Tracing Our History
The Norwich Freemen have one of the best documented histories in the country.
As part of the 700 celebrations, they have commissioned an online database of the Freemen Registers which date from 1317. These registers list the names of every freeman in Norwich starting with Walter Fleighe, a butcher.
The oldest register, the Old Free Book dates from 1317 to 1548. It was followed by the second register from 1548 to 1713, the third from 1713 to 1752 and so on until the present day.
The database will include the names of freemen, or ‘citizens’ as they were also known, contained in the Enrolled Deeds. These survive for property transactions in the city from 1285.
Generations of freemen, from father to son and from master to apprentice, can be traced over 700 years. Since 2010, daughters of freemen have also been admitted to the freedom. With the names, trades and occupations of thousands of freemen, the database is a unique insight into the economic and social structure of one of England’s great cities over seven centuries.
This invaluable resource, Norwich Freemen Records Online, will be available free of charge from September 2017. The database is being built Dr Mark Merry and his team at the Institute of Historical Research, London and inputted by a team in Norwich, all experts in their field.
Updating our history
The first formal history of the freemen Buxom to the Mayor: A History of the Norwich Freemen and the Town Close Estate was written 30 years ago. One of the original authors, Dr Elizabeth Griffiths, has updated the book for the 700 celebrations and arranged it in the six themes, in boxes below, to highlight the ups and downs of the Freemen’s story over the past 700 years.
Old Free Book - original and transcription