THE CANDLEWICK WARD CLUB
The Candlewick Ward Club rightly lays claim to being the oldest Ward Club in the City of London.
At the time of the Norman Conquest the City was a bundle of communities, wards, sokes, liberties and other privileged places, united only perhaps for defence. The Alderman or Soke Reeve, or Prior was almost supreme in his own area. boundaries developed over the centuries by territorial acquisition by the well-to-do owners; they remain largely unchanged now.
During the democratic upheaval in the City in the 12th and 13th centuries coalitions of such sokes, wards etc took place mainly for the purposes of local government and it became established that the Alderman should be elected by a Ward rather than continuing with the hereditary system.
Independent (that is of the Crown) Sheriffs were appointed in the City in the 12th Century and a Mayor was appointed in 1189. This gave the Aldermen power to govern in consultation with their colleagues of other Wards instead of, as previously, in isolation in their Wards.
Later members of the Court of Aldermen found it necessary to consult the principal inhabitants of their Ward to discuss and approve important business. These PROBI HOMINES were later to form the Court of Common Council which was established on a permanent basis in 1384.
For some six centuries the Wardmote - or Ward Meeting - has exercised its right to elect both Aldermen and Common councilmen. Much of its other very wide administrative powers have been long since taken over by local and national government bodies. For example, the punishment of offenders within the City is now handled by the established legal system and so on.
During the 14th Century the Lord Mayor’s precept directed to Aldermen for the holding of a Wardmote required, amongst other matters, that Inquestmen be appointed to present such matters as defective weights and measures, women of ill- fame, dangerous ovens, offences against the assizes of bread and ale, gamblers, pedlars and hawkers, lepers, houses roofed with straw, defective gutters, ruinous buildings, projections over the highway, structures on the common soil, streets fouled with rubbish, pig-keepers, overcharging inn-keepers, extortions by City Officers, and Artisans demanding higher wages than those ordained.
After their annual duties, the Inquestmen held a noble feast to which came the Alderman and Common Councilmen by invitation as also did the whole ward, all of whom supplied their own quota of provisions. This was known as the annual Breakfast and was held near Christmas. In this manner the inhabitants of the Ward were brought together on friendly and intimate terms and no doubt the social contact suitably oiled the wheels of local government.
The Wardmote Inquest was formally abolished in the city in 1856, but as far back as 1722 Candlewick had ceased such Housekeeping, as it was called and it was in 1739 that we know that the Candlewick Ward Club was reorganised leaving us in no doubt that it was the successor to the former meetings of the Ward Committee or Inquest.
Times have changed since it was only possible for residents within the Ward to take part in the Ward Club proceedings. Today, membership of the Ward Club - as distinct from the Ward itself which is a separate matter - is open to all persons who have an interest in Candlewick Ward, and indeed the Committee welcome such membership. In addition to our Annual Breakfast, we visit places of interest in the City and elsewhere.
Enquiries for such membership should be directed to any member of the committee.