History of the Office of Mayor

The role of Mayor has changed hugely over time but he or she continues to play a central role in the life of our borough and the Council.

The idea of a Mayor was brought to this country by the Normans. The first Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, appointed by James II in 1685, was Thomas Agar.

In the Middle Ages mayors were always men and held a position similar in many ways to their modern successors. Like today, the Mayor was acknowledged "first citizen" of the town, he had a Council to assist him, was a 'Custodian of the Peace' (early magistrate), and presided in civil and criminal courts.

In Tudor times, Mayors’ powers and importance were greatly increased as Chief and sometimes Sole Magistrates. This allowed them to arrest those disturbing the peace and persons carrying offensive weapons in fairs, regulate the size of loaves of bread, and deal with those suspected of using logwood in dyeing. By the seventeenth century, the Mayor had in many boroughs become al-powerful and his powers included Borough Coroner, Keeper of the Borough Gaol and Admiral of the Port – a title retained today in several coastal towns such as Southampton, Poole and Kingston-upon-Hull.

In 1835, the legal position of the Mayor was regulated by Parliament, which laid down a clear definition of the precise attributes of the modern Mayor thus restricting and regulating by statute the rights of the precedence of the Mayor.

Today the Mayor is a symbol of authority, connecting the present with the past through the ceremony and trappings of the role. The modern Mayor is a symbol of open society as the First Citizen comes from any walk of life, class, gender or ethnic background. And the office is an expression of social cohesion, uniting and reflecting borough life.