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New Arrivals Reinforce Links Across Four Centuries

9th May 2022
New Arrivals Reinforce Links Across Four Centuries
Two men, whose family’s north east roots straddle at least four centuries, have been sworn in together as Durham City Freemen at the May Guild Day in the town hall.


Two men, whose family’s north east roots straddle at least four centuries, have been sworn in together as Durham City Freemen at the May Guild Day in the town hall.

Father and son Jervis and Jasper Smith were welcomed into the Drapers’ Company during the ancient ceremony, presided over by the Mayor, County Councillor Arnie Simpson.

The pair were among four newcomers who stepped up to take their oath of allegiance. David Balls, a long serving city magistrate joined the Butchers’ Company, while Peter Granlund’s admission into the Masons’ Company was his family’s second cause for celebration in ten days.

The Smith family duo followed the lead set in early 2012 by Jervis’s mother Adele who provided the key to the family’s revival of their incredible historical connections. She was the oldest among a 15-strong group of women, the first to take advantage of changes to Equality Laws which swept away the freemen’s all-male preserve, believed to have its roots in the early14 thcentury.

Mrs Smith, who hails from Northumberland but now lives in Oxfordshire, qualified through her maternal grandfather, Robert Lee, a West Rainton marine engineer and the first of his family to escape the mines. He became a freeman in 1916. Written records confirmed the Lee family’s links to the freemen dated back to 1702 through patrimony. Other documents, now missing, could have provided evidence of 16 thcentury involvement.

Sixty-two-year-old Jervis was christened in Jesmond but moved to Wimbledon in his early childhood. His father Alan, a career civil servant, was posted overseas, on one occasion to Paris and another to Washington. Jervis speaks fluent French, was awarded an MA in law by Oxford University and is currently senior executive with the accounting firm Vistra based in Luxembourg, where he lives with his Italian wife Daniela.

His son Jasper was born in New York, attended schools in Hong Kong and London and is currently studying languages at Durham University’s St Cuthbert’s Society.

“While we can trace our heritage back through the Drapers our family, like so many others, has been inextricably linked to coal mining through nearly two hundred years,” said Jervis.

“Since Jasper is currently based in Durham he may get the chance to exercise his ancient right to put up a stall in the open Market Place on market day without charge,” quipped dad.

David, now 74, first sat as a Justice of the Peace in Durham City in 1988 and was at one time deputy chairman. He left the bench in 2018 with extensive experience in adult, youth, family and licensing courts.

He attended Wolsingham Grammar School and started working life as an apprentice electrician with what was then the North Eastern Electricity Board on Framwellgate Waterside, retiring on medical advice after 40 years.

He and his wife Kathleen, who married in 1970, both come from the west of the county and now live on the northern outskirts of Durham City. Among their shared interests was service with the Royal Observer Corps, headquartered in the city. When the ROC was wound up in 1991 David was a senior NCO, having completed 21 years. He remains chairman of the corps’ 23 Group Association which meets on a monthly basis.

In his retirement he has chaired the Fire Brigade Standards Committee and has undertaken similar roles with the county council and the police authority, as well membership of the county’s education appeals committee.

David lists his interests as travel and cooking and applied to become a freemen when a colleague pointed out his city apprenticeship qualified him for membership.

Thirty-three-year-old Carrville-born Peter, who lives with wife Grace on the city’s eastern outskirts, followed his granddad Arthur, father Alan and uncle Peter into his company.

Days earlier the couple had welcomed the birth of their first child – their daughter Cora.

After being awarded a geography degree by Glasgow University Peter went on to spend a year in Australia. On his return he completed a post graduate degree in transport planning at Newcastle University and now works for Nexus, the company operating the public passenger transport system across Tyne and Wear, which includes the Metro rail service and the cross-Tyne ferry.