Last Saturday saw the running of the Lord Mayor’s Show in London – the 799th year the event has been held. So we thought it was a good time to take a look at the office perhaps most famously associated with the annual running of the show (with the exception of the new Lord Mayor, of course) – the Pageantmaster.

The office dates back to at least the mid 16th century – some sources record Richard Baker of the Painter-Stainers Company as being the first to be given the role in 1566. It involves organising the annual grand three-and-a-half mile long procession of the new Lord Mayor (in this case Alan Yarrow) from Mansion House via St Paul’s Cathedral to the Royal Courts of Justice at Temple Bar (and then back again along Victoria Embankment).

The current Pageantmaster, Dominic Reid, took on the role in 1992 following the death of his father John who had carried out the role for the 20 years previously. Pageantmaster Court in the city was named for the role in the early 1990s (it had formerly been known as Ludgate Court). Mr Reid, an architect and soldier, is now the longest serving Pageantmaster in history – his father had held that title before him and before that the record had apparently been held by one Thomas Jourdan who managed 14 shows between 1671-85.

Mr Reid, who like his father before him has been awarded an OBE for his work on the Show, said at a Gresham College lecture in 2011 that as Pageantmaster, he is “responsible for all aspects of the design, organisation and production of the Lord Mayor’s Show. In this role I am the agent of the Senior Alderman below the Chair, and I am employed as a consultant to Lord Mayor’s Show Ltd the not for profit company limited by guarantee that puts on the show.”

The role is now so big – involving more than 7,000 participants, 20 bands, 150 horses and hundreds of vehicles – that it now reportedly takes the Pageantmaster a good nine months to organise all the details.

The Pageantmaster himself takes part each year in the procession and while he has apparently previously ridden a horse, he can now be seen standing on the back of a ceremonial City of London vehicle.

For more of the history of the Lord Mayor’s Show, see our previous entries on Gog and Magog and the State Coach or the official website www.lordmayorsshow.london.

Lord-Mayor's-Show1

Tomorrow is the Lord Mayor’s Show and once again the great procession will make its through London’s streets so the Lord Mayor may swear their loyalty to the Crown. So, to celebrate, we thought we’d interrupt our regular programming and bring you 10 facts about the Lord Mayor’s Show…

1. The origins of the Lord Mayor’s Show go back to 1215 when King John granted the city the right to elect their mayors but only on condition that they made their way to Westminster to swear their loyalty each year. There is evidence that by the late 14th century, the journey had turned into something of a procession.

2. Lawyer Fiona Woolf is the 686th Lord Mayor, formally taking on the job when outgoing mayor Roger Gifford hands the City insignia to her in what is known as the Silent Ceremony held at Guildhall today. She is only the second woman to ever hold the post; Mary Donaldson was the first to do so in 1983.

3. The person responsible for organising the day is the Pageantmaster. The current Pageantmaster is Dominic Reid – he gets to travel in a ceremonial Landrover.

4. The day was originally held on 28th October, the Feast of St Simon and St Jude, but was moved to 9th November in 1751 when Britain adopted the Gregorian Calendar. Because this meant it call be held on any day of the week, to simplify matters in 1959 it was decided that the Show would be held on the second Saturday in November.

5. Effigies of Gog and Magog, seen guardians of the City of London, have appeared in the Lord Mayor’s Show since at least 1554, during the reign of King Henry V. For more on Gog and Magog, see our Famous Londoners post.

Lord-Mayor's-Show2

6. Since the early 15th century the Lord Mayor had travelled to Westminster via a pageant on the River Thames. This was dropped in favour of travelling on horseback. The magnificent State Coach used in tomorrow’s procession, meanwhile, was first used to convey the Lord Mayor to Westminster in 1757 (the mayors had ridden in coaches since 1712 after Sir Gilbert Heathcote fell off his horse in 1711). For more on the State Coach, see our Treasures of London article. As happened last year, before the Show starts, the Lord Mayor will once again travel upriver in the QRB Gloriana accompanied by a procession of 24 traditional Thames boats from London’s livery companies and port authorities. The flotilla will leave Vauxhall at 8.30am and travel past Tower Bridge to HMS President.

7. The modern route of the show – which takes in Cheapside, Ludgate Hill, Fleet Street going out from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice and then returns back along Queen Victoria Street – was fixed in 1952 (although occasionally it has been disrupted due to things like roadworks). It apparently features 3,500 manholes, all of which have to be checked before the big day.

8. The modern Lord Mayor’s Show parade, which kicks off at 11am, is three-and-a-half miles long. This year’s procession features more than 7,000 participants.

9. Among those in the parade are representatives of the livery companies including that of the “great 12” –  the Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Merchant Taylors, Skinners, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners and Clothworkers – as well as other companies including some distinctly “new world”.

10. The fireworks display was canceled last year but is back for this year’s festivities. It kicks off at 5pm.

For more on the show – including a downloadable timetable and map – head to www.lordmayorsshow.org.