The Free Men of Coventry

There are many Coventry Freemen. It is an honour granted to people who  have completed a qualifying apprenticeship in the city.

Coventry’s history goes back for hundreds of years and the City of Coventry Freemen’s Guilds have been part of that history for almost the same time. The people who belonged to those merchant and craft guilds had served an apprenticeship to their trade and were “free” to trade in the community.

Eventually in 1345, Coventry became a city and had a Mayor in 1348.  The Freemen were then able to swear an oath of allegiance before him and this ceremony has been carried out to this day with little change. The oath still tells of their duty to the Mayor, the city and the community, making today’s Freemen direct successors of the members of the ancient Guilds.

A register of the names of all the Freemen of the City of Coventry is held by the Council and is kept in the Lord Mayor’s Office.

This much is well known, but did you know that Coventry also has Honorary Freemen?  The first was admitted in 1914 and in the hundred years that followed there have only been fourteen such admissions.

These are the city’s Honorary Freemen and why they were given this honour.

Andrew Carnegie

of Skibo Castle, Dornoch, Sutherlandshire, Doctor of Laws, Donor of the Earlsdon, Foleshill and Stoke Branch Libraries, Coventry. Admitted 4th June 1914.

Colonel William Fitzthomas Wyley, V.D., D.L., J.P. (Alderman of the Coventry City Council)

of the Charterhouse, Coventry. In recognition of the eminent services which he has rendered to the City of Coventry throughout his long public life. Admitted 25th September 1924

Alderman Alfred Henry Drinkwater, J.P.

of Jedburgh House, The Butts, Coventry. In recognition of his long public services to the City of Coventry. Admitted 9th November 1927.

Alfred Herbert (Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) of Dunley Manor, Whitchurch, Hants. In recognition of his generosity, as exemplified particularly in the presentation to the City of the Alfred Herbert Recreation Ground and of Lady Herbert’s Garden, and also in recognition of his eminent services in connection with the modern industrial development of Coventry. Admitted 15th June 1933.

Baron Nuffield, of Nuffield, O.B.E., D.C.L.

In recognition of his generous help to the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital and to other good causes, and of his distinguished place in the modern industrial life of Coventry and the Nation. Admitted 10th December 1936.

Hugh Richard Farren, Esquire, O.B.E., J.P.

In recognition of his high character and of his many years of devoted public service to the City of Coventry. Admitted 10th December 1936.

Frederick Smith, Esquire, B.A., F.G.S.

 In appreciation of the eminent service which he has rendered to the City in the offices of Town Clerk and Clerk of the Peace, in recognition of his devotion to public duties during a period of unprecedented municipal development and as a token of public esteem.  Admitted 14th October 1946.

Alfred Robert Grindlay, Esquire, C.B.E., J.P. (Alderman)

A member of the City Council for nearly 39 years, in recognition of his eminent and devoted services to the City during a period of unprecedented municipal development and as a token of public esteem. Admitted  15th November 1962.

George Edward Hodgkinson, Esquire, O.B.E. (Alderman)

A member of the City Council for nearly 35 years, in recognition of his eminent and devoted services to the City during a period of unprecedented municipal development and as a token of public esteem.  Admitted 15th November 1962.

Edward Langton, Baron Iliffe of Yattendon in the County of Berkshire

In recognition and appreciation of the eminent service he has rendered and of his many benefactions to his native City.  Admitted 1st May 1969.

Councillor Arthur James Waugh M.A.

In recognition of his eminent and devoted services to the City and his significant contribution to public life in Coventry over a period of thirty-five years. Admitted 7th April 1982.

The Right Honourable Dr. Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, M.P.

 In recognition of her significant contribution to the peace settlement in Ireland. Admitted 26th November 1999

Mr. Ratan Naval Tata G.B.E and Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya K.T., C.B.E., F.R.Eng, F.R.S.

In recognition of the investment of Tata Steel into Jaguar Land Rover which has enhanced and protected the status of car manufacturing in the region, supported by the Warwick Manufacturing Group. Admitted 25th September 2015.

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