The Honorary Freedom of the Borough

Suffolks 1944
The Suffolk Regiment receiving Freedom of the Borough 1944

Royal Anglians 1963
The East Anglian Regiment receiving Freedom of the Borough 1963

J R Hartley Scroll
The official Freedom of the Borough Scroll presented to James Ronald Hartley
Click here for a larger image

Before the year 1835 Freemen existed in many Boroughs as a constituent part of the Corporation. Freemen enjoyed special rights, dependent on local customs, such as rights of pasturage on corporate land and exemptions from certain tolls and dues.

In Bury St Edmunds, a bye-law was passed in 1607 which showed that only those who were Freemen of the Borough were entitled to set up in business. Throughout the 17th century and into the 18th century it remained the case that the Freedom was an essential requirement for any sort of trader in the town. As the 18th century wore on, fewer men were admitted to the Freedom. By about 1800, only those people who had ambitions to join the Corporation sought the Freedom. Attorneys who wished to practice in the Borough Courts still needed to be Freemen.

Since the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 Borough Councils have continued to be given the power to appoint Freemen but the law has gradually reduced the privileges associated with that office.

The Local Government Act, 1972, introduced the major change in powers and structures of local authorities which instituted St Edmundsbury Borough Council in 1974, and continued this power. Borough Councils can admit to be Honorary Freemen of the Borough persons of distinction, and persons who have rendered eminent services to the Borough. This is usually carried out at a specially convened meeting of the whole Council, with all due ceremony, and an illuminated scroll is usually presented to the recipient.

In the situation where a regiment or RAF station is admitted as a Freeman, tradition also allows the military unit to parade in the town with fixed bayonets, regimental band playing, and colours flying.

"The Freedom" is the highest tribute that a Borough can bestow, and although in modern times it is an honour only and confers no legal rights, Honorary Freemen are invariably invited to take part in all important ceremonial occasions in the Borough.


FreemenDate of Conferment
Awarded by the Former Borough of Bury St Edmunds
The Right Honourable Sir William Purdie Treloar, Lord Mayor of London1907
Edward William Lake, JP1909
George Gery Milner-Gibson-Cullum, MA, FSA, DL, JP1911
Owen Aly Clark, Alderman of the Borough1919
Field Marshal Viscount Allenby, KCB, GCMB, C in C of the British Army in Egypt and Palestine1920
Lt-Col the Honorable Walter Edward Guinness, DSO, MP, Under-Secretary of State for War1923
John Ridley Hooper, JP1934
Joseph Maitland Wilson, CBE, JP1934
Edward Lancelot Dewe Lake, TD, JP1937
The Most Honorable Rear Admiral Frederick William Fane, Fourth Marquis of Bristol, MVO1943
The Suffolk Regiment1944
Miss Muriel Dewe Lake1946
Field Marshal the Lord Wilson of Libya and Stowlangtoft, GCB, GBE, DSO, ADC1947
Ernest Stork, DSO, MB., JP, Borough Medical Officer of Health1948
358 (Suffolk Yeomanry) Medium Regiment RATA1953
1st East Anglian Regiment (now the 1st [Royal Norfolk and Suffolk] Bn, Royal Anglian Regiment)1963
The Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry (as reorganised April 1967)1967
Robert Arthur Cecil Olle, Alderman of the Borough1968
George Henry Pemberton, Alderman of the Borough1968
Ernest William Steward, MBE, JP1968
Frederick George Banks, Alderman of the Borough1970
Royal Air Force Honington1972
Awarded by the St Edmundsbury Borough Council
Lt Gen Sir Richard Goodwin, KCB, CBE, DSO, DL1978
John William Henry Knight, OBE, Councillor of the Borough1991
Eric George Steele OBE, JP, Councillor of the Borough1993
The Lady Miriam Hubbard1995
James Ronald Hartley, Councillor of the Borough1999
The Third Air Force of the United States of America (Click for more details)2000
The Normandy Veterans Association (1944) Bury St Edmunds and District Branch Number 352004
All residents of the Borough of St Edmundsbury who served in the armed forces of the Allied Powers during the Second World War2005
677 (Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry) Squadron Army Air Corps (Volunteers)2006
Sheila Kathleen Wormleighton, MBE2007
Sir Eldon Wylie Griffiths, MA (Cantab.), MA (Yale)2007
3 Regiment, Army Air Corps, Wattisham2010
David Lockwood JP, Councillor of the Borough2012
Nigel Baber Aitkens - Honorary Alderman2012
Dr Elizabeth Ann Williams, B.Sc., Ph.D., O.B.E. formerly of West Suffolk College2014
HMS Vengeance, Vanguard-class strategic nuclear submarine.2017
TS St Edmund (Mayor’s Own) Sea Cadet Corps2017

Prepared for the St Edmundsbury History Project by
David Addy

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