Famous Londoners – Henry Fitz-Ailwyn

May 3, 2011

In the first of a series in Famous Londoners looking at past mayors of London, we profile the first person recorded as having that title, Henry Fitz-Ailwyn (also known as Henry Fitz-Ailwin). While his name might not be familiar to us today, it’s clear than in the 12th century, he was a personage to be reckoned with.

Believed to have been born in the 1130s or 40s, Fitz-Ailwyn is said to have been the son of a wealthy Londoner. Apparently involved in the cloth trade, possibly as a draper, he owned property in several counties and in what was Candlewick Street in London (now named Cannon Street).

Records show he was a London alderman in 1168 and later served as mayor, thanks apparently to the support of King Richard I (the dates are uncertain – some claim he took up the post in 1194 but the City of London Corporation records his tenure as 1189 to 1211).

Among his claims to fame are that he issued London’s first building regulations (concerning the need to build in stone) after a fire in 1212 destroyed parts of the city (although he apparently had no powers to enforce them).

Fitz-Ailwyn died the same year and is noted by the Museum of London as “the only mayor ever to serve in office for a full life term”.

His name is commemorated in a window at the Guildhall and by a statue which stands on the exterior of one of the step buildings at Holborn Viaduct (pictured).

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