History of the Mayor
The earliest record of a mayor and officers for Walsall occurs in 1377.
15th century to the Civil War period
By the mid-15th century, the mayor alone was responsible for admitting new burgesses. From at least the late 1490s the mayor accounted annually for the admission fees which he received from new burgesses. An ordinance of about 1500 refers to the high steward, the mayor and a council of 25 (subsequently 24). An ordinance of 1501-2 insisted upon annual accounting by the retiring mayor.
A set of ordinances from between 1510 and 1520 refer to the appointment of the mayor and other officers at the manor court. There was to be a meeting of the burgesses probably once a year to assist the mayor and officers in the governing of the town. During the fifteenth century the guild of St. John the Baptist became involved in the government of the town. The guildhall became the Town Hall.
At first most of the borough's income came from fines and admission fees but there was a town estate by 1626. Part of it was at Bascote, Long Itchington, Warwickshire. This was not finally sold until 1918.
In the early seventeenth century the borough claimed to be a borough by prescription. However, disputes with the Lord of the Manor suggested the need for a formal charter. This was acquired in 1627 after the borough was bequeathed the money to pay for it. The charter appointed mayor and 24 capital burgesses. The mayor was to be elected from among the 24 annually and the 24 were to be self-perpetuating. There was provision for a deputy mayor. The mayor could appoint and swear two serjeants-at-mace. The mayor and others were to act as justices of the peace. Further ordinances in 1647 dealt with the election of the mayor and penalties for mayors who refused to serve or did not present their accounts.
During the Civil War one mayor bought off the royalist princes Rupert and Maurice when they sought aid for the King, and another mayor put the King's officers in prison when they came to recruit.
Restoration of the 1627 charter
In 1680-81 there was a crisis. Due to illness, the mayor dispersed the 1680 Michaelmas meeting of the capital burgesses before a successor was chosen. He remained mayor but did not act. A new charter was sought but not obtained partly due to disputes in the town. Finally, in 1688, the 1627 charter was restored and remained in force until 1835.
During the 18th century it was difficult to find people to serve as mayor or members of the corporation. This was due to an increase in administrative duties and their cost. Entertainment, however, became more lavish.
Mayors failed to deal with rioting in the town in 1749 and 1751. In 1793 the mayor only acted after a threat of proceedings against him.
The mayor was one of the improvement commissioners established under an act of 1824. Under the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act a new borough was established with aldermen and elected councillors. There was a mayor, town clerk and treasurer. The mayor's office became more of a ceremonial post rather than the leader of the council.
The mayor's parlour
The guildhall was rebuilt around 1773, and by the end of the 18th century it included a mayor's parlour. The rebuilding of 1865-7 also included a parlour.
The current parlour is in the council house, which was built between 1902 and 1905.