Recorder of London: History
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The Recorder of London is an ancient legal office in the City of London. The Recorder of London is appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the City of London Corporation with the concurrence of the Lord Chancellor. The Recorder is the senior Circuit Judge at the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey), hearing trials of criminal offences. The Recorder's deputy is the Common Serjeant of London, appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. The current Recorder of London is Nicholas Hilliard QC.

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1. Background

The Central Criminal Court, commonly called the Old Bailey after the street on which it is located.

The first Recorder of London was appointed in 1298. Originally it seems likely that the Recorder would have recorded pleas in the court of the Lord Mayor and the aldermen and delivered their judgments. A charter granted by Henry VI in 1444 appointed the Recorder ex officio a conservator of the peace. The Recorder increasingly exercised judicial functions in the following years, eventually becoming the principal judge in the City of London.

The Recorder of London became a judge at the Central Criminal Court when it was created by Parliament in 1834. The Central Criminal Court became a Crown Court under the Courts Act 1971, but the Recorder maintained his position when the office of recorder in other cities became honorary positions.

2. Functions

In addition to hearing criminal trials at the Central Criminal Court, the Recorder of London is responsible for managing the court lists and allocation of cases to the court's judges. He also provides legal advice to the Lord Mayor and the Court of Aldermen.

The Recorder takes charge of the election of the Lord Mayor of London, declares the result, and presents the new Lord Mayor for the monarch's approval, first to the Lord Chancellor, and then to the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls (at the Royal Courts of Justice on the day of the Lord Mayor's Show). On the occasion of a state visit, the Recorder usually presents an Address of Welcome on behalf of the City.

The Recorder of London is the returning officer at the election of the Verderers of Epping Forest, and is usually appointed high steward of Southwark, holding the sitting of the three courts leet there each year.

The Recorder can act as the deputy of the Common Serjeant in the election of the Sheriff and their presentation to the Queen's Remembrancer at the Quit Rent ceremony.

The current Recorder is Nicholas Hilliard, QC, who succeeded Brian Barker QC in January 2015.

3. List of Recorders of London

(before 1495 may not be complete)

The content is sourced from:


  1. According to Henry Machyn, Cholmley's funeral (as Recorder) was in 1563. See J.G. Nichols (ed.), The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London, Camden Society (London 1848), Original Series Vol. XLII, p. 307.
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