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Freemen of England & Wales


The origins of the Freedom are lost in the mists of time, but for many generations the Freemen or Burgesses formed the governing bodies of almost all the Boroughs of the land. To be a Freeman was a prize eagerly sought by any who sought to prosper within his community, but the jealously guarded privileges gained were often matched by the onerous responsibilities of local government. The Freedom could be gained in several ways. Patrimony allowed the freedom to pass from father to son. Servitude, by an apprentice, gave the Freedom on completion of his time, to a tradesman. Redemption was a means of purchase. These routes remain open to aspiring candidates even now, but local customs do vary considerably so that caution is recommended. Although the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 transferred local government from the Freemen to Councils elected by a wider franchise, the Freedom was maintained by Guilds in many places, often due to its property and charitable functions, which remain and flourish to this day. The Association was formed in 1966 in order to provide nourishment and mutual support to member Guilds and individual Freemen. It is now widely recognised as the authority on all matters concerning the Freedom. The 'Freemen of England and Wales' is an association of guilds (gilds) or similar bodies, and of individual freemen, from towns and cities throughout England and Wales. To advance by research and publication, knowledge of the history and legal custom of the boroughs of England and Wales, and of the legal institution of the freedom.

To support and protect the legal institution of the freedom, within each of those several places in England and Wales being former boroughs where that institution is to be found.

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