From the archive: The Lord Mayor’s Show

Tomorrow (Saturday November 11th), City, University of London students will be taking part in the Annual Lord Mayor of London’s Procession.  Although our involvement in the procession goes back many decades, the history of the procession dates right back to the reign of King John in the 12th Century.

A Short History

King John, having done enough to become known as Bad King John, conceeded to the people of London the right elect their own Mayor.  Part of this deal was that the Mayor would have to be presented to the King each year (although this soon changed to the King or his Justices in Westminster).

Over the centuries, the procession of the Lord Mayor and his colleagues to be presented, changed from a simple matter of a bunch of men on horseback to a grander procession involving musical accompaniment in the form of trumpets that would take place partly on land and partly along the Thames (in 1453 Sir John Norman built himself a stately barge for the occasion).

From the 16th century, the procession became more of a pageant and would include figures from London mythology such as the giant Gogmagog and its slayer, Corineus.  After the Second World War, the procession expanded to include such organisations as the Scouts and the Territorial Army alongside the various City Companies that had always taken part.

One of the highlights of the show is the Lord Mayor’s Coach – one made in the 18th century and elaborately adorned with paintings and gold.  It spends most of the year on display at the Museum of London but is brought out each year on the second Saturday in November for the Lord Mayor’s Show.

The coach brought an end to riding on horseback and travelling by boat for a long time.  However, this year, before the main procession, the Mayor will travel along the Thames in the Queen’s barge, QRB Gloriana.

The Involvement of City

The involvement of City’s students dates back many decades and involved the creation of a float adorned by all kinds of creations and fancy dress costumes – as can be seen in these newly digitised photos from the CityArchives.

float under construction
Lord Mayor’s Show float under construction at Wapping Nov ’66

This photo from 1966 shows students at a secret location in Wapping building a float to demonstrate the pursuits of the (then brand new) University’s scientific departments, including a nice representation of 1960s computers.

Here, at an unknown date that looks like it might be about the same time, a student demonstrates their acrobatic skills as people watch on from above a City branch of the National Westminster Bank.

A person in a tracksuit somersaulting with National Westminster Bank in the background.
The Lord Mayor’s Show (Student Rags and Carnivals)

Also in the late 1960s, outside St Paul’s Cathedral, the University’s “Welcome to Britain” themed float gives a flavour of late-60s Britain including a large tin of Baked Beans, Fish and Chips, miners, schoolboys and various historical figures.


In the same year, the University organised a fun fair not far away – which can be seen here.

Lord Mayor's Show float in front of St Paul's Cathedral.
Lord Mayor’s Show c. 1969.

In the early 70s, the float was what seems a slightly madcap affair and features, among an assortment of costumes, a dangling carrot, aeroplane, a giant telephone and Tower Bridge complete with a ship underneath.  The number on the telephone, incidentally, is for Scotland Yard and was the number to call before 999.

Lord Mayor's Show Procession City University float
Lord Mayor’s Show Procession City University float c.1970

By the 90s, the idea of a mechanical float seemed to have been disappeared.  Instead, in 1993, students formed a centipede decorated with the flags of nations represented by the University – displaying the wonderful diversity that is still evident at City today.  While, in 1996, our representatives took to the streets dressed as bright orange carrots.

Lord Mayor's Show students in centipede costume in front of St Paul's
Lord Mayor’s Show 1993 The Centipede.

Lord Mayor's Show arial shot students with huge City University balloon dressed as carrots
Lord Mayor’s Show 1996


This year, City, University of London will be the 106th participant in the procession this year, just behind the United Wards’ Club with Rotary International in GB & Ireland but just before the British Red Cross.

What they will get up to this year is a closely guarded secret but you can watch them proudly walk through the City either in person or on TV – The Lord Mayor’s Show will be broadcast on BBC One from 10.45-12.05.  Full details (including for the Fireworks later in the day and the route) can be found on the Lord Mayor Show’s website and this post on our own website (which actually reveals that closely guarded secret!).

Enjoy the show!

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