21st January 2020

Secretary Report from The Common Hall 13.1.20

Please find the secretary’s report for The Common Hall which takes place every 5 years at Norwich City Hall by Michael Quinton the Hon. Secretary of The Freemen of Norwich.  For any further questions please contact Michael via secretary@norwichfreemen.org.uk.



As is always the custom for our Common Halls, this report will be given in two parts.

The first will deal with the affairs of the Freemen’s Committee and the second, which details the affairs of The Norwich Town Close Estate Charity, will be given by Mr Nigel Back, Chairman of both the Freemen’s Committee and the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity.

In the five years since our last Common Hall there have been some wonderful things happen in the ‘Evolution‘ of the Norwich Freemen.

At the last Common Hall there were five Lady Freemen elected to serve a five-year term of office on the Norwich Freemen’s Committee. I am pleased to report that having served the required five-year term on the committee, two of those have now been elected by the Norwich Freemen’s Committee to serve as Representative Trustees on the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity. Also, I am pleased to report, the number of women elected to the Norwich Freemen’s Committee has increased to eight.

Looking back over the events of the last five years the midway point was really the most memorable. The first-ever Freeman of Norwich to be recorded was Walter Fliesher, who was a butcher. and the date was July 1317.  This meant that 2017 was a 700 year anniversary and many events were staged to celebrate.

The Freemen 700 Celebrationswere officially launched on the 9thFebruary at the Forum. Over 100 Freemen attended. The Lord Mayor was present and proudly wearing the new chains of office which were specially commissioned and purchased using a grant from the Freemen’s Charity. During the launch, the Norwich Freemen’s website went live. www.norwichfreemen.org.uk

On the website, you can access the updated ‘Buxom to the Mayor’ a history of the Norwich Freemen, by Elizabeth Griffiths.

You can also search the Freemen of Norwich records via the website, some records have yet to be uploaded, (it takes a lot longer than you think). Our very grateful thanks go to Julie Houghton for all the hours put in checking data for upload.

This is becoming a very valuable resource for genealogists and historians worldwide

Two 20-minute documentary films were made by the then Mustard TV giving a very clear understanding of the Freemen of Norwich (a big thank you to Phil Armes for his contacts within Mustard TV).

Both of these Freeman films are available to view for free on the website via this link: http://www.norwichfreemen.org.uk

There was a ‘Great History Competition’where 25 sixth form students from 4 Norwich schools were invited to respond to a provocative statement, ‘Norwich ceased to be the second City to London after 1750’. There were some very well-reasoned responses among the schools and the eventual winner, was Grace Jackson of Norwich High School.

In July of 2017 the Freemen of Norwich took part in the Lord Mayor’s Procession.

Thanks here to David Barber, Owen Gibbs and Robert Palmer.

Free outdoor theatre productions of ‘Come Yew In’by the Common Lot Theatre Group took place around various parts of the City. Many Norwich middle schools were involved in the production and the singing. This most memorable play, about the Strangers that settled in Norwich was sponsored by the Freemen’s Charity.

Freemen’s Free-days.This idea was to pay for the admission to Strangers Hall and the Museum of Norwich, for a two-week period as soon as the schools broke up for the summer holidays. The museum had various displays to highlight the Norwich Freemen and their role within the city. This was such a resounding success that it was repeated in 2018 and again in 2019.

On Friday 29 September 2017, a Great Feast took place at St Andrew’s Hall. About 100 Norwich Freemen attended and feasted along with the Lord Mayor and Sheriff.

Excellent food, live background piano.

On Saturday 30th September 2017 there was a guided tour of the parts of Norwich that still have strong evidence of connections to our Freemen forebears. We had a special service of thanksgiving at St Peter Mancroft Church and a specially commissioned peel of bells sounded across the City centre to mark the occasion.

We have continued to organise an outing, open to all Freemen of the City to see places of local interest. Visits have been made to Wymondham Abbey, The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell and last year we visited Carrow Abbey.

Since 2010 Courts of Mayoralty have been held annually in the Council chamber at City Hall. Approximately 35 new Freemen are admitted at each court. The total number of Norwich Freemen is now approaching 1200 compared to 600 in 2009.

The next Court of Mayoralty will be held on Friday, 6th March 2020 and there are just a few spaces left to be filled.

The Freemen’s Committee has met twice a year to discuss Freemen’s affairs and particularly to make our views known to our Representative Trustees just prior to the meetings where decisions are made as to the distribution of Grants from the Norwich Freemen’s Charity.

All correspondence to the Freemen and Freemen’s Committee is now done only by email. All freemen are also requested to access the website www.norwichfreemen.org.uk


All 25 members of the Freemen’s Committee 2020 – 2025 have given their permission

For their contact details to be used for the purposes of administration of Norwich Freemen’s Committee business.

Elections to the Freemen’s Committee 2020

We now come to vacancies on the Freemen’s committee

The Seven Retiring members are:

Claire Wilton – 5 years’ service.

Ros Davis – 5 years’ service

Richard Gurney after 35 years’ service including 20 years as a Representative Trustee

David Watson – 20 years’ service

Andrew Watson – 25 years’ service

Robert Self after 30 years’ service including 15 years as Representative Trustee

John Symonds after 35 years’ service including 10 years as Representative Trustee

All of these Freemen have made valued contributions to the work of the Freemen’s Committee and on behalf of all Norwich Freemen may I say ‘Thank you’ one and all.

The Freemen’s election process gives every Freeman of Norwich wherever they live an equal opportunity to apply to stand for election to the Norwich Freemen’s Committee. As a result, last year every Norwich Freeman for whom we had email details was sent an email with attachments including an information sheet and an application form. All were invited to apply for election to the Committee.

The response was not as many as was hoped. However, the Nominations Committee did receive 7 applications all of which were approved. This meant that the single transferable vote ballot process among all the Norwich Freemen was not necessary.

Finally, I would like to express my thanks to Maxine and Laura of the Civic office for their help over the past five years in dealing with various matters concerning the Freemen of Norwich and to the staff of the Charities Office, particularly Vanessa Soer and Jean Brown for all their assistance since the last Common Hall.

I will now hand over to Mr Nigel Back, the Chairman of the Norwich Freemen’s Charity for his report.


Representative Trustees who have agreed to serve a further 5-year term;

Nigel Back

Michael Quinton

David Barber

Stuart Lamb

Owen Gibbs

John Rushmer


Freemen’s Committee who have agreed to serve a further 5-year term;

Phil Armes

Nigel Back

David Barber

Mike Burgess

Andrew Burton

Paul Clarke

Cynthia Cooke

Owen Gibbs

Julie Houghton

Melanie Kent

Stuart Lamb

Robert Palmer

Michael Quinton

Oliver Quinton

Stephen Quinton

David Reeve

Andrew Rushmer

John Rushmer

Newly Elected to the Norwich Freemen’s Committee on 16thSeptember 2019:

Katie Back

Elizabeth Barber

Phillipa Foster-Back

Emmeline Pavlyuk

Jenny Plunkett

Joanne Yaxley

John Burton (elected by Norwich Freemen’s committee email voting 23rdSept 2019)

Newly elected as Trustees by Norwich Freemen’s committee Nov 25th2019:

Melanie Kent

Cynthia Cooke

DATED 14.1.20 M Quinton Hon Secretary Norwich Freemen




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