The Creative Condition’s Creative Director, Jonathan Sillence (pictured – with purple hair) is now a Freeman of the City of York. Indeed, it all started for Jonathan and his family, in 1891 with a relative of his (Joseph Bagnall), who worked really hard in the city and wanted to run his own business. The Freemanship was passed through to Jonathan by his great grandmother, Edith Dearnley (Joseph’s daughter).
Way back when, having a Freemanship meant that a person could own and run their own business. You were, in effect, a “free man”. Originally, the role had a number of privileges attached to it, but over the years, these have become archaic in nature. Nowadays, in 2013, there’s a Guild of Freemen, and they help and support each other’s needs where possible. Before, a Freeman of the city might have helped you if you were in financial strife – collectively, they would come together to offer support, and then you would offer help in return when possible.
Following the historic Women’s Rights movements, a law was pushed through to say that a Freemanship could be passed on by a female relative. In 1979 Edith Dearnley became one of the first female freemen of the city and it is through her that Jonathan has claimed his right to become a Freeman. He produced her birth certificate and his grandmother’s birth certificate to prove his entitlement. “It’s actually something that we first thought about doing three years ago, but we’ve never managed to get everyone together!” laughs Jonathan.
The event where the Sillence family became Freemen took place on February 4, 2013 at The Guildhall in York. Jonathan explains his duties as a Freeman: “I was sworn by oath to God to uphold the well-being of the city and The Queen.” Also, if he joins a Freeman’s Guild, he gets free tea and cake! Can’t complain, eh?
The most common way to become a Freeman is to do it through a relative, but it can be achieved through hard work (and being recognised for that) as well.
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