Thirty-four men and women will be honoured as freemen of the city in a colourful traditional Freemens’ Court on Friday 9 March 2012 from 10.15am in the Council Chamber, City Hall.
This ancient honour dates back to medieval times when freemen were the governing body of the city and would be given trading rights not permitted to ordinary residents.
As the centuries have passed most of the ancient rights and privileges have disappeared, but the freedom right still passes down from parent to child by right of birth. In certain circumstances, apprentices to freemen can also claim the honour.
Lord Mayor of Norwich Councillor Jenny Lay will present the honours, she said: “For many who claim freedom each year, it is an honour awarded to their ancestors that they wish to carry on for future generations of their family. I am also proud to continue this ancient tradition and part of the city's rich heritage and tradition.”
At great fairs and markets freemen were exempt from paying tolls and only freemen could take up an apprenticeship. Other, more unlikely myths claimed that freemen could avoid arrest and be exempt from paying rates.
Today (since 2010) following a change in legislation any woman descended from a Norwich Freemen is also legally entitled to claim to enter the group - an exclusively male honour for 800 years.