The Mayorality of Appleby
Appleby received a charter from Henry II in 1179, conferring on the town the same borough rights as those enjoyed by York. Medieval Appleby returned two Members of Parliament, hosted Assize Courts and was ruled by a Corporation, at the head of which was the town Mayor, annually chosen by the Common Councillors and Aldermen. The Mayor was the town’s first citizen and presided over meetings of the Council, working in conjunction with the Town Clerk, the principal officer of the Corporation. It imposed local bye-laws regarding trading standards, charged tolls on traffic through the town and ran the Borough Market and Whitsuntide Fair.
The first Mayor whose name is recorded was Robert de Goldington, c.1264. From the late 14th Century, we have a continuous sequence, some of whom remained in office for several years, others for one year only. The Appleby Mayoral year now conforms with the practice of councils up and down in the country in beginning in May; but for most of the town’s history Mayor and Corporation took office in October. One of the Mayor’s most important functions was to act as returning officer in Parliamentary borough elections. Votes in Appleby were attached to particular properties, known as burgage plots. In practice the Mayor’s power to influence the result was restricted by the competing aristocratic families who owned large parts of the town: Cliffords, and later Tuftons; Whartons and later Lowthers. They usually agreed on one nominee each, so there was rarely a contest.