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Summary Article: alderman
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Anglo-Saxon term for the noble governor of a shire; after the Norman Conquest the office was replaced with that of sheriff. From the 19th century aldermen were the senior members of the borough or county councils in England and Wales, elected by the other councillors, until the abolition of the office in 1972. The title is still used in the City of London as well as for members of a municipal corporation with powers of legislation in certain towns in the USA, where the functions vary according to the individual charters.

In Britain in more recent times aldermen were members of county, town, and city corporations, and held certain powers in local affairs. The Local Government Act 1933 provided that one-half of the total numbers of the aldermen of a council had to retire in every third year, being the year in which councillors are elected. Although the office of alderman was abolished by the Local Government Act 1972, it was retained in the City of London and on the Greater London Council until 1977 and in the London boroughs until 1978. The title of honorary alderman can be conferred on former councillors, but does not entitle the holder to sit on the council.

The title of alderman was held by various distinguished people, and in the very earliest times they came next to the king. These aldermen were nobles by birth and their office was both civil and military. There were also special titles applicable to certain offices, such as aldermannus totius Angliae and aldermannus regis. They seem to have been at the height of their power during the reign of Alfred the Great and from then until the Norman Conquest the nature of the office gradually changed, until the word was applied to men holding certain municipal offices.

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