Did you know… Mansion House has ten cells in the cellars especially for men, and one more for women. This lady’s cell is called the ‘Birdcage’, and once housed the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
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Mansion House is in the heart of The City, near the Bank of England and Royal Exchange. It was built between 1739 and 1753 by George Dance the Elder, and is the official home of the Lord Mayor of London.
Mansion House is built of Portland Stone and has a half-dozen Corinthian columns on the front. On top of these columns is a pediment detailing scenes from London and the history of the Thames.
The banqueting room, known as the ‘Egyptian Hall’, was based on the blueprint of an Egyptian pharaoh’s house, published by Marcus Pollio in the first century BC.
The first Lord Mayor of London was chosen by King William II in 1189, and his name was Henry Fitzailwyn. It wasn’t until 1215 that the City got to elect their own.
The voters were selected from the various livery guilds that represented the main trades in town. The twelve original guilds were as follows: Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant Tailors, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners and Clothworkers. Many more have been added down the years – the latest one being ‘Information Technicians’ in 1992.
This very same vote still takes place today, on the 29th September every year (Michaelmas Day). The winner gets an entry to the Privy Council, and theoretical access to the King or Queen. (This aspect of the role, however, has been much diluted down the years, and the Mayor has no political power.)
Two days after his swearing in the Lord Mayor holds a grand banquet at Guildhall, attended by political figures in Westminster. It has become customary in recent years for the Prime Minister to deliver a speech at this event outlining Britain’s place in world affairs.
[N.B.: It should be noted that the Lord Mayor is not the same post as the Mayor of London. The Lord Mayor just deals with the Square Mile, but the other one watches over the entire expanse of Greater London.]
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