The earliest mention of aldermen occurs in the Ordinances of the Gild Merchant, where the chief alderman, probably equivalent to the mayor, and the twelve aldermen of the wards are mentioned. The Gild Merchant was the body that from the 12th century assumed control of the municipal administration in the medieval town. Its ordinances were set out at various times in the documents of the town. The earliest version is contained in the Oak Book, dating from c.1300.
The duties of the twelve aldermen of the wards appear to have been maintaining law and order combined with sanitary regulations. The charter of Henry IV (1401) gave the corporation power to elect four aldermen from amongst the burgesses, while the charter of Charles I (1640) speaks of six aldermen. Prior to the Municipal Corporation Act of 1835, the ranks of alderman were restricted to former mayors and were not elected. After the Act, ten aldermen were chosen by the elected councillors.

see also

Further reading:
History of Southampton, by Rev. J. S. Davies, p208-9. (HS/h)
The Book of Remembrance of Southampton, vol. 1 by Harry W Gidden (ed), pviii-x. HS/l


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