Sudbury Historian and Learned Clerk of the Freemen
Sudbury freemen pay tribute to the erudite Mr Allan Walter Berry a very valued and respected member of their Society who passed away 16 February 2013 at the age of 93. Family, friends and colleagues sadly miss him for his wise and experienced counsel. He researched and accurately produced a huge amount of material relating to the history of Sudbury in Suffolk and particularly of the freemen of the old borough town. Without doubt he was a driving force in the reinstatement of the ‘Freemen’s Society’ and carried on to become founder of the Freemen’s Trust.
A quiet and unassuming gentleman, he was always on-hand for advice or to correct any documentation required by the Freemen. Most of his working life was spent in Colchester, with frequent trips into Sudbury. He was a local government Careers Officer working with school leavers in northeast Essex until his retirement in 1984. For 60 years he was happily married to Margaret until she died in 2010.
With the prolific publications of pamphlets and books it is doubtful that anyone would know more on the subject of Sudbury freemen and a great number of Sudburians will regard themselves privileged to have availed upon his knowledge.
Allan was present at a meeting of freemen, attended by Harry Ward (founder of ‘Freemen of England’) in Sudbury 22nd September 1971. It was then decided to revive the ‘Freemen’s Protection Society’ created in the 1890s and a committee of freemen was formed. At a Quinquenniel meeting of the Sudbury freemen in 1973, the Freemen’s Protection Society was reorganised under the new name “Sudbury Freemen’s Society”. This coincided with the new district authority of Babergh with offices in Hadleigh. The 1972 Local Government Act abolished the Borough status and put responsibility for admissions of freemen to the Chairman of Babergh District Council.
Allan Berry’s family background in Sudbury, where he was born at the Dairy in Curde Lane (renamed Weavers Lane) meant that their activities were inextricably linked with the grazing of cattle on the freemen’s meadows. Allan who was studiously inclined attended the Grammar School between 1929 and 1937 and became an outstanding academic. Over many years he battled on behalf of the Sudbury freemen, working relentlessly with Mr Guy Cook. He obtained the best possible outcome for the freemen’s meadows under the Commons Registration Act 1965, during which time he also ensured that the Freemen’s grazing rights were properly protected.
Mr Berry was a keen and eloquent Rotarian and with a kind and charitable disposition he was an example to all freemen. From his commitment to the restoration of the Sudbury Freemen’s Society in 1971 and his active involvement on the SCLC Committee as a Trustee from 1979 to 1995, he was Hon. Clerk to the Society from 1981 until 1995. Allan founded the Sudbury Freemen’s Trust in 1986 and was its chairman for nine years before retiring in 1995.
The deep affection for the old Borough Town of Sudbury felt by Allan will have been recognised by all who have read his amusing and educational publications. His commitment and contribution to Sudbury and to the Freemen’s Society will be most sorely missed.
Alan Shelley for the Sudbury Freemen’s Trust (April 2017)