Records of the 'Freemen of the City of York' can be seen in the first list of Freemen dated 1272, while references exist going back to Anglo-Saxon times.
In the past, Freemen had an important role within the city in:
- the control of trade
- city strays
- rights of pasture
Freemen were also involved in the running of the city until the Municipal Corporation Act 1835 which introduced town councils.
Nowadays, Freemen have no privileges in the city. However, once 'sworn in' Freeman can join the Gild of Freemen who continue to take an interest in the affairs of the city.
Apply for Freemanship in York
Our Freedom of the City of York information sheet sets out the rules for claiming freemanship.
It's normal to claim Freemanship through 'hereditary right', which can go as far back as a great-great-grandparent.
To apply for Freemanship of York complete a Freedom of the City of York application form.
Return the form to our Electoral Services Team. The closing date for applications for this year’s Freedom Court is 31 July 2022.
For your application you must:
- include your full name, address, occupation and date of birth
- be 21 years of age or older
- include original birth certificates showing parentage
- include original marriage certificates, if applicable
You must also provide information about the relative who the claim is through, including:
- their full name
- their address at the time of admittance
- their occupation at the time of admittance
- the date they were admitted as a Freeman
We'll acknowledge your application in writing and return your original certificates by recorded post.
If you're unsure of any requirements relating to your application, check the 'Roll of Freemen' in Archives and Local History collections at York Explore.
Freemanship through servitude
To become a 'Freeman by servitude', you must have been an apprentice to a master craftsman (who is already a Freeman of York) for a minimum of five years. In these cases contact our Electoral Services team directly.
Freemanship application fee
An administration fee of £25.00 is payable when you are invited to attend a 'Court of Admittance'.
Annual Freedom Court
Applicants will be invited to attend the Annual Freedom Court which is held in the Guildhall.
The next Annual Freedom Court will be held on Tuesday 18 October 2022.
You'll be required to bring a witness to attest your identity (usually an older relative). You may also bring one guest (numbers are strictly limited) as you take your 'Oath or Affirmation' in front of the Lord Mayor of York.
The Gild of Freemen also attend and take part in the ceremony.