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Founding of the Guild of Freemen

Founders of the Guild, 1910

Photograph of the founders of the Guild, taken in 1910

Up to 1835 all freemen were members of Livery Companies that maintained their own organisation for social, educational and charitable aims. When the Freedom became available by direct application, many still joined Livery Companies and took the Freedom through them in the old manner.

Liverymen still have certain privileges, and membership and office in Livery Companies has always been considered a status symbol. Those freemen who became such through direct application had no comparable organisation to a Livery Company and after 1867 had virtually no privileges either. Yet many people applied directly, wishing to identify with the ancient Corporation.

It took until the following century for an organisation of freemen who were not also liverymen to be set up. The first suggestion was a letter from George Chambers published in the City Press of 16 November 1907, but it was not until the summer of 1908 that the first public meeting took place at the City Arms tavern in St Mary Axe, called by James Arthur Cannon.

The first Master was Cuthbert Wilkinson, a printer and publisher, and active in public affairs, local government and politics. The Guild was incorporated with the Companies Registrar on St George's Day, 23 April, 1910.

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