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We are Durham City Freemen

The Freemen of Durham are the members of the eight Guilds or Companies comprising Barbers, Butchers, Cordwainers, Curriers, Drapers, Joiners, Masons and Plumbers. These Guilds are all that remain of the sixteen in the Middle Ages of which there is written evidence going back as far as 1450.

MeetingsView all



New Appointments - August/September 2020

Warden of the Butchers' Company
Following the election for a Warden of the Butchers’ Company, we are pleased to confirm the appointment of Mr. Mac Williams as Warden who will take up the post immediately.

Chairman of the Wardens
Following the election for Chairman of the Wardens, we are pleased to confirm the appointment of Ann Thurlow Warden of the Joiners' Company.

Coronavirus Update

Cancellation of Meetings and Guild Days

As a result of the restrictions applied by the government regarding the coronavirus pandemic, it has been necessary to cancel all Freemen meetings and Guild Days until further notice.

Durham City Freemen and the new
County Council civic headquarters

The streetscape of Walkergate is changing. Durham County Council’s new civic headquarters, as of May 2020 is well advanced. The Freemen have had a long standing historic and legal interest in the Sands and the former public car park and and have been making representations about the development since the plans were first made public in 2017. This note sets out the recent history of those representations and draws attention to an ongoing issue.

While not owning the land, the Freemen enjoy rights in common over the Sands and the former coach car park. The public car park, on which the new headquarters are being built, falls outside this Common Land, but the Freemen retain rights of herbage over this area, as they do over the Sands.

When plans for the new headquarters and associated parking were submitted, the Freemen Trustees, after due consideration, formally objected. In summary, it was stated the new complex was contrary to established policies in the Durham City Local Plan; regarding the special character and setting of the conservation area; and sensitivity in terms of setting, scale, design and use of materials. Furthermore, the public building would inevitably increase vehicular traffic flows on the busy Providence Row and Claypath access roads, and there was inadequate provision for car parking. The submission also drew attention to the deficient public consultation and lack of serious consideration of alternative sites. While recognising the need for a new headquarters, the Freemen drew attention to independent professional opinion, suggesting the County Council’s continued presence at Aykley Heads would materially help in developing that area as a strategic employment site.

The County Council Planning Committee considered the application in March 2019. Patrick Conway, chair of the trustees, was one of four objectors who spoke in the debate. The application was approved on a split vote, subject to referral of the application to the Secretary of State.

Trustees and Wardens requested the Secretary of State to call in the application for examination by an independent planning inspector. This request was refused.

In May 2019, the Freemen were informed by the County Council of their intention to make application to deregister part of the Sands Common Land, namely the former coach park, so it could be used as a car park for the civic headquarters. It was proposed by the County Council that land east of the Rivergreen Centre would be provided as a replacement.

Trustees considered the proposal, given the Freemen’s rights of common, and concluded the proposal was not in the Freemen’s interests nor those of the general public. Consequently Durham County Council were informed Durham City Freemen rejected the proposal. The County Council proceeded to submit the application to the Planning Inspectorate to deregister and provide replacement land at Rivergreen.

This application has been formally opposed, and in association with the City of Durham Parish Council representations have been made to the Planning Inspectorate. As a result of these and other representations the Planning Inspectorate have decided a public inquiry is necessary to determine the application to deregister. A date and details of the public inquiry are awaited.

This public inquiry is concerned with the application to deregister part of the Sands Common Land. It is not an inquiry into the siting of the civic headquarters. That decision has been taken, and approved by the Secretary of State. Freemen Trustees and Wardens recognise that fact

This item will be updated as further information comes to hand

Contacts View all
Ann Thurlow
Ann Thurlow
Chairman of the Wardens Joiners' Company Warden
Patrick Conway  OBE
Patrick Conway OBE
Chair of Trustees
Kathleen Vasey
Kathleen Vasey
Drapers' Company Warden Secretary to the Freemen

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