City of London Ward Beadles

It is thought likely that the Ward Beadles hold the oldest elected Office in the City, predating the Sheriffs’ election from 1130 (who were previously appointed as the King’s officers) and also that of Lord Mayor instituted in 1189. The Ward Beadles for each Ward were elected by the Freemen of the Ward to execute the Alderman’s magistracy in the Ward and to bring wrong-doers before the juries of Freemen for the Alderman to fine and punish when found as guilty.

Today Ward Beadles continue to be elected, each of the 25 City Wards has at least one, two have two and one has three. Nominated by the Alderman with consideration by the Ward Common Councillors they are formally elected by the Wardmote. The principal electoral duty of the Ward Beadle is to open, close and otherwise keep order at the Wardmote. This role of keeping order, is also their role at the Common Halls for elections of Sheriffs and the Lord Mayor with minor other officials, which is why they sit facing the Liverymen with their backs to the dais. All other duties are now of a ceremonial nature; in particular the Ward Beadle accompanies the Alderman in civic processions listed in the City Calendar, most notably that of the Lord Mayor’s Show.

This information is contained on the City Beadles web site, see this link for  http://cityoflondonwardbeadles.org/index.html for further information.

Our current Ward Beadle of Castle Baynard is Geoff Tucker (pictured above) at the 2019 Ward Club AGM and annual dinner). Prior to his appointment as our Beadle, Geoff worked in the Printing industry and also served for over 30 years as an army reservist. Geoff has been our Beadle since 2005 and he served as President of the City of London’s Ward Beadles in 2017-18. 

Henry Kerridge, Beadle

A notable past Beadle of the Castle Baynard Ward was Henry Kerridge, who was born in 1770 and died in 1839. We know that Kerridge was our Ward Beadle because interesting documentary evidence shows him providing testimony as a Beadle in both 1817 and 1830 during judicial proceedings at the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales.

In the photos to the side and below the actual brass “tipstaff” used by Henry Kerridge in fulfilling his duties can be seen. Such a tipstaff was used in the United Kingdom for hundreds of years as a badge of authority for a government official having official duties. Carrying a tipstaff signified that the bearer was bestowed with direct authority from the Crown. Over the years, there have been many categories of persons who were allowed to carry a tipstaff. Primarily, tipstaves were carried by traditional law keepers such as constables and court magistrates, but other individuals such as ward beadles, water bailiffs, marshal’s men, inspectors of pavements and sewers, and highway tax collectors would have carried such a symbol of authority.

Tipstaves came in a great variety of sizes and shapes, but were typically made out of wood and brass and nearly always were topped with a crown. On occasion, for high-ranking individuals, tipstaves were made in rarer materials (e.g., silver, ivory or fancy woods) and the office holders who used a tipstaff typically had to pay for the tipstaves themselves from the money that they collected in fees and dues. Henry Kerridge would have been instantly recognisable by the inhabitants of Castle Baynard Ward as a person invested with intimidating authority by virtue of his carrying this tipstaff in-hand.

As can be seen in the photos, Kerridge’s tipstaff bears his engraved name, along with a particularly fine engraving of the coat of arms of the City of London. While tipstaves are rare whether or not they are engraved, it is very unusual to find a named and attributed tipstaff such as this one, and be able to trace the history of its owner and office holder.

Interestingly, it was not unusual for a Beadle to engage in other professional work to supplement his income, and this appears to be true for Henry Kerridge as well. Research on Henry Kerridge by his descendants shows that he was a ham dealer between 1816 and 1829. We also know from the City of London’s Poll Book of 1837 that Kerridge was admitted to the Freedom of the Company of Barbers and lived on 1 St. Peter’s Hill, which is the street leading down from St. Paul’s to today’s Millennium Bridge (this link shows Kerridge’s entry in the 1837 London Poll Book). Such research illustrates that it was perhaps not unusual to gain admittance to the Freedom of one Livery or another, without actually practicing in that profession. Our Henry Kerridge likely belonged to the livery without ever working as a barber.

We also know that Henry Kerridge received an Honorary Freedom of the City of London in 1799, and was made free of the City “by Redemption”, that is, he bought his freedom. At the time there were good reasons to buy one’s way into the Freedom of the City, as by doing so various rights and privileges were obtained such as the right to vote in civic and parliamentary elections, be exempt from various tolls, exempt from naval impressment, and having certain rights with respect to legal involvements. Prior to 1835, every person who wished to become a City Freeman first had to become a Freeman of one of the City Livery Companies, and this probably explains why Henry Kerridge sought admission to the Freedom of the Company of Barbers.

Much of the above information, as well as the photos of Henry Kerridge’s tipstaff, were kindly provided by Ben Chorin, who has a collection of such objects. Ben is especially interested in City of London material, having himself worked and lived in the City of London. Ben would ask that you do not use the photos of Henry Kerridge’s tipstaff for any commercial purposes as they are copyrighted.

Ward Beadles in official costume in the porch of Guildhall 1911.

Image courtesy of London Metropolitan Archives (City of London).

The LMA Collage has a comprehensive source of historical images of London see: https://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk