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Durham County Council

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Charter Trust and Mayor for Durham City


This page provides information on the charter trust and Mayor for Durham City, which are important functions in the city.

The charter trust

Durham City Council was abolished in 2009. Durham retained its city charter status through the appointment of charter trustees. The trust ensures the continuation of the civic traditions for the City of Durham and is responsible for choosing the Mayor and Deputy Mayor from the appointed trustees. The trustees are county councillors from within the Durham City boundaries. View the Charter trustees for the City of Durham committee details including meetings, minutes, membership and papers.

The current Mayor

The current mayor is Cllr Edward Bell. The mayor's consort is his wife, Cllr Jennifer Bell.

View the Mayor's biographical details (PDF, 140kb).

See a list of the list of former mayors (PDF, 134kb).

Mayor making ceremony

In Durham, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are selected from within the charter trustees and the positions are installed at Mayor Making in May each year.

After being robed and invested with the chain of office, he or she is handed the mayoral seal by the clerk, who then asks the councillor elected to take the oath of acceptance of office. Following that, the election of the Mayor is complete, and the council then proceeds to appoint a Deputy Mayor.

The Mayor's role

The position is non-political and the ceremonial head of the city, and intended to benefit both the city and its citizens. The Mayor may be a major influence in promoting the image and importance of Durham at a local, regional, national and international level. The Mayor should endeavour to focus on promoting the trust's vision and objectives. In turn, the people of Durham continue to have the highest regard for their Mayor, and they will expect the Mayor to carry out a full range of duties on their behalf throughout the area.

The Mayor's role is to:

  • maintain the historical and ceremonial traditions of the office of Mayor
  • promote the city as a place to live and visit
  • promote the city locally, nationally and internationally
  • promote, liaise and link with private and voluntary sector organisations
  • participate in and help initiate activities that enhance the economic social cultural and
  • protect the environmental well-being of the city and its residents 
  • act as host to official visitors to the city 
  • attend civic and ceremonial functions and local community activities as he/she determines appropriate 
  • represent the trust at ceremonial events
  • act as the trust's representative on other occasions as determined by the trust
  • support and raise funds for his/her chosen charity for the mayoral year
  • carry out all duties in a manner appropriate to the status and tradition of the office.

In addition to the ceremonial role, the mayor has the following responsibilities:

  • uphold and promote the purposes of the trust's constitution
  • preside over meetings of the trust and ensure meetings follow the procedures set out in the constitution
  • to be the conscience of the trust.

As part of these diverse duties, there are a number of regular annual events which the Mayor attends during his/her year of office.

Political neutrality

Every mayor must be a councillor, and by definition, a politician, with responsibilities to the electors of his or her electoral division and ties in most instances, to a political group on the county council.   

The convention has been that, during the mayoral year, the Mayor reduces his or her political profile. Mayors generally go out of their way to display their even-handedness in political matters during the year. It would be inappropriate for an individual to be associated with a contentious issue or election process which confuses roles.

Patronages/trusts

As you would expect, the Mayor must be seen to take a lead in all matters that concern the life of the city. The role of Mayor is therefore associated with many societies, charities and organisations either as their vice-president, a trustee or patron.

Mayoral protocol

The mayoral protocol provides information to help organisers of functions at which the Mayor will be in attendance and how to address the Mayor.

The Mayor, as the first citizen of Durham City, 'shall have precedence in the city' unless a member of the Royal Family or Lord Lieutenant is present.

On arrival at the function, the civic party should be met by the chairman or person presiding at the function. Except where the Mayor is asked to take part in a reception, the time of arrival should be approximately five minutes before the function begins. 

The civic party should be accompanied at all times during the function by the chairman or their appointed representative, and accompanied to their car when they leave.

How to address the Mayor of Durham

The correct title for the Mayor is 'The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Durham'. In conversation, you should use 'Mr Mayor', 'Madam Mayor' or 'Mayor'. The correct title for the Mayoress is 'The Mayoress of Durham'. In conversation you should use 'Mayoress' or 'Madam Mayoress'. 

The correct title for the Mayor's consort is 'Mayor's Consort'. In conversation, the lady Mayor's husband/partner should be addressed by name.

The correct title for the Deputy Mayor is 'The Deputy Mayor of Durham'. In conversation, you should use 'Mr Deputy Mayor', 'Madam Deputy Mayor' or 'Deputy Mayor'. The correct title for the Deputy Mayoress is 'The Deputy Mayoress of Durham'. In conversation you should use 'Deputy Mayoress'.

Guild meetings

The Mayor and appropriate officer attend four meetings of the guilds every year. The Deputy Mayor may attend in the absence of the Mayor. Meetings are usually held in the Guildhall.

The Mayor's bodyguard

The Mayor of Durham is the only Mayor outside the City of London who has a mayoral bodyguard of this kind (though similar mayoral or civic processions also continue elsewhere). The bodyguard is a self-governing group, made up of 15 volunteers. 

Locally, the Mayor ranks after the sovereign and the Lord Lieutenant for the county, and his bodyguard pride themselves on having never failed to respond to the Mayor's call to duty. The bodyguard dates back as far as the thirteenth century.

The first Mayor of Durham was appointed in 1602, and the real tradition of the mayoral bodyguard began at that time. The function of the bodyguard in the 17th Century was to collect taxes from the toll gates of the city. The proceeds went into civic coffers, but when the Mayor left office, so did this money. The bodyguard holds an annual meeting on Mayor Making Day (the day of the annual meeting of the trust) when the captain is elected, and the secretary to the bodyguard deals with any vacancy, on which all members have a vote. New members of the bodyguard are sworn in by the Mayor, in front of a meeting of the trust.

More information

The clerk to the charter trustees, Bryan Smith, is available to assist the mayoralty when necessary. Operational support on a day-to-day basis is provided by the Mayor's secretary, Mrs Victoria Richardson. For more information on the Mayor and the charter trust, contact us. You can also find out about the Civic Insignia and Durham Town Hall.