Annual civic services

Annual civic services

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

We're reviewing all civic services due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

What civic services are

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.

Civil services calendar

  • January: 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 
  • November: All Saints Day (Lord Mayors Chapel)
  • November: Remembrance Day  (Cenotaph)

Rush Sunday Service

Venue: St. Mary Redcliffe Church
Viewing: The procession can be viewed in the area of the church entrance from Redcliffe Way.
Service: Open to invitees and parishioners.
Date: Whitsunday at 11am

The Rush Sunday Civic Service was first introduced by William Canynge, who was Mayor of Bristol five times. 
The service takes its name from the rushes and herbs that are strewn on the floor.

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, which originally 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.

The Lord Mayor travels in AE1, the first car registration given to the city of Bristol, to be greeted on arrival by a  mounted police escort. The arrival of the Lord Mayor  in the Church is greeted with a fanfare from the City Trumpeters.

Roman Catholic Civic Service

Venue: Clifton Cathedral
Service: Open to invitees and parishioners

This service was added to the List of Annual Civic Services in 1970 when Alderman Willcox was Lord Mayor. 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 or Consort, former Lord Mayors, Honorary Aldermen, members of the Bench and Bristol City Council officers. When the Lord Mayor arrives in AE1 they're greeted on arrival by the Mace Escort and City Swordbearer.

Free Church Service

Venue: Various churches
Service: 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.  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

Venue: Bristol Cathedral, College Green
Service: Open to invitees and parishioners.

The service usually held at Bristol Cathedral and is coordinated by the High Sheriff of Bristol. 

It 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

Venue: The Lord Mayor's Chapel, College Green
Service: Private service for Councillors and Honorary Aldermen only
When: 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 Sunday

The traditional parade did not take place and there was no service at the Cenotaph on Sunday, 8 November.

This was because of COVID-19 and Government guidance. 

The Act of Remembrance was carried out as part of a pre-recorded service filmed at HMS Flying Fox, the Royal Naval Reserve Unit in the south of the city.

People were encouraged to pay their respects at home by:

  • observing the national two-minute silence from their gardens or directly outside their houses at 11am
  • following the pre-recorded service at 11am on the Council’s social media channels and webpage.
  • displaying a poppy poster in their window
  • perhaps share readings or listen to music in their homes or online with friends and family

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.