The first use of the term 'mayor' in Southampton was in a letter dating to around 1217. At that time the mayor could serve as long as he liked, providing he was in good health and behaved himself. In 1234 one mayor discharged himself from office on the grounds of age and infirmity. Now the mayor is elected annually and serves for just one year.
In very early medieval times the mayor was appointed by the king or queen of the day. Later, he was appointed by the outgoing mayor, however since 1835 the mayor has been elected by councillors. The mayor was often a local tradesman or businessman, for example, Richard Andrews the coachbuilder, who was Mayor of Southampton five times during the 19th century. The first woman mayor was Lucia Foster Welch, who was elected in 1927.
The mayor's duties were many and varied. He presided over the weekly council and over various town courts, supervised regulations controlling trade and industries, managed corporation properties, dispensed poor relief and charity and carried out orders from central government. During the Commonwealth period he could even perform marriages. After 1835 the mayor's role gradually became more ceremonial. The current duties of the mayor range from chairing council meetings to hosting events and engagements.
The list of mayors from 1217 to 2017 is based on the research done by Miss S.D. Thomson when City Archivist. There are some gaps in the record, particularly for the 13th century.