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Freemen of Norwich revive historic tradition at Great Feast in St Andrew's Hall

PUBLISHED: 16:25 01 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:25 01 October 2017

The Freemen Great Feast at St Andrew's Hall. Bob Lloyd (town crier) Jonathan Ford and William Ford. Picture: Mark Ivan Benfield

The Freemen Great Feast at St Andrew's Hall. Bob Lloyd (town crier) Jonathan Ford and William Ford. Picture: Mark Ivan Benfield

Mark Ivan Benfield

For the first time in almost 200 years the Freemen of Norwich revived an ancient tradition for a Great Feast at St Andrew's Hall.

The Freemen Great Feast at St Andrew's Hall. Mayor of Norwich David Fullman, Michael Quinton, Bob Lloyd, Nigel Back, David Walker and consort. Picture: Mark Ivan BenfieldThe Freemen Great Feast at St Andrew's Hall. Mayor of Norwich David Fullman, Michael Quinton, Bob Lloyd, Nigel Back, David Walker and consort. Picture: Mark Ivan Benfield

The annual event was hosted by the Mayor of Norwich until 1835. Even as far back as 1809, a relative of the current Freeman chairman, Nigel Back, held one of the events.

On Friday evening the ceremony returned for the Freemen 700 celebrations, with 120 Freemen and guests in attendance, including the current Mayor of Norwich, David Fullman, along with the Sheriff of Norwich, David Walker.

The Town Crier, Bob Lloyd called the evening to order at 7pm and Mr Back relived the history of the Freemen as host for the evening.

The Freemen who travelled the furthest was Jonathan Ford who travelled from Sacramento, California, USA

He said: “I have travelled with my nephew over from the states for this ancient tradition which has been passed down for centuries, and I feel very proud to be here as it is important to keep these threads alive.”

Mr Back added: “I am so pleased that so many people have come tonight to celebrate the 700th anniversary and it is a privilege to be chairing the event.”

The special celebration of the 700 years marked an opportunity for the Freemen to reach out to their membership and digitalise their communications, largely helped by a new website and regular newsletters, bringing people together from around the world.

On Saturday a thanksgiving service was held at St Peter Mancroft and a walking tour of Norwich including stops around the city taking in the history of the Freemen.

A new online database of all Freemen records from 1317, launched in September.

Every year the Freemen’s charity the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity awards grants worth a total of around £500,000 to a large number of projects in Norwich and within a 20-mile radius of the city.

Recent awards have included: helping fund new changing rooms for Norwich Eagle Canoe Club; helping save Dragon Hall, in King Street; providing match funding for much-needed restoration work at Cinema City and contributing to the new, purpose-built learning and skills centre at the Theatre Royal.

For general enquiries and interest in the Freemen history visit norwichfreemen.org.uk



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