Freemen of the Town

Until 1835 only freemen were legally allowed to trade and vote in the borough and parliamentary elections. 

Freedom of the town was acquired by birth, marriage, apprenticeship, purchase or gift.

By birth –  Every son of a Freeman born within the parish and after his father has become free, is entitled to his freedom.

By marriage – Every man who has married a freeman’s daughter, born within the parish and after her father has become free, is entitled to his freedom. The husband must be an inhabitant within the parish at the time of his admission. 

The husband keeps his freedom on the death of his wife.

The wife can enfranchise other husbands.

By apprenticeship – A seven years apprenticeship to a freeman, resident within the parish, entitles a man to his freedom. Service to a widow after the masters death would not entitle the apprentice to his freedom.

By purchase – The freedom may be obtained by paying £5 to the corporation.

By gift  – The freedom has sometimes been given as a compliment. There is a bye-law in 1708 that the mayor, three jurats and four common council might present a freedom to commanders of the monarchs ships and merchant vessels, and to officers of the army not under the rank of captain.