Annual civic services

Annual civic services

Find out what civic events the Lord Mayor will be attending this year

Civic services are rich in the history and traditions of Bristol and commemorate key events in the Christian calendar and in national life.

They represent the coming together of the civic institutions such as Bristol City Council, the police and the legal profession, with the church. Some of these ceremonies have been celebrated for hundreds of years.

The services offer the opportunity for visitors and Bristol citizens to see local dignitaries in their traditional dress and arriving in the time honoured way, often by horse and carriage.

Civic services in 2020

  • February: Roman Catholic Civic Service (Clifton Cathedral) 
  • March: Lord Mayor’s Annual Civic Service (LM Chapel)
  • May: Rush Sunday Civic Service (St Mary Redcliffe)
  • June: Free Church Service
  • October: High Sheriff Legal Civic Service, Cathedral 
  • Monday 2nd November: All Saints Day (Lord Mayors Chapel)
  • Sunday 7th November: Remembrance Day  (Cenotaph)

Rush Sunday Service


St. Mary Redcliffe Church


The procession can be viewed in the area of the church entrance from Redcliffe Way


Open to invitees and parishioners


Whitsunday at 11am


The Rush Sunday Civic Service was first introduced by William Canynge, who was Mayor of Bristol five times. He was one of the richest merchants in Bristol in the 15th century and after he completed the restoration of the church he gave up all his worldly possessions to become a priest. He was ordained in 1468 and sang his first mass at St Mary Redcliffe Church on Whitsunday that year.

It was 25 years later that William Spenser, Mayor of Bristol, instituted the service to commemorate William Canynge, and until the Reformation it was three sermons on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday following Whitsunday.

The service takes its name from the rushes and herbs that are strewn on the floor.

The service is now held on Whitsunday. It’s the most colourful Bristol procession with the City Swordbearer carrying the Pearl Sword wearing his Elizabethan Cap of Maintenance. The Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, and City Councillors wear their scarlet robes and carry posies of spring flowers (originally these were nosegays of herbs for protection against infection). The eight City Maces are carried by an escort of Police Macebearers under command of a Sergeant at Mace.

Rushes are strewn in the aisles of the church, which was described by Queen Elizabeth I as, "the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in the kingdom" in the medieval fashion.

The Lord Mayor travels in AE1 to be greeted on arrival by a  mounted police escort. She joins the Civic Procession from the Undercroft (which is on the lower floor of the church) via Pump Lane and Colston Parade to the West Door. The arrival of the Lord Mayor  in the Church is greeted with a fanfare from the City Trumpeters.

Roman Catholic Civic Service


Clifton Cathedral


Open to invitees and parishioners


This service was added to the List of Annual Civic Services in 1970 when Alderman Willcox was Lord Mayor. It was originally held at the Pro-Cathedral, Cathedral Lane, Clifton Triangle; Bristol's first Roman Catholic Cathedral and the main Catholic church in Bristol for 125 years.

In the first year 60 members of council attended. After the Queen's visit to Bristol in 1977 the council was allowed to use the ceremonial sword for the service.

The present service is attended by the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and Consort, former Lord Mayors, Honorary Aldermen, members of the Bench and Bristol City Council officers. Until 1994, the Landau carriage took the Lord Mayor from the Mansion House accompanied by the City Swordbearer.  Today the Lord Mayor arrives in AE1 to be greeted on arrival by the Mace Escort and City Swordbearer.

Free Church Service


Various churches


Open to invitees and parishioners


The first service was held before 1950, and today it takes place on a Sunday morning at the end of June or beginning of July.  Various churches throughout the city take part, and the Moderator of the Bristol Free Church Council preaches.

The service is attended by the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and Consort, former Lord Mayors, Honorary Aldermen, Members of Council, Magistrates and Bristol City Council officers. The Lord Mayor travels by car accompanied by the City Swordbearer.

Legal Sunday Service


Bristol Cathedral, College Green


Open to invitees and parishioners


The service usually held at Bristol Cathedral  and coordinated by the High Sheriff of Bristol marks the opening of the legal year and the Michaelmas Law Term. It was introduced after 1974 when the Assize Court ceased and Avon County Courts were introduced.

The service is attended by the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and Consort, former Lord Mayors, Honorary Aldermen, Bristol City Council officers, Chairman of the Bench, Queen's Counsel and members of the Junior Bar, Chief Clerk, and the Magistrates. The Lord Mayor travels in AE1 to be met on arrival by the City Swordbearer, with the Mace Escort.

All Saints' Day


The Lord Mayor's Chapel, College Green


Private service for Councillors and Honorary Aldermen only


All Saints' Day at 8.30am


This is a traditional Communion Service on All Saints' Day at the Lord Mayor's Chapel.

The service starts at 8.30 a.m.

It’s attended by the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, Honorary Aldermen, and members of the council.

Remembrance Day Parade and Service


Cenotaph, City Centre


Members of the public are welcome to observe the parade and attend the service


This service has been held on the Sunday nearest the 11th November since 1920 when the Cenotaph was built. 

Military units and other contingents and veterans will be present. There’ll also be civic dignitaries including:

  • Lord Mayor
  • Mayor of Bristol
  • Lord Lieutenant
  • High Sheriff
  • Mayor of the West of England
  • Police and Crime Commissioner
  • Members of Parliament

The service includes two minutes silence from 11am to 11.02am.

Contact information

The Lord Mayor's Office

City Hall

Bristol City Council

PO Box 3399

Bristol, BS1 9NE

Opening Hours

If you want to visit City Hall, you'll need to email us to arrange an appointment.