CMCE Showcase 8 Feb:  Ethics and Consultancy
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The experience of taking on the Freedom of the City of London at Guildhall

Sue Whittle consorts with the Guildhall Beadle, the Clerk to the Chamberlain's Court, and repairs to Ironmonger Lane for champagne and banquet...

I know many members of WCOMC will have attended Freedom ‘ceremonies’ but for those that haven’t and especially new members, I thought I’d tell you about my experience of this on January 31st.

If you wish to proceed to Livery within WCOMC, once you have  received the Freedom of the Company,  you need to obtain the Freedom of London first.  This involves two visits to the Chamberlain’s Court in Guildhall about a month apart, the first of which is an application for the freedom in which you present your livery freedom document, birth certificate, marriage certificate and a cheque for £25.   Once your application is approved by the Court of Aldermen you get a letter inviting you to book the second appointment, which is for your ceremony of freedom admission.

I booked mine in for Noon on a Friday because I wanted to have a celebration lunch afterwards with a few special professional contacts, some from the Livery Company, (Past Master Bob Garratt and Sally Garratt plus Noorzaman Rashid, who sadly couldn’t make it on the day), others who had been particularly inspiring and supportive in my professional career, plus my local village Minister and of course other half Robert and Gran!

On the day we arrived early as requested and spent a delightful half hour in the office next to the Chamberlain’s court talking to the Beadle, reading the declarations, looking at the artefacts on show and taking pictures with the sheep sculptures (yes, mention the Freedom to people and you’ll  always  be asked if that means you can drive sheep across London Bridge. The origin of this half-myth is that the 12th Century stone London Bridge was paid for by a tax on wool and as a freeman gained exemption from tolls he would have this right)

We were then called in to meet Murray Craig, Clerk to the Chamberlain's Court and he ran us through what was to happen – basically you read aloud a declaration and sign the Declaration book and are then offered the ‘right hand of fellowship’ by him. The ceremony dates back to medieval times and the original craft guilds which trained the young and looked after the old – and later became liveries. Murray was very entertaining and told us some interesting stories about previous freemen (including ‘The Fonz’ Henry Winkler, Margaret Thatcher, and some ordinary people with fascinating stories).

As well as my splendidly framed certificate I was given  a red book called ‘The rules for life’ which includes 36 of them – most about  doing your duty, doing good works, living by the right principles  and letting your light shine, which chime well with WCOMC values!  We had a chance to look at many more wonderful articles on display and read all about the origins of the ceremony and then it was time for the next person to be called so we headed off to Harry’s Bar in nearby Ironmonger Lane for a glass of champagne (Official Toast ‘to the Youngest Freeman’ - meaning newest) and a 3 course banquet.  Another myth you will be told about is the right of a freeman to be ‘drunk and disorderly in the City without fear of arrest’ but we did not try this out either!

Once a Freeman you are invited to join the Guild of Freemen which brings together Freemen of the City for charitable, educational, social and benevolent activities to promote the interests of the  City of London and I am now considering this as well as Livery status. 

All in all it was a really lovely afternoon and I learnt a lot.

Sue Whittle