Sudbury Freeman’s Society

The Sudbury Freemen’s Society, of which all the town’s freemen are automatically members, is one of the most active bodies of its kind in East Anglia…

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Sudbury Freeman’s Trust

In June 1986 the Freemen formed a charity, Sudbury Freemen’s Trust to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the first record of Sudbury freemen…

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Welcome to the Freemen of Sudbury

The Old Town Hall, Sudbury

The Freedom of Sudbury is Manorial in origin, dating from Anglo-Saxon times, before the Norman Conquest. The Domesday Book of 1086 mentions 55 Burgesses (Freemen) living in Sudbury at the time of Edward the Confessor, others from the Manor of Sudbury lived in Hedingham. The Freedom made it possible to leave the Manor, thereby encouraging the development of trade.

In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries many Sudbury Freemen lived in Colchester.

By a Charter from Richard de Clare, Lord of the Manor, c1260, the Freemen gained grazing rights over Kings Marsh and Portmanscroft (the Freemen’s Great and Little Commons). Part of Fullingpit Meadow was given for the Freemen’s benefit in the eighteenth century and North Meadow and Harp Close Meadow were obtained by Act of Parliament in 1838 in exchange for the Freemen’s right of shackage over lands adjoining the town (grazing after the crop has been taken). In the early nineteenth century many lived in London.

Freemen have the right to depasture two head of cattle on the Common Lands, and widows or widowers of Freemen one head of cattle. They also have fishing rights.

For centuries Freemen have paid a fee to put cattle on the lands, the money raised being distributed among those whom did not own cattle. Today the Freemen receive half the amount raised from grazing and distribute this money between the Freemen and Widows of Freemen.

Shopkeepers and tradesmen were obliged to purchase the Freedom in order to carry on their businesses.

Leather fire bucket on display in the Heritage Centre, Sudbury Town Hall

During the reign of Elizabeth I, Freemen acquired the parliamentary vote and admission to the Freedom became an issue, especially just prior to an election. In the time of Henry VII they paid a penny for the Freedom.

Until 1835 the Freedom could be purchased, but today admission to the Freedom, for men and women, is only by birth or apprenticeship to a Freeman.

In 1986 the Freemen established a charity, the Sudbury Freemen’s Trust, to commemorate the 900th anniversary of their inclusion in the Domesday Book. The Trust is entitled to a quarter of the surplus income from the Common Lands.

Centuries ago Freemen had to provide fire buckets for the Moot Hall (predecessor of the Town Hall). Nowadays, among many other projects, the Freemen’s Trust helps with fire precautions for voluntary bodies.

The Freeman’s Oath

(Version in use from 1973)

You shall swear that you will be aiding and assisting unto the Town Mayor and Justices of the Town of Sudbury, for the time being, the Constables, Sergeants at Mace, and all other the Queen’s Officers and Ministers of the town, in the due execution of Justice and performance of Her Majesty’s service. You shall to the utmost of your power uphold, support, maintain and defend all the good and lawful rights, privileges, customs, decrees, byelaws, orders and hereditaments of and belonging to the town, and this you shall well and truly do and perform. So help you God!

Keep Up To Date

At last, warmer weather, and the promise of sultry evenings and the sound of birdsong at first light. It is a lovely time of year, marked locally by the arrival of the cattle on the meadows. This year their appearance... Read more
SAVE THE DATE - Tuesday 2nd July 2024, in Sudbury, is a very busy day for Sudbury Freemen. At 2.00pm, on the Croft Bridge, we will meet the new Rangers and the Clerk of the Sudbury Common Lands Charity for... Read more
alt text The Sudbury Freemen's Trust is proud to be numbered amongst the sponsors of this most worthy project. Sudbury Town Council is aware of the detrimental effect of the cost of living crisis on many local people. Read more