Gloucester's History


Gloucester was founded as a Roman Colonia in AD 96 and at that time the population enjoyed the same status of a Roman Citizen. William the Conqueror whilst holding his Christmas Parliament at Gloucester in 1085, he ordered that the Domesday Book should be compiled. According to the Domesday Book, Gloucester was "Civitas et Burgus". In 1155 Henry II granted Gloucester it's first Charter and was granted to the Burgesses of Gloucester who has "THE SAME CUSTOMS & LIBERTIES THROUGHOUT ALL OF MY LAND OF TOLLS & OF  OTHER THINGS AS GOOD AS THE CITIZENS OF LONDON AND THOSE OF WINCHESTER EVER HAD" at anytime in the time of King Henry. Wherefore I will and firmly enjoin that my aforesaid burgesses shall have fully all those liberties and free customs and aquittances, so that no one shall do them there in any wrong, shame or damage'. It is interesting to note that this Charter, the first of 32, measured only 8" x 6" and contained nine lines of text.


King Henry VIII had a great affinity with Gloucester and frequently stayed in Gloucester as a guest of the Abbot of St. Peter's Abbey, who owned large amount of land in and around the City where the king enjoyed hunting. When Henry VIII dissolved the Monasteries, no doubt his friendship with the Abbot probably influenced him in maintaining the Abbey Church, although it is conceivable that it was the fact that he had an ancestor, the boy king Henry III crowned there in 1216 and another Edward II entombed there in 1327 and prompted to create a Bishopric and promote the Abbey Church to the status of a Cathedral.


There was in 2005 about 235 Freemen registered with the Secretary, mostly resident within the County and surrounding areas and the remainders are scattered all over the world. Freemen are admitted through the male line. Since 1984, legally adopted sons of Freemen were also eligible for enrolment and the line of inheritance need not be continuous one, it being possible to inherit through a paternal grandfather, great grandfather or even earlier; basically if Freedom has been established in the family, it can be inherited upon reaching the age of 21 years. Admission through apprenticeship was last recorded in 1863, however this could in fact be revived.


The ceremony of admission takes place before the Mayor of the City where the new Freemen are required to take the FREEMEN'S OATH OF ALLEGIANCE. In 1996 the Freemen designed robes which are worn by the President and Secretary during the enrolment. The Mayor's has also consented to being robed for the ceremony which takes place in the Mayor's Parlour in front of family and friends. A certificate is presented to the Freeman for which there is a cost, which is signed by the Chief Executive Officer. All Freemen are also able to purchase a Freeman's car sticker to advertise their status.


The Freemen's Committee consists of 10 Freemen, plus the Secretary, Vice President, both of whom are also Freemen and the President and Treasurer who was made an Honorary Life Member in 1996 by the Freemen in recognition of loyal service. The President and Vice President are elected annually. The Secretary keeps records of all the present membership. The Chief Executive's records go back much further and there are three old registers of Freemen dated 1653 to 1870, these are the property of the City Council and are kept in the County Records Office and the present register is lodged in the City Council Offices. In 1991 the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society published 'A Calendar of the Registers of the Freemen of the City of Gloucester 1641 to 1838' which catalogues details of all Freemen enrolled between these dates. Copies are held in local libraries and prove a valuable source in genealogy and for those wishing to establish their rights to freedom.


Gloucester now has a Mayor, City Sheriff, a Chief Executive Officer and a City Council. Honorary Freemen of the City are conferred by the Council. Honorary Freemen of Gloucester include such eminent figures of the past like Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. More recent Honorary Freemen include our three World Cup Rugby Players, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Duke of Beaufort. Freedom of entry into the City has also been given to The Gloucester Regiment, Royal Air Force - Gloucester, The Gloucester Hussars and the 14th Signal Regiment, who were for many years garrisoned in Gloucester. This honour give these forces the right to parade through the City with bayonets fixed and drums beating, a right which they exercise from time to time.




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