Throughout the centuries, Doncaster has seen fit to bestow the honour of ‘The Freedom of the Borough’ upon certain select members of society.
It was, at one time, more popular than it is today. Today, men and women have been honoured with the Freedom more as an award in recognition of a lifetime’s work in a particular field.
Two or three hundred years ago, the Corporation saw fit to make certain illustrious characters Freemen and I set about trying to trace surviving relatives. It is not as easy as you think in this modern age to make direct contact with the gentry as I have found many times over, however, I did have some success. The main characters to receive the Freedom were:
The Rt Hon Lord Viscount Downe
The Rt Hon the Marquis of Rockingham
The Rt Hon the Marquis of Granby
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (later George IV)
His Grace the Duke of Clarence (later William IV)
His Grace the Duke of Sussex
His Grace the Duke of Wellington
After a short period of time I received a letter from HRH Prince Charles to say that he was pleased to hear the information. By far the most interesting letter came from the hand of Richard Dawnay, the present Viscount Downe and went as follows:
Dear Mr Waller
Thank you for your letter dated the 6th June 2012. I confess that I had not been aware that one of my ancestors had received the honour of being granted the Freedom of the town of Doncaster. Your letter prompted me to do some research.
I have managed to find the silver box in which the freedom document was presented, though sadly I cannot find the freedom document itself. The box is a fine piece of workmanship, with the seals of both the Town and the Mayor engraved on the lid. I am informed that the silver mark indicates that the box was made in 1751. I therefore assume that this was the year when the freedom was granted. If so, it would have been granted to Henry Pleydell the 3rd Viscount Downe (1727-1760). Henry Pleydell was something of a character and I enclose a brief article on his life that may be of some interest. Clearly as the owner of Cowick Hall he was very much a local man.
Thank you again for bringing this fascinating piece of history to my attention.
The Viscount Downe.
The ‘interesting article’ that the Viscount refers to is copied in full on the Doncaster History website as it is of considerable length although the pictures of the original box are displayed on this page.
Today we still have our very own Freemen and Women who are namely:
Venerable Robert A Fitzharris