2nd November from 1393 to 1612 - local election day

From 1393 ‘til 1612, Salisbury Council officers & serjeants-at-mace were elected every year on the 2nd November. This usually happened at Saint Edmund’s Church.

According to the Victoria County History, there is no record of when a Salisbury Council was formed, but it probably happened soon after Bishop Poore granted the city charter in 1225.

A 1306 agreement between the Church and the City mentions ‘aldermen’ (council members) but doesn’t explain how they were or should be elected, or what their duties were. The 1306 document does mention the ‘serjeants-at-mace’.

In 1412, a document first mentions 24 ‘probi homines’ (honest men, I think) of the city who formed a city assembly, or a senior, executive group within the assembly and elections to it are recorded from then onwards.

So the 2nd November election seems to have been the selection of these council-men plus the sergeants at arms.

The serjeants-at-arms were two men elected to serve by ‘citizens’, and a third could be appointed by the Bishop to supervize the other two[1].

The Victoria County History says that:

The two city serjeants were also called servientes ad clavam or ad gaolam, and had some supervision over the city prison, (fn. 113) and perhaps over the constables. They had duties relating to the fairs in 1494, (fn. 114) and in 1595 the city claimed that they were officers to the bishop's court. (fn. 115) It may well be, however, that all these offices which were filled annually on All Souls Day from the twenty-four were to some extent honorific as far as specific duties went, and that the actual administrative work was done by men who were chosen less regularly, were not generally of the twenty-four, and some of whom were salaried[2].

and that:

In 1434 it was decided to appoint a serjeant who was to be specially concerned with raising the rents and supervising the repairs of the city property. (fn. 129) This officer was generally known as the mayor’s serjeant; he was a paid servant of the city,

The electors would have been likely to have been property owners within the city, and the election itself would have been by some form of public rather than secret ballot[3].

Photo of Saint Ed’s by Chris Talbot [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


[1] Salisbury - City government before 1612 | A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6 (pp. 94-100)

[2] Salisbury - City government before 1612 | A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6 (pp. 94-100)

[3] I must admit my knowledge of early local poliitcs is very limited - I’ll look this up when time allows