Canterbury: Members of the Corporation

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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'Canterbury: Members of the Corporation', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11, (Canterbury, 1800) pp. 28-29. British History Online [accessed 5 March 2024]

Members of the Corporation

In conformity to the above-mentioned charter, granted to this city by king James I. the corporation at present continues to consist of a mayor, chosen on Sept. 14, and sworn in on the day of St. Michael, a recorder, twelve aldermen, and twenty-four commoncouncilmen, including the sheriff and town clerk. The mayor, recorder, (fn. 1) and those who have served the office of mayor, are justices of the peace; a chamberlain, coroner, and other inferior officers. It has the privilege of a sword granted at the time of the charter by king James I. in 1607, (fn. 2) and a mace. (fn. 3) A court of burghmote for the business of the city, which is held on every fourth Tuesday; (fn. 4) and it continues to hold a general court of sessions, with power of life and death, a court of pleas before the mayor, and other liberties, as mentioned in the charter, in like manner as other cities and counties of the like fort.—There is also a court of conscience for recovery of debts under 40s. granted by act of parliament.

The arms of the city are, Argent, three Cornish choughs proper, two and one; on a chief, gules, a lion passant guardant, or, (fn. 5)

The common seal of the city of Canterbury has on one side the above arms of the city, and on the reverse a castle, with this inscription round it: Istud est Sigillum Comune Civitatis Cantuariæ.

The seal belonging to the office of mayoralty has a castle garnished with three lions passant, with this inscription round it, viz. Sigillum Majoris Civitatis Cantuariæ. The chamberlain has also a seal of office.


  • 1. Michaelmas term, anno 12 George, B. R. the king, v. the mayor, &c. of the city of Canterbury, on a mandamus to restore a recorder, they returned, that he was an officer at pleasure, and that upon due summons to chuse another they did so, and thereby the former was removed; and this was held by the court to be a good return See Strange's Reports, vol. i. p. 1674.
  • 2. The sword was obtained by Thomas Paramor, who was mayor that year, not without a great expence to the city. Batt. Somn. p. 18.
  • 3. It was ordered in parliament as appears by the rolls of 20 Edward III. that no man within cities or towns or elsewhere, do carry maces of silver, but only the king's serjeants; but that they carry maces of copper only, and of no other metal, except in the city of London, where the sergeants may carry their maces of silver within the liberties of it, before the mayor, in the king's presence. Cotton's Records, p. 46.
  • 4. By the charter of king Henry III. the city burghmote may be assembled once in 15 days; but the ordinary business of the city not requiring such frequent meetings, this court is hardly ever convened oftener than once in a month. It has been held immemorially on a Tuesday, and is called by summons and by the blowing of a horn. This custom of assembling burghmotes by the sound of a horn, is very antient, being mentioned in an exemplification of a record now in the city chamber, dated so far back as the 13th century. It is a court of record, and is composed of the mayor for the time being, or of his deputy in his absence, the aldermen and common council, a majoriry of whom, the mayor being considered as one, is necessary to form a court.
  • 5. It appears that this city formerly regarded St. Thomas Becket as its patron and tutelar saint, and therefore borrowed and retains at this day a part of its arms from those borne by him, which were three Cornish choughs, proper; and as a farther instance of it, they caused these verses to be cut about the rim of its old common seal: Ictibus immensis Thomas qui corruit ensis Tutor ab offensis urbis sit Canturiensis.