Hereford City Heritage
The Mayor’s Chain
These are of three types. Hereditary freeman is a self-explanatory title. Freedom of Entry is given to various branches of the armed forces associated with Hereford, some which regiments no longer exist or have been amalgamated into larger units, but include present day bodies such as the S.A.S., the ceremony granting them this honour being an occasion of some secrecy. In general, such a freedom can be celebrated as appropriate with bands playing and flags flying by the body concerned.
This note deals with Honorary Freedoms, being by law the highest honour that can be bestowed on persons who have given eminent service to the City. Notable holders have included Lord Nelson (also a freeman of Worcester City), the Poet Laureate John Masefield, John Paul Getty, the explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell, and the artist John Ward. The list also has on it many members (and occasionally officers) who have served the Council diligently for many years.
Among the elements included in the Charge to admitted freemen are that ‘you must be prepared as well by day as by night armed with weapons fitting your degree whenever you shall be warned by the Mayor or hear the ringing of our common bell for the tuition of the City or the tranquillity of the citizens abiding in the same.’ Tuition is used in its original meaning of guardianship, and the common bell refers to that of St. Peter’s, traditionally the Town Hall church. Its ringing had a twofold purpose, firstly that any vagabond or night walkers in the City were liable to be incarcerated overnight at the pleasure of the Chief Baillie (the predecessor in title of the present Mayor). Secondly it had the function of warning of any catastrophe befalling the City such as a major fire‘ civil strife, sedition or enemies approaching the City. If a freeman did not answer the call to arms in such circumstances, he was accounted a rebel and a perjured person.
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