Chester City Council
What comprised Chester City Council varied over time. The city’s charter of c.1190-93 (earlier examples survive) confirms the citizens’ guild merchant, another of the same period confirms the citizens’ liberties and free customs and another, dated c.1208-18, confirms to the earl’s men of Chester sole right of trading in the city. Until the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, the governing body of Chester Corporation was the Assembly. Chester was the first English town to have a sheriff, he being mentioned in a charter granted to St Werburgh’s Abbey by Ranulph I, Earl of Chester (c. 1121-29). The Mayor’s office is similarly long standing, a reference to the mayor of Chester being contained in a request from Henry III to ‘the mayor and others of Chester’ in 1244 to lend money to the justice of Chester ‘for the defence of the king’s castles and land and the grievances of the king’s enemies’.
Under the Municipal Corporations Act local government in Chester was reformed so that councillors were elected by the ratepayers. Initially, the city was divided into five wards each returning six councillors. The thirty councillors elected ten aldermen who were each to serve for six years. Councillors and aldermen elected the mayor and single sheriff annually. Because of various boundary changes, by 1974, the number of aldermen and councillors had increased to fourteen and forty two respectively. In the reorganisation of local government in 1974, following the Local Government Act, 1972, aldermen were abolished, but the new Council consisting of sixty members still elected a mayor and sheriff annually. After 1835, the Council delegated much of its work to permanent committees of councillors and aldermen and to other special committees set up as necessary. After 1974, the permanent committees were reorganised and in some instances renamed, to reflect the new powers and functions of the Council. Although the term 'Corporation' is used until 1974, Chester acquired county borough status under the Local Government Act, 1888.
Chester City Council was superceded by the new unitary authority of Cheshire West and Chester Council in April 2009.
The history of the city of Chester is well represented by the city’s archives, which are rich and varied and include the following records:
- Charters (Cheshire Archives and Local Studies reference ZCH)
- Cartularies (ZCHB)
- Corporation deeds (ZCHD)
- Charities (ZCHC)
- Mayoralty (ZM)
- Shrievalty (ZS)
- Treasurers (ZT; ZCAS; ZCAP)
- Murengers (ZM)
- Town Clerk (ZT)
- Assembly (ZA)
- Council and its committees (ZC)
- Special and joint committees (ZCCF)
- Voluntary committees (ZCCF)
- Departmental records (ZD)