Annual Civic Services

Diary 2015

  • Sunday 31 January: Roman Catholic Civic Service
  • Sunday 6 March: Lord Mayor’s Annual Civic Service (LM Chapel) (PM Service)
  • Sunday 15 May: Rush Sunday Civic Service
  • Sunday 26 June: Free Church Civic Service
  • Sunday 16 October: Legal Sunday Civic Service
  • Tuesday 1 November: All Saint's Day
  • Sunday 13 November: Remembrance Day

Annual Civic Services

Civic ceremonies 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, the legal profession etc, with the church. Some of these ceremonies have been celebrated for hundreds of years and we explain the origins of them on this page.

The ceremonies 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.

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. He was one of the richest merchants in Bristol in the 15th century and after he completed the restoration of the church, 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 is 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 8 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 from the Mansion House to the church in the Landau carriage with a mounted police escort. He 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 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 and 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 sixty members of council attended. After the Queen's visit to Bristol in 1977 the council was allowed to use the ceremonial sword and carriage for the service.

The present service is attended by the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, former Lord Mayors, Honorary Aldermen, members of the Bench and Bristol City Council officers. In previous years (until 1994) the Landau carriage took the Lord Mayor from the Mansion House accompanied by the City Swordbearer. The Mace Escort attends at the Cathedral.

Free Church Service

Venue: Various churches
Service: Open to invitees and parishioners.

Held on a Sunday at the end of June/beginning of July at various churches throughout the city with the Moderator of the Bristol Free Church Council preaching. The first service was held before 1950.

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

Legal Sunday Service

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

The service at Bristol Cathedral 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 came into being.

The service is attended by the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, 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 by carriage from the Mansion House accompanied by the City Swordbearer, with the Mace Escort and City Trumpeters at the Cathedral.

The service starts at 10.30/11am and is followed by coffee at the church.

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, All Saints' Day at the Lord Mayor's Chapel. It is attended by the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, Honorary Aldermen, and members of the council.

The service commences at 8.30 a.m.

Remembrance Day Parade and Service

Venue: Cenotaph, City Centre
Service: 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. It is jointly organised by the Lord Mayor's office and the Royal British Legion (troops, band and cannon) at the Cenotaph on the city centre.

The Lord Mayor travels by Landau carriage from the Mansion House accompanied by the City Swordbearer, the Lord Mayor's Consort and a Mounted Police Escort to the Lord Mayor's Chapel. The Lord Lieutenant joins the Lord Mayor in the carriage and they are also joined by the Mace Bearers, two cadets and the Civic Procession from the City Centre to the Cenotaph.

The service includes 2 minutes silence from 11am to11.02 am and is attended by The Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, former Lord Mayors , Honorary Aldermen, Bristol City Council officers, MPs, the Lord Lieutenant and the Deputy Lieutenants, High Sheriff of Bristol, Magistrates and troops.

Remembrance Sunday Service Sheet 2015 (pdf, 20 KB) (opens new window)

Contact information

The Lord Mayor's Office

The Mansion House, Clifton Down

Bristol, BS8 3LJ

Opening Hours

Opening Hours

Monday to Thursday: 8.30am to 5.00pm
Fridays: 8.30am to 4.30pm

Email: lordmayor@bristol.gov.uk

Tel: 0117 903 1450

Fax: 0117 903 1454