Town Clerk's Office, Church Lane, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 7AD

Freemen of Town

Freedom of the Boroughs

The origin of the Freedom of Cities and Boroughs dates back to the early Roman Empire when to be “born free” as a Citizen of Rome contained many privileges and rights superior to those of any other city, although it did not secure exemption from taxation.

This distinction was continued in the very early history of Britain in the Saxon constitution until about 600AD. Upon the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror introduced the feudal system, and in 1069 he granted the Burgesses of London a charter guaranteeing them their ancient laws and privileges.

Even in Saxon times “Guilds” of men of the same trade existed for mutual aid and protection, which was continued by the Normans, and the members were Freemen who were admitted only after a long apprenticeship.

In many ancient Cities which had been granted charters by successive sovereigns none but Freemen were allowed to trade wholesale and retail, which was, perhaps, their greatest privilege. Freedom could be secured originally in three ways – by patrimony, Apprenticeship of Redemption – but of more recent years, admission would be claimed by gift or marriage, and Freemen’s Courts were held until towards the end of the last century for admission of  Freemen, which conferred a right to a parliamentary vote, and in some towns exemption from tolls and dues according to the ancient customs retained by charter.

Before the Representation of the People Act 1832, in many Parliamentary Boroughs the Electors consisted solely of the Freemen. By virtue of the Municipal Corporation Act 1835, the Freemen ceased as such to form a part of the body corporate.  The Act, however, respected existing usages and retained a right to share in the corporate property, commons and public stock. Freedom by gift and purchase are now abolished and birth, serviture or  marriage only, entitle one to be entered on the “Freeman’s Roll”.

It was the practice to confer the honorary Freedom of the Borough as a mark of distinction upon a person whom the Council wishes to honour because he is a person of distinction, or one who has rendered eminent services to the Borough. It was first recognised by the Honorary Freedom of Boroughs Act 1855, now replaced by the Local Government Act 1933.

It does not confer any of the benefits previously possessed by Freemen: but the rare distinction of the honour of Freedom in more recent times is a reflection of the value and importance that accrued to it in ancient times socially and financially, and the credit and reputation of it is thus preserved and recognised in honorary promotion for eminent services at the present day.

The practice of conferring the honorary “Freedom of Entry” upon Regiments is a fairly recent one; indeed the earliest grant appears to have been in December 1943, when the Corporation of Sheffield conferred the honour upon the York and Lancaster Regiment.    However, its roots lie deep in the history of local and central government; indeed it affords an interesting example of the power and influence of the old boroughs and cities in relation to central government in the past. Of these, the cities of Edinburgh and London are the most notable.

When the Army required more men, the custom was to send a recruiting officer and party to various towns, and draw public attention by the steady beat of a drum.  In these cities – and there were others – permission had to be obtained by the Army from the Corporation to enter and “beat the drum”.  This permission came to be granted “in solemn form”.  It was also necessary to obtain the consent of the Corporation before troops could march through towns.  Hence arose the practice of conferring, as a matter of honour upon individual Regiments the right “to march through the town with bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying”.  From these ancient practices, the modern grant of “Freedom of Entry” can be traced.

Blandford Soldiers who fought in the Boer War1901 – 1903
Jack T Counter19th June 1918
Sir Robert Baden Powell17th April 1929
Lady Baden Powell17th April 1929
Alderman Miss E G Castleman-Smith20th November 1935
W H Wilson Esq14th June 1949
W J Newman Esq8th December 1953
The Dorset Regiment18th November 1955
Alderman B C Hunt1st November 1956
C K Lavington Esq14th November 1970
The Royal Corps of Signals13th October 1972
The Devonshire & Dorset Regiment16th June 1983
Gwendoline Florence Lane5th March 1988
Agnes Audrey Williams5th March 1988
Dr David Harries Davies13th April 1991
Reverend Raymond Oliver Balmer11th September 1995
Cyril E Hill12th May 2000
The Queen’s Gurkha Signals11th September 2005
Peter J Warrington15th November 2005
Daphne Alner15th November 2005
Heather Bracewell11th May 2007
The Rifles Regiment15th October 2007
Carole A Sharp27th May 2011
Jackie Vacher10th May 2013
Cllr Esme Butler25th May 2018 (posthumously)
Dr Michael Le Bas24th May 2019


To honour Blandford Soldiers who fought in the Boer War.

Lt R.G. Cave26 February 1901
Lt V.L. Gordon26 February 1901
Sgt W.F. Harris26 February 1901
Trooper Sharp26 February 1901
Trooper Barnes26 February 1901
Trooper F. Walters (1)26 February 1901
Trooper Walters (2)26 February 1901
Trooper Butler (1)26 February 1901
Trooper Butler (2)26 February 1901
Trooper Lithgow26 February 1901
Trooper Inram26 February 1901
Trooper Crofton26 February 1901
Trooper Wheeler26 February 1901
Private C. Phelps26 February 1901
Private March26 February 1901
Private Meadon26 February 1901
Private Robbins26 February 1901
Private E. Goddard26 February 1901
Mr Forrester18 June 1901
Rt Hon. Sir Redvers H. Buller01 December 1902
Trooper P.E. Payne19 May 1903
Trooper G.L. George19 May 1903
Sgt W. Moss19 May 1903
Trooper A. E. Neale19 May 1903
Corp A. H Taylor19 May 1903
Driver F. Brockway19 May 1903

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