Durham City Freemen are currently admitted under the provisions of the City of Durham Act 1985 and through the medium of recent equality legislation which makes provision for the admission of women. Candidates over the age of eighteen can apply having completed a Durham full-time apprenticeship of not less than three years, or by patrimony being the son or daughter of a Freeman.

Prior to the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act, s.202 of which prohibits admissions by gift or purchase, companies sometimes also used to admit, by gift or redemption, non-trading gentlemen freemen and traders whose apprenticeships had been served elsewhere, though the latter is a rare occurrence. This means of admission by the particular decision of the wardens was re-activated by the 1985 Act: these now are gentlemen and lady freemen whose rights thenceforward through patrimony are the same as with those regularly entitled. Freemen swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown and to the Bishop of Durham upon their admission.


Membership Criteria

Guild Servitude, Durham Servitude and Hereditary Freedom. Admission by Application

Applicants should contact the Membership Secretary in the first instance.

Any man or woman who has attained the age of 18 years and has any of the qualifications set out below is eligible for consideration for admission to the Freemen of the City of Durham. The qualifications for eligibility for Freedom of the City of Durham are:

1. Guild Servitude
Completed service in an apprenticeship of at least three years duration in a recognised trade, or equivalent trained employment status deemed satisfactory to the Wardens of the Durham City Freemen with an employer who is a Freeman of the City of Durham.

2. Durham Servitude
Completed service in an apprenticeship of at least three years duration in a recognised trade, or equivalent trained employment status deemed satisfactory to the Wardens of the Durham City Freemen, in one or more trades within the Durham City boundary.

3. Hereditary Freedom
He or she is the son or daughter of a Freeman of the City of Durham.

4. Customary Freedom Admission by Invitation only

This entry process is at the discretion of the Wardens, if the invitee is accepted this obviates the need for the first two calls as the Wardens represent their members.

Men and women who have attained the age of 18 years who are not otherwise qualified in accordance with 1.2.3. above, may be admitted as Freemen in accordance with ancient local custom or practice subject to the approval of the Wardens.

These discretionary awards, generally fall into the following three categories (a) (b) (c).

Category (a).
Personal applications by individuals who do not qualify to be admitted under 1,2, and 3 above, but who can provide evidence of craft servitude or a link with the Freemen through hereditary, sometimes called patrimony, via grandfather etc, where a direct route via a parent is not possible, may be invited to submit their application for consideration by the Wardens to be admitted via Customary Freedom.

Category (b).
Individuals identified by the Wardens who can make a significant contribution by undertaking a specific role/need within the management structure and having personal qualities of integrity, tolerance, and judgment and who are able to demonstrate experience or support relevant to the Freemen’s activities, together with one or more of the following:

  • A desire and capacity to devote time to the activities of the Freemen.
  • Existing or previous involvement in public or charitable service.
  • Success in their chosen profession or career.

Category (c).
Gentleman and Lady Freemen is an award conferred on individuals; in recognition of a significant contribution made in supporting the work of the Freemen.

All claims to Freedom of the city should be supported by sufficient documentary evidence of entitlement to be submitted for consideration by the Wardens of the Guilds meeting collectively. Following due consideration, the decision of the Wardens in respect of any claim to Freedom of the City shall be final.


The Honorary Freedom conferred by the former Durham City Council or by Durham County Council is distinct and separate from the Freedom granted through the eligibility outlined above and the approval of the Wardens. The rights, duties and powers of the Durham City Freemen shall continue in accordance with the provisions of the Durham City Council Act 1985 and associated customary practice.

Applicants for the Freedom should make initial contact with the Membership Secretary.

Mr Eric Bulmer
2 High Meadows 
Brandon Village 
Durham
DH7 8RW

Tel: 0191 3780554

Email: eckabulmer@gmail.com