Peter Stephenson, associate director for Fire Engineering and based in our Dubai office, recently returned to the UK to receive the Freedom of the City of London. This unusual accolade is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today; the first Freedom is believed to have been granted nearly 700 years ago in 1237.
Peter has been granted his Freedom of the City of London as part of his association with the Worshipful Company of Firefighters whose prime objective and intention is to promote the development and advancement of the science, art and the practice of firefighting, fire prevention and life safety. It also encourages good professional behaviour and an exchange of information between its members and others who work in allied fields.
The term Freeman originated in medieval times and was used to describe someone who wasn’t ‘owned’ by a feudal lord (a common occurrence then) and who instead enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn their own money and to own their own land. Town dwellers who were protected by their town or city’s charter ( governing system) were often free, hence the term Freedom of the City.
Today being granted Freedom of the City is largely a symbolic gesture, however in the past it had quite an impact on London’s history and the city’s development as a centre of trade and commercial. From the Middle Ages to the Victorian era, it gave people the right to trade, enabling members of a guild or livery to carry out their profession or craft within a square mile of the centre of London.
Peter’s association, The Worshipful Company of Firefighters, has undertaken to maintain the traditions and customs of the City of London and to pledge support to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen in all matters relevant to the life and dignity of the city. The Company is essentially a charitable organisation and is committed to raising funds so that monies can be distributed to worthy causes and to individuals who are underprivileged, or deserving of assistance.
The Freedom in the City today is still closely associated with membership of London Livery companies. For a further insight into the fascinating history and modern role of the Livery follow the links below.