An Introduction to the Mayoralty of Berwick-upon-Tweed
The word MAYOR has its roots in Latin ‘major’ meaning ‘greater’. The ‘major’ people were the more prominent citizens who were likely to hold office and influence and control the lives of others.
In England, the title and office of ‘maire’ was reputedly introduced by Henry II (1133 – 1189) who preferred French to English. Possibly the word was in common usage between French and English wool traders but it eventually evolved as ‘MAYOR’. The first mayors were by royal appointment and the office was for life. Gradually the term of office became one year.
The first mayor of Berwick was possibly Robert Barham. We know he was mayor in 1238 and in 1249. We might assume he was in office in the years between. He came from a family who owned considerable properties in the Berwick area. His brother David was a great friend of Alexander II of Scotland. Later Berwick became a Royal Burgh under David I of Scotland, hence the purple ceremonial robes instead of the red English ones.
The Guild of Freemen Statutes ordained that Berwick be governed by 24 good, discreet and trustworthy men, plus the Mayor, plus four bailiffs.
The office of Mayor of Berwick-upon-Tweed continues to this day. The status of the Mayor is as First Citizen and, because of our history, that status is significant because in England now precedence is accorded at assemblies to London, then York, then Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Up until 1947 the Mayoral elections were at Michaelmas (November) but since then the Annual General Meeting of the Council and the Election of the Mayor are held in May. From 2008 the Town Mayor is elected as Chairman of the Council and is entitled to use the title ‘Mayor’.
In 1974 the Town Council became a Borough Council. Berwick was given its Charter. Changes in administration meant districts amalgamated. The Borough covered a huge area stretching to Carham, Wooler and Eglingham.
Again, changes in 2008 meant that the Town Council re-appeared and now encompasses Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal.
From May 2008 to March 31st 2009 there were two mayors in Berwick. One was the Borough Mayor and the other the Town Mayor. On April 1st 2009 the Town Mayor continued to hold the reins until on May 18th 2009 the second Town Mayor was sworn in.
Since the inception of Mayors in Berwick-upon-Tweed there have been over 700 named persons in office.