The Freedom of Chorley: Who were the people granted this title and were they really allowed to have grazing rights in the town?

We continue our Chorley 150 series as local historian Stuart Clewlow shares the names of those who've been granted coveted recognition in the borough of Chorley.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 3:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th October 2021, 3:09 pm
Sir Henry F. Hibbert  became an Honorary Freeman of Chorley Borough on September 25, 1922. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow
Sir Henry F. Hibbert became an Honorary Freeman of Chorley Borough on September 25, 1922. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow

As the Chorley Guardian reflects on the 150 years since it first published, we're telling the stories which have touched our community. We continue to look back in our Chorley 150 series with local historian Stuart Clewlow

We now share a potted history of being awarded the coveted ‘Freedom’ of the borough.

A commemorative cup from the opening of Astley Hall, Park and War Memorial with the name Cllr Gillett on it. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow

Historically, the bestowal of ‘Freeman’ allowed the person certain privileges within the place honouring them.

A civil award of the honour included benefits such as tax levies, grazing rights, trading benefits, etc.

Within the City of London for example, their "freedom" allowed them to be drunk in public without fear of being locked up for it.

Military privileges included marching through the borough or town with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed.

Alderman James Winder Stone, J.P.

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However, today the honour of being made a Freeman (or sometimes referred to as a burgess) is purely ceremonial and it is a means by which a council, under the terms of the Local Government Act 1972, can confer the status of Honorary Freeman on "persons of distinction and persons who have, in the opinion of the council, rendered eminent services" to the local area.

The records seem to show that Chorley has bestowed the honour of Freeman of the Borough on six individuals in the past.

Sir Henry F. Hibbert, Bt, LL.D, C.A.

Alderman Arnold Gillett, J.P.

Admitted as Honorary Freeman of the Borough on September 25, 1922.

He was born in Chorley in 1850 and educated at Hutton and Chorley Grammar schools.

Amongst many other accolades, he served on the council for 25 years, was appointed Alderman in 1884, Mayor of Chorley in 1889, and was Chairman of Lancashire County Council in 1921.

He was knighted in 1903 for his service to education and served as MP for Chorley from 1913 to 1918.

The Chorley Guardian is featuring 150 stories about Chorley: Inspirational people, places that we love, or special moments in the life of the borough.

He was raised to the rank of Baronet of Chorley in 1919 and also admitted as a Freeman of the City of London in 1919.

Alderman James Winder Stone, J.P.

Admitted as Honorary Freeman of the Borough on 25th September 1922.

He was a long standing Councillor, Alderman from 1888 and Mayor of Chorley 1907-09.

He was the Secretary for the Chorley War Memorial Committee in the 1920s.

Alderman Arnold Gillett, J.P.

Admitted as Honorary Freeman of the Borough on June 17, 1931 upon the 50th anniversary of Chorley receiving borough status.

Born into a successful industrialising family in the town, he was Alderman from 1919 and Mayor of Chorley 1925-27 and 1931-33.

He was a member of the Executive committee of the Chorley War Memorial Committee in the 1920s and became the first chairman of the Parks committee when Astley Hall and Park were given to the town as a War Memorial in 1924.

Alderman J. Fearnhead, J.P.

Admitted as Honorary Freeman of the Borough on July 12 1944.

Right Honourable Lord Hacking of Chorley, P.C., O.B.E.

Admitted as Honorary Freeman of the Borough on November 30 1946.

He was a long standing and successful Member of Parliament for Chorley.

Mrs Bertha Maude Gillett, J.P.

Admitted as Honorary Freeman of the Borough on November 24 1960.

In recent years, Chorley Council has also bestowed the honour on two military units.

Both were in recognition of long and valued ties with the Borough and also the personal association and service of its officers and service people.

The Queen`s Lancashire Regiment was honoured in 2005 and 5 General Medical Support Regiment received the honour in 2007.

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This story is part of our Chorley 150 series to mark the 150th anniversary of the Chorley Guardian.If you'd like to suggest a story for this Chorley 150 series then email [email protected]