Peter Murray

On 3 October, Michael Welbank, Chief Commoner and Past Chairman of the Planning and Transportation Committee talked to the Society as part of our Great Estates series. Barry Coidan was in the audience.

A sizeable audience was treated to a brisk canter through the byways and backwaters of the City of London and its Great Estates. Chief Commoner Michael Welbank was a most convivial guide whose obvious delight in his subject matter carried us along with him.

Before detailing the three Estates – the Bridge House Estate, City Fund and City’s Cash – and the use to which their incomes are put, Mr Welbank gave us a brief history lesson.

There is no surviving record of a charter first establishing the Corporation as a legal body, but the City is regarded as incorporated by prescription. Around 1189, the City gained the right to have its own mayor, later being advanced to the degree and style of Lord Mayor of London.

The origins of what we now know as the City of London were lost in the midst of time. London was a centre of trade in Saxon times long before the Normans tried unsuccessfully to quell the citizens. William I wanted the City and its wealth generating prowess, and in 1067 he granted it a charter. It read “William King greets William the Bishop and Geoffrey the Portreeve and all the citizens in London, French and English, in friendly fashion; and I inform you that it is my will that your laws and customs be preserved as they were in King Edward’s day, that every son shall be his father’s heir after his father’s death; and that I will not that any man do wrong to you. God yield you“. The City was allowed to continue as it had done before the Conquest.

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