The City of London constitutes 25 wards. The wards are ancient and their number has only changed three times since their creation in time immemorial. Survivors of the mediaeval governmental system that allowed very small areas to exist as self-governing units within the wider city, the wards are both electoral/political sub-divisions and permanent ceremonial, geographic and administrative entities within the City.
The words “Without” and “Within” indicated whether the ward (or part of it) fell outside or inside the protective wall around the City.
Regardless of size, each ward elects one Alderman plus a number of Common Councilmen, the number broadly depending on the size of the electorate. Only electors who are Freemen are eligible to stand for office.
The Alderman is the most senior official or representative in the ward. Each Ward has a Beadle, an ancient elected office that is now largely ceremonial. The Beadle accompanies the Alderman on the eight high ceremonial occasions in the City's civic calendar and in attending to call to order the wardmote, an annual meeting in each ward of electors, representatives and officials.
There are also ward clubs, which are similar to residents' associations found elsewhere in the country.
Particular churches, livery halls and other historic buildings, structures and institutions are associated with specific wards, such as St Paul's Cathedral with Castle Baynard ward, Vintners' Hall with Vintry ward, the insurance markets (especially Lloyd's) with Lime Street ward, and London Bridge with Bridge ward.
The City of London Police use the wards in their day-to-day neighbourhood policing, as well as in recording crime and other statistics, each ward having a constable assigned, known as the Ward Constable.