenty-six wards. Each ward (the number is now twenty-six) has its alderman. The mode of election has been several times varied ; but it is now regulated by act of parliament passed in 1725; and which act also settles the mode of electing all the other city officers. The right of voting for aldermen is vested in those freemen who are resident householders. Those aldermen who have filled the civic chair are justices of the quorum; and all the other aldermen are justices of the peace within the city. The king by his letters patent, dated August 15, 1741, empowered all the aldermen to act as justices of the peace within the city and its liberties. Before that time, only the lord mayor, the recorder, the aldermen who had passed the chair, and the nine senior aldermen had that power. They are also the subordinate governors of their respective wards, under the jurisdiction of the lord mayor, and they exercise an executive power within their own districts. They hold courts of wardmote for the election of common-councilmen and other ward officers, the regulation of the business of the ward, the removal of obstructions, &c.; and in the management of these duties each alderman is assisted by one or two deputies, who are annually selected by himself from amongst the common-councilmen of his own ward; but at the election of an alderman the lord mayor presides.

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Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819