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The history of civic life

Pages in The history of civic life

  1. The history of civic life
  1. History of the Coat of Arms

Coventry has a strong civic tradition dating back to the 14th Century.

Who was the first Lord Mayor of Coventry? What year was that? This page provides general information about the history of civic life in Coventry, together with the names of former Mayors and Lord Mayors from 1748 to today.

The Charter of Incorporation

The Charter of Incorporation in 1345 gave the people of Coventry the right to choose their own Mayor, bailiffs and Council. It is believed to be the first time this happened in the country. For the next 300 years, civic life was based around the Leet, a court of justice headed by the Mayor and bailiffs.

In 1621, King James I granted the Governing Charter to the city, setting up a Grand Council which was made up of the Mayor and 10 aldermen, together with citizens and freemen chosen by the Grand Council. In effect this was a backwards step, as the people of the city no longer had the right to elect people.

The first elections

The first open council election in Coventry took place in 1835 after the Municipal Corporations Act created five wards within the city and a further ward for the villages which made up the ancient county of Coventry.

In 1953, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, gave the city a Charter called 'Letters Patent', which entitled the citizens to have a Lord Mayor, and a special meeting was held on 9 July 1953 in St Mary's Hall.

Present-day democracy in Coventry

Today, Coventry has 18 wards, each represented by three councillors. The Council has a political management structure of Leader and Cabinet administration, with a cabinet of 10 councillors, each with their own area they are responsible for. Other councillors sit on Scrutiny Boards, which oversee the decision-making process of the Cabinet and have the power to call in any decisions made.

The Lord Mayor acts as the Chairman of the Council, with the casting vote. As Coventry's first citizen, he is the non-political, ceremonial head of the city. The mayor-making ceremony forms part of the Annual Meeting of the City Council.

The Office of Lord Mayor of the City of Coventry works for the good of the city and all its people. The Lord Mayor will:

  • Promote work with other organisations. 
  • Help to encourage investment and opportunity for businesses. 
  • Encourage equal opportunities for all 
  • Work with those who can help the city to be successful. 
  • Thank those individuals and organisations who have brought success to the city. 
  • Welcome visitors to the city, promoting its historic past and exciting future. 
  • Represent the city at home, nationally and internationally as an "Ambassador" for Coventry. 

The history of the Council House

The Council House was designed by a company of architects, after a competition was held by the Council in 1910.

Building started in 1913, and was finished in 1917. Because of the First World War, the official opening by the Duke of York took place later, on 11 June 1920. 

In 1940, during the Second World War, the Duke returned, this time as King George VI, and visited the Mayor.

The Council House is mainly offices, and represents the heart of the Council's administration. The Lord Mayor has rooms within the building where he can welcome and entertain visitors.

 See a list of former Mayors and Lord Mayors in Coventry.

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