Stories of Sudbury’s freemen from the past when the freedom was either inherited, purchased or obtained by apprenticeship show that they came from all sorts of professions; the freedom itself was, as Allan Berry notes, “a very egalitarian institution: gentlemen and labourers, clergymen and innkeepers, artisans and surgeons, shopkeepers and soldiers, jostle for admission.”
Most freemen were respectable but some, such as William Hayward Vincent, found themselves in gaol. Many were very poor and struggled to keep their families out of the Workhouse. In the 20th century, with the revival of the Sudbury Freemen’s Society in 1972 and the establishment of the Sudbury Freemen’s Trust in 1986, much research has been carried out into the history of the freedom and the freemen have done their best to serve the town and community of Sudbury through welfare, conservation and amenity.
Many of the stories about individual Sudbury freemen have been forgotten and it is hoped that this section of the website will engage people with the history of a very special institution.