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Sixth formers help mark civic anniversary

Published on 24/02/17

History students at the Hewett Academy are helping one of Norwich's oldest institutions celebrate a landmark anniversary.

Together with sixth formers from Norwich School, Norwich High School for Girls, and Notre Dame High they will be taking part in a special event to mark the 700th anniversary of freemen in the city.

The modern-day Norwich Freemen have worked with history teachers in the four schools to arrange a special event at the Theatre Royal's new Stage Two venue on March 17 to tackle the question: Did Norwich cease to be a great city after 1750?

Students from each school will take part in quick-fire workshops with academic historians and some surprise guests.

It will be followed by an evening on May 3 at Blackfriars’ Hall when a select group of students from among the 100 at the March event will  go head-to-head to argue about the times and circumstances of Norwich’s greatness.

Prizes for the students include being a guest at the Freeman’s Great Feast in September, free presentation skills training, curated museum trips, and £500 in cash - as well as free Colman’s Merchant Mustard and Bullards Ale made specially for the Freemen’s 7ooth anniversary celebrations.

The first freeman name was recorded in the earliest Norwich register in July 1317. His name was Walter Fleighe and he was a butcher.

Freemen in Norwich existed long before 1317, but their admission to the freedom was only recorded from that date in a book created for the purpose. This entry is the start of a series of registers which include all the freemen’s names up to the present day.

Freemen once played a key role in the running of the city, with important duties and rights in local government. Over time their influence declined and the powers were formally abolished in 1835, although they continued to exist as a group.

Since 2009, women have been able to join the group and now represent around a third of the Norwich Freemen.