Your Guide to the London Lord Mayor’s Show

Over 7000 participants, countless floats, 20 marching bands and a hell of a lot of vehicles – including buses, steamrollers, classic cars, tractors, tanks, unicycles, beds, bathtubs and floats galore – and a 253-year old, gold Lord Mayor’s State Coach. On Saturday 8th November 2014, they’re all set to invade the London city streets as part of the Lord Mayor’s Show.

The History

Created in 1215, the position of Lord Mayor was created to win King John the support of the city. At the time he was embroiled in a lengthy feud with his Barons, and hoped with this little tit-bit of power he could sure up the capital as a safe spot.

Death of Wat Tyler Froissart

It worked. In fact, it was Lord Mayor William Walworth who in 1381 killed Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, allowing the newly won freedoms from serfdom to be instantly revoked. It may have been the ‘grandest position that a commoner could dream of reaching’ in olde tyme England, but it seems power tends to go to the head.

Still, while the Lord Mayor can hardly be called a man of the people – elected in each year by a collection of ‘Liverymen’ (or the companies and corporations the City of London) rather than the public – the parade is pretty grand and steeped in history. And Britain does like its quaint traditions…

Since the position’s inception, upon election, each Lord Mayor has been required to present themselves at court to swear allegiance to the Crown. However, it wasn’t until the 16th Century that the procession became the ‘show’ it is today. Back when London was smaller and Westminster (the seat of government) was actually a separate town in its own right, the Lord Mayor used to make this journey by boat. That was until 1856 when the pollution of the Thames and its unbearable smell put the kibosh on that.

While the beginning of the parade has been returned to the river in recent years (the Thames is somewhat cleaner these days), since 1856 it’s been a mainly road-based affair – moving from a mass of horses and carriages to the vehicular affair you see today. In fact, that’s where the name ‘float’ comes from – that once the procession floated on water.

Lord Mayor Show Thames

What hasn’t changed is the throng of people that line the route. Since the beginning it’s been something of a celebrity spectacle and was the first outdoor event to be televised, still attracting a TV audience of millions today.

It’s also happened pretty much every year since 1215, fighting its way through plague, fire, war and even the Blitz. As we said, Britain does (very stubbornly) like its quaint traditions.

2014 Parade Schedule

The world’s oldest civic procession will set off at 08:30, seeing the Lord Mayor travel to the City in a grand flotilla of traditional Thames barges and boats. It will reach Tower Bridge around 09:25, which will open in salute allowing the Mayor to arrive at the HMS president a few minutes later.

The main parade will set off from Mansion House at 11am on Saturday 8th November, continuing around the city, through Bank, Cheapside, St Paul’s and Fleet Street to The Royal Courts of Justice, before swinging round right back again to where it all started.

The modern procession is over 3 miles long and is expected to take two and a half hours to complete. For those keen on catching a glimpse of the proceedings, pay heed to the schedule of events:

  • 11:00: Procession departs! London’s Lord Mayor waves them off from his Mansion House balcony.
  • 12:06: Lord Mayor joins the tail end of the procession.
  • 12:18: Lord Mayor arrives at St Paul’s Cathedral to be blessed by the Dean.
  • 12:40: Lord Mayor arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice, leaves his 253-year-old golden coach and swears an oath of allegiance before the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and Master of the Rolls.
  • 13:00: The procession sets off from Victoria Embankment.
  • 14:00: Lord Mayor rejoins the procession at the Royal Courts of Justice.
  • 14:30: Lord Mayor arrives back at Mansion House, inspects the guard of honour and is greeted by City Aldermen and livery company masters in their colourful gowns!

Check out the Lord Mayor’s route map.

This long, snaking procession will include eclectic mix of everything from the Royal Navy to the London School of Samba! The parade will be headed by the Band of the Grenadier Guards, which were formed in 1685 by Charles II as one of the world’s premier military bands.

The Lord Mayor himself rides along in his 18th century gold State Coach drawn by six shire horses, and preceded by Doggett’s Coat ad Badge Men. Now for all you history buffs out there: as you watch the Lord Mayor’s coach go by, just remember that someone stood in the exact same spot 450 years ago to watch a camel on its way to meet Elizabeth I. Pretty cool, eh?

Fireworks on the Thames

After parading down the three-mile track, it is tradition for the Lord Mayor’s Show event to finish in truly spectacular style, with half a tonne of giant fireworks shooting over 600 feet into the sky. This takes the expertise of eight pyrotechnicians and two days to set up.

The Lord Mayor’s Fireworks display is set to take place from 17:15 between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridge on the River Thames. The annual display marks not only the end of the show, but the beginning of a new mayoral year, so expect to be greeted by one truly massive crowd of revellers.

Where can you seek out the best views without getting crowd-suffocated in the process? Our top pick is Victoria Embankment or South Bank, where you will be able to view a pre-firework display on the river, complete with music, performers, waterworks, traditional and modern river crafts. And, for some extra good news, the road will be closed to traffic this year, so there should be plenty of room for champagne and picnic blankets!

And finally, a note to all you greenies out there; any carbon emitted by the show is calculated and the City of London buys the same amount of offsets, investing in projects that reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

Getting to the Lord Mayor’s Show

On the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show, expect the city to be busy. Very busy. So get there early and check out the TFL (Transport for London) website to plan your journey and view planned road closures.

Coming by tube or train, get out at one of the stations on the processional path and nab a place on the well-marked route. Depending on which line you take, your best options are Bank, St Pauls, Blackfriars or Mansion House, although you can also walk from Cannon St, Monument, Moorgate or Temple.

Lord Mayor's Coach

Not keen on being squashed against a tube window? Forget the car, and come by bike. Whether you’re renting, have your own or nabbing a Boris bike, just remember to lock it up some way away from the route and walk the last bit. Believe us, wheeling a bike through the crowd will not score you many friends.

Check out the Lord Mayor’s Show app which includes a real-time guide to the procession and a live map showing your location. We bet they didn’t have that in 1535…

Accommodation in London

For backpackers looking to get in on the action (or locals who can’t be bothered fighting through crowds to get home), there are a range of budget London hostels in the nearby area.

Perfect for viewing the firework on the South Bank of the River Thames, The Walrus Waterloo will no doubt prove a popular choice, offering both dorm and private rooms from €25.98 a night.

Alternatively, for those keen on viewing the parade itself, your best bet is to book a hostel around Holborn or Russell Square stations (i.e. close enough to walk, but not too close that you will be kept awake by partying crowds).

Phew, so did you get all that? Good, now you have everything you need for a perfect Lord Mayor’s show. Enjoy!

Book yourself a London hostel now

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Thanks to ajps2, garry knight, Howard, Swamibu, Cassie Louise and S Pakhrin for the images off Flickr. Please note all were under Creative Commons license at time of publishing.

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