History of the Mayor

The Office of Mayor of Winchester is the second oldest mayoralty in England, dating back to the period when the City was the national capital.

The exact date of the conferment of full mayoral rights is not known, since the original charter cannot be traced. When London petitioned the King for a grant of mayoralty in 1190, Winchester was not cited as precedent (as were certain French cities), but by 1200 there was reference to the mayoralty as an existing office. It is, therefore, safe to say that the office dates back to the 1190s.

By tradition, the Mayor of Winchester stands second only to the Lord Mayor of London in precedence of civic heads.

The earliest Mayors sometimes held the office for several years in succession, but from the 13th century to the present day, the Mayor has been chosen annually. Until the 16th century, the Mayor elect was required to travel to Westminster to receive the royal assent.

Medieval Mayors had wide-ranging executive powers - the only check on their actions was that the succeeding Mayor could withhold any expenses claimed!

The 1835 Municipal Corporations Act removed most of the Mayor's executive powers, though one of the original functions of the office survives - the responsibility for receiving important visitors to the City on behalf of the citizens.

The Mayor of Winchester takes office in May having been elected by fellow members of the Council.

As well as being an ancient and honorable office the mayoralty provides a service to the community both as a non-political Chairman for the Council and as the first citizen of the district. During the twelve month term of office several hundred engagements will be undertaken throughout the area encompassing all levels of the community. Winchester being the county town ensures a considerable civic calendar including major services at the Cathedral, military ceremonies, freedom marches etc.