The Early Mayors of Cardiff


The first Mayor of Cardiff is listed by the County Borough Records as Ralph “Prepositus de Kardi” who took up office in 1126. 


The title “Mayor” is misleading since his main function would have been as military governor of Cardiff Castle. The Mayoralty and the Castle remained closely linked for over 700 years. William Herbert, a sixteenth century Mayor, was the “Constable, Gatekeeper, Steward and Chamberlain of Cardiff” as well as holding up other important offices. 


The appointment of the town’s Mayor (as well as its MP) was at the discretion of the Lord of the Castle who ensured that his Constable held this office. This feudal arrangement, which was later proved to have no legal basis, continued until 1835 when the Municipal Corporations Act became law. 


The First Elected Mayor


In 1835, during the second Marquess of Bute’s Lordship, the first council elections were held. At the first meeting of the new council Thomas Revel Guest became the first elected Mayor of Cardiff and consequently Judge of the Borough Court of Record. 


Very few descriptions of the 19th Century Mayor’s duties survive although they would certainly have presided at public sittings in the Town Hall as well as being actively involved in Poor Law administration apprenticing children, dealing with vagrancy, and considering petitions from the needy.


Their agenda would have also included regular visits to the County Gaol and heading official delegations to ensure that new regulations were observed in the Borough. It may be assumed that this had been the practice for many years before 1835 and that the Municipal Corporations Act had little effect on the role of Mayor. 


By the end of the century the Mayor was becoming increasingly prominent as the town’s chief representative at official functions. The list of principal events in the Mayoralty of S. A. Brain (Mayor 1899-1900), records his involvement in the visit of the Minister of the Interior of Canada, the “Relief of Mafeking” demonstration, the ceremony to grant the Honorary Freedom of the County Borough to Major-General Baden-Powell and a “treat to 3,000 waifs and strays in Park Hall”. 


Mayors during this period were actively involved in organising charitable funds, and part of the Mayor’s ‘salary’ was reserved for charitable donations. 


Cardiff’s First Lord Mayor


When Cardiff was granted city status in 1905 Cardiff’s First Citizen became ‘Lord Mayor’, Robert Hughes, Mayor in 1904, was re-elected to become Cardiff’s first Lord Mayor the following year. The Lord Mayor was granted the right to the style “The Right Honourable” – a courtesy title shared only with the Lord Mayors of London, Belfast and York.