Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Lancaster Freewomen are on the Roll

Last Saturday saw Lancaster's first six Freewomen of the City admitted onto what is now the Roll of the Freemen and Freewomen of Lancaster, at a historic session of the 2011 Court of Admissions. The Ceremony took place in the Council Chamber of Lancaster Town Hall.

The Court was presided over by the Right Worshipful Mayor of the City of Lancaster, Councillor Paul Woodruff, who entered dressed in his ceremonial robes, preceded to his throne by the Great Mace. Ceremonial has it that when the Mayor is seated the Mace should be placed horizontally in front of him, with the crown to the Mayor's right. The Mace is only reversed in the presence of Royalty. So if you ever see it with the crown to the left, you'll know why. Its gleaming gold really sets off the antique panelling.

The City Council's Chief Executive, Mr Mark Cullinan, presented the history of the Roll of Freemen, since its origin in 1900, He gave an account of subsequent changes to the criteria for admission to the Roll and the timely reasons behind those changes.

He went on to present the latest amendment to the admissions criteria, noting its historical significance as it meant women being admitted to the Roll for the first time, as the daughters of Freemen or Freewoman. In conclusion he outlined the proposed procedures that will, possibly by 2012, remove gender discrimination from all the criteria.

The 2011 applicants were presented and later enrolled in the following order:

Scott Preston, Ellen Brockbank, Roger Sherlock, Lisa Vines, Wendy Newbery, Kerry Mason, Julie Taylor and Deborah Mason. Each had to have their identity vouched for by a supporting witness. The court was impressed when Julie Taylor's (very) young son stood to vouch for his mother.

All the applicants swore to a very long and complicated oath, involving loyalty to those in the state chain of command from the City Council up to the Queen, with a rider requirement to report secret gatherings of insurrectionists if they should come across any.

The order of entry on the Roll was determined by a draw from the Beadle's Hat, a stately topper, and so the honour of being Lancaster's First Freewoman of the City fell to Ellen Brockbank. Ellen, an 18 year old student at Ripley St Thomas School in Lancaster, is also Lancaster's youngest Freewoman.

Councillor Roger Sherlock was also admitted as a Freeman of the City, having been a citizen of Lancaster for seven years (and then some), as was Scott Preston, who was born in the RLI, which falls within the City boundary.

Lisa Vines, Lancaster's second Freewoman to be admitted, also assisted the Court in her role as Civic Support Officer, guiding her fellow applicants with her through the ceremony, from arrival through to the tea and biscuits. To top it off she then shared with us an expert guided history of some of the Town Hall artefacts around us.

I asked several of the new Freewomen what had prompted their applications. In every case the response was based on a sense of history. The recorded history of families within a community. They are, in their way, participants in a longitudinal study of a place, its community, its trades and its heritage.

Kerry and Deborah Mason, sisters, introduced me to their father, Freeman R J Mason. Freeman Mason Sr qualified by serving a seven year apprenticeship to a Freeman. There is also a brother who is a Freeman. They are almost a full Free Family. Except, that is, for the one in the middle of the chain. If the criteria for admission were amended to remove the gender discriminatory condition entirely, their mother, for example and if she had the wish, could also apply for admission, thus becoming visible to the record.

Freeman Mason Sr expressed a slight worry that the £13 Marsh Grass, his annual Freeman payment, should have to be stretched so far (confirming all my worst suspicions) but I think he could just have been pulling my leg!-)

Image: The new Freemen and Freewomen of the City who were admitted on July 9 2011.
Back Row
Wendy Newbery, Chief Executive Mark Cullinan, Kerry Mason, Deborah Mason, Lisa Vines, Scott Preston
Front Row
Roger Sherlock, Ellen Brockbank, Mayor of Lancaster Coun Paul Woodruff, Mayoress Dee Wodruff, Julie Taylor

See previous Virtual-Lancaster reports
'Council to invite applications for Freewomen of the City' and
'Lancaster's first Freewomen of the City to be admitted this Saturday.'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done and Thank You to Virtual Lancaster for covering this story. I'm the Dad of Ellen Brockbank who was the first Freewoman to be entered onto the roll and without the coverage by VL we wouldn't have known about it. It's a bit of a tradition in our family to become Freemen of the city and my Dad would have been really proud of Ellen. I don't think Ellen yet realises the importance of her becoming the first woman entered on the roll but I'm sure in time she will.
Thanks again.
Ian Brockbank.