27th June 2017

Update on the Norwich Freemen Records Online

Photo by kind permission of Tom Townsend


As part of the 700 celebrations, the Norwich Freemen have commissioned an online database of the freemen registers from 1317.  The database will be officially launched at the Norfolk Record Office on 6 September 2017.

Dr Elizabeth Griffiths is leading the project said Norwich Freemen Records Online is taking shape.

“Quietly, behind the scenes, a team of inputters has been beavering away entering 35,000 freemen admissions into a database,” said Dr Griffiths. “This will allow the database creator, Mark Merry of the Institute of Historical Research, and the website designer, Dave Lincoln of www.horatiocreative.com  time to prepare the material for the launch.“

James Barnaby, Liz Griffiths and Andy Whittle examining the 3rd register. Photo by kind permission of Tom Townsend



James Barnaby, Alberta Parsons and Dan Talbot working with the 2nd register. Photo by kind permission of Tom Townsend

The inputting team is James Barnaby, Alberta Parsons, Dan Talbot, Andrew Whittle, Julie Houghton, Sophie Foulger, Kate Humby and Katie Miles. Most have with links to the UEA either as post graduates or as current/former staff-members. Julie, who leads the team on the modern registers, and Katie are both actually Freemen of Norwich.

The inputters do not work on their own. Dan with responsibility for the Old Free Book, liaises with Diana Spelman, who is working with medieval advisers, Elizabeth Rutledge and Tom Townsend, to produce a brand new transcription and partial translation of the Old Free Book, the earliest of the Freemen Registers dating from 1317.  This will be a remarkable achievement. It will be reproduced on the website alongside a digitized version of the original document for Latin scholars and those interested in developing their linguistic skills.

James has also worked with Elizabeth Rutledge on the Enrolled Deeds which provide additional details of freemen activity from 1285 to the 15th century.  As they record property transactions rather than freemen admissions, they will be entered separately in a linked database.

Kate Humby, Sophie Foulger, Julie Houghton and Dr Elizabeth Griffiths working on the modern register. Photo by kind permission of Tom Townsend

Working with the later registers has been slightly less complicated.  For the 2nd and 3rd registers, from 1548 to 1713 and 1714 to 1752, the inputters, Alberta, James and Andrew are able to use the edited and printed versions produced by Percy Millican in 1934 and 1952.  Julie and her team input from the version of the modern register, 1752-1981 created by Shirley and Keith Howells in 1999. With the recent entries from City Hall, these account for over 15,000 entries.

“So, we wish them God Speed in their great endeavour.  This is will be a truly lasting legacy of the Freemen700 celebrations!,” said Dr Griffiths.

Dan Talbot, Andy Whittle and Diana Spelman working on the Old Free Book. Photo by kind permission of Tom Townsend


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