Preview: 24 Jul 2019

Just one council by-election for the 24th of July…

Farringdon Within

City of London Corporation; caused by the resignation of independent
Common Councilman Thomas Anderson.

“When will you pay me?”
Say the bells of Old Bailey

For a Wednesday by-election today we are in the City of London with an election to that unique democratic body, the Court of Common Council. This was very much the template for what local government developed into in the nineteenth century, with its multi-member electoral wards and aldermanic structure being copied all over the country; but all subsequent local government reforms have left the City of London Corporation intact and the result is now an anachronism.

The shape of Farringdon Within ward attests to that, as it’s in two distinct parts. The southern part of the ward starts just north of Blackfriars station and runs past Ludgate Hill to the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) and City Thameslink railway station. There is then a narrow neck along King Edward Street and Little Britain to a northern area of the ward, which includes the church of St Bartholomew the Great and the Barbican Underground station. A large building site on the northern edge of the ward is an eastern entrance to the future Farringdon Crossrail station.

The name of the ward recalls Nicholas de Farndone, a goldsmith who served four times as Lord Mayor of London during the early 14th century. Nicholas was Alderman for the ward from 1293 (when he took the seat over from his father-in-law Willian de Farndone) until his death in 1334, and is remembered for banning football (in its mediaeval form) from the City due to the noise and disturbance the game caused. The “Within” of the name came from the fact that the ward was originally inside the Roman Wall in its entirety, although boundary changes in the 21st century mean that this is no longer the case.

This ward includes the oldest residential building in the City of London, at 41-42 Cloth Fair, which dates from not later than 1614. The street name recalls the great Bartholomew Fair, an annual mediaeval event held within the grounds of St Bartholomew’s priory. The church itself was originally 300 feet long and larger than many cathedrals; its many spin offs included a hospital which became Barts and is still going strong today. St Bartholomew the Great escaped both the Great Fire of 1666 and the enemy bombing of the Second World War to become one of the oldest and largest churches in the City; W G Grace was a regular in the congregation, Deborah Mitford married the 11th Duke of Devonshire here, and John Betjeman lived opposite the church at 45 Cloth Fair. Its interior has featured in many films, from Four Weddings and a Funeral through The Other Boleyn Girl to such modern fare as Avengers: Age of Ultron. All human life is here, and by City standards rather a lot of human life: the 2011 census recorded a residential population of 276.

Farringdon Within is one of the City’s largest wards, electing eight of the 100 Common Councilmen. In the most recent City elections in March 2017 the ward attracted 15 candidates, with Anderson being elected at the top of the poll with 247 votes and Graeme Smith taking the eighth and last seat with 159 votes. All the candidates last time out were independents.

There’s another long ballot paper for this by-election with six candidates for the electors to choose from. Two unsuccessful candidates from the last election return: Virginia Rounding, who had topped the poll here in 2013, finished as runner-up in 2017 with 148 votes, and John Edwards was one place behind on 143 votes. Rounding is an author who has written such non-fiction fare as Grandes Horizontales, a study of courtesans in nineteenth-century Paris; a biography of Catherine the Great; and a recent work The Burning Time on the religious martyrs who were burned at the stake in Smithfield, just outside the ward, during the first Elizabethan Age. Probably more relevant here is that Rounding is the clerk to the Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants. John Edwards is a local resident, giving an address on Carter Lane at the south end of the ward. At the top of the ballot paper is David Barker, a social entrepreneur who has won an award for his charity work. Ciara Murphy works within the ward as a commercial property manager. Emma Palmer is the remaining independent candidate on the ballot, and party politics has broken out with the nomination of City resident Paul O’Brien, who worked for the NHS for over 25 years, as an official Labour candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Cities of London and Westminster
London Assembly constituency: City and East
Postcode districts: EC1A, EC1M, EC4A, EC4M, EC4V

David Barker (Ind)
John Edwards (Ind)
Ciara Murphy (Ind)
Paul O’Brien (Lab)
Emma Palmer (Ind)
Virginia Rounding (Ind)