Freedom of the City – Sheffield’s highest honour

Richard Caborn is the latest person to be given Freedom of the City. Born in 1943, he became MEP for Sheffield, MP for Sheffield Central, and held three Ministerial portfolios. He is currently chair of Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park. Image/Sheffield City Council

It’s three years since the City of Sheffield last conferred the title of Freedom of the City. That was John Burkhill BEM, the man with the pram, for his tireless fundraising efforts, and probably the most popular choice.

But the city’s highest honour has now been awarded to Richard Caborn, former MP, and Minister, who joins his father, George, on a list of over seventy names.

He joins a selective group who have been given Freedom of the City, and includes the Duke of Norfolk, Viscount Kitchener, Field Marshall Douglas Haig, David Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald, Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, and Nelson Mandella.

Lord Kitchener visited Sheffield and received the freedom of the city in September 1902. The drawing of the scene in the Town Hall was published in the Sheffield Telegraph. Image/PictureSheffield

And there have been Freedom of the City awards to local dignitaries such as Sir Frederick Mappin, Sir William Clegg, John George Graves, Harry Brearley, and Sir Stuart Goodwin.

More recently, the likes of Derek Dooley, Michael Vaughan, Lord Coe of Ranmore, and Jessica Ennis have also been granted the honour.

Freedom of the City isn’t confined to individuals and the armed services have received the title as well. These include HMS Sheffield; The Chestnut Troop, 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery; 38th Signal Regiment (Volunteers); 212 (Yorkshire) Field Hospital (Volunteers) and The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding) – subsequently conferred to the Yorkshire Regiment.

But the Freedom of the City can be taken away as well, as was the case with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Leader of National League for Democracy in Burma) who had it removed in 2017.

Harry Brearley being presented the Freedom of the City. While working in the Brown Firth Research Laboratories in 1913, Harry Brearley was testing low-carbon steels for gun barrels that contained only 12% chromium and found these steels had the abiliy to resist corrosion. He recognised the implication and suggested it could be used for cutlery. Image/PictureSheffield

The procedures for admitting Honorary Freemen originated in the Honorary Freedom of the Borough’s Act 1885 and were included in the Local Government Act 1972.  Certain Local Authorities are empowered to admit as Honorary Freemen persons of distinction and persons who have, in the opinion of the Council, rendered eminent services to the Authority.

Honorary Freemen do not enjoy any constitutional privileges but admission as an Honorary Freeman has the deeper significance of receiving the highest honour the city can bestow, and it is conferred sparingly.

The Freedom of Entry accorded to Armed Services gives a right on all ceremonial occasions of exercising the privilege of marching through the City “with colours flying, drums beating, and bayonets fixed.”

The Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Churchill receiving the Freedom of the City of Sheffield. Image/PictureSheffield
John Burkhill, Sheffield’s most famous fundraiser broke down in tears at being awarded the Freedom of the City in 2019. Image/Sheffield City Council

Full list of Honorary Freemen of Sheffield

1899His Grace The Duke of Norfolk, EM, KG1917
1899Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin, Bart, MP1910
1899Sir Henry Stephenson, Kt1904
1902General Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum, GCB, GCMG, OM1916
1903The Rt. Hon. Sir Marcus Samuel (Lord Mayor of the City of London)1927
1916The Rt. Hon. William Morris Hughes, MP, LLD (Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia )1952
1917Lt-Gen. The Rt. Hon. Jan Christian Smuts, KC (Prime Minister of South Africa)1950
1917Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO1935
1919The Rt. Hon. David Lloyd George, OM, MP, DCL, PC (Prime Minister)1945
1919Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, KT, GCB, KCB, KCIE, GCVO, KCVO, CB, ADC1928
1919Admiral Sir David Beatty, GCB, GCVO, KCB, KCVO, DSO, MVO (Admiral of the Fleet)1936
1921The Rt. Hon. W F Massey, LLD (Prime Minister of New Zealand)1925
1922Alderman Sir William E Clegg, CBE, LLD1932
1923The Rt. Hon. W L MacKenzie King, CMG, MA, LLD (Prime Minister of Canada)1950
1923The Rt. Hon. S M Bruce, MC (Prime Minister of Australia)1967
1924The Rt. Hon. Sir Samuel Roberts, Bart, MA, JP, DL1926
1924Alderman Robert Styring, LLD, JP1944
1924Alderman William Farewell Wardley, JP1941
1926Doctor Henry Coward, Mus.Doc (Oxon), MA1944
1926The Hon. J G Coates, MC (Prime Minister of New Zealand)1943
1929The Rt. Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald, MP, LLD, JP (Prime Minister)1937
1929Alderman John George Graves, JP1945
1929Alderman Henry Kenyon Stephenson, DSO, VD, DL, JP, LLD1947
1929Mr Cecil Henry Wilson, MP, JP1945
1930The Rt. Hon. Richard Bedford Bennett, KC, MP, LLD, (Prime Minister of Canada)1947
1930The Rt. Hon. James Henry Scullin, MP (Prime Minister of Australia)1952
1939The Rt. Revd. Leonard Hedley Burrows, DD, D.Litt (First Bishop of the Diocese of Sheffield)1940
1939Sir Robert Abbott Hadfield, Bart, FRS, DSc, D.Met, JP1940
1939Mr Harry Brearley (the inventor of Stainless Steel)1948
1943The Rt. Hon. Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, CH, FRS, MP (Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister of Defence)1965
1945Alderman Frank Thraves, JP1952
1945Alderman Harold Warters Jackson, LLB1972
1945Alderman Alfred James Bailey, JP1948
1945Alderman Arthur James Blanchard, JP1957
1947The Rt. Hon. Albert Victor Alexander, PC, CH, LLD, MP (Minister of Defence1965
1949Mr Charles William Beardsley, OBE, JP1952
1949Mrs Ann Eliza Longden, JP1952
1959Alderman Charles William Gascoigne, CBE, BEM1967
1959Alderman Mrs Grace Tebbutt, JP1983
1959Alderman Percival John Mann Turner, CBE, JP1969
1962The Rt. Revd. Leslie Stannard Hunter, MA, DD, DCL, LLD (Lord Bishop of Sheffield)1983
1962Alderman Albert Smith1968
1965The Rt. Hon. Harold Wilson, OBE, MP (Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury)1995
1965Alderman Herbert Keeble Hawson1984
1965Alderman Samuel Hartley Marshall, JP1981
1965Alderman James Wilfred Sterland, OBE, JP1992
1965Dr. John Macnaghten Whittaker, FRS, (Vice-Chancellor, University of Sheffield)1984
1968Dr. Albert Ballard, CBE, LLD1968
1968Sir Stuart Goodwin, DL, LLD, JP1969
1970Mr John Burns Hynd, MP (MP for Attercliffe Division of City from 1944 to 1970)1971
1970Sir Peter Geoffrey Roberts, Bart, MA, MP (MP for Ecclesall Division of City from 1945 to 1950 and for Heeley Division of City from 1950 to 1966)1985
1978The Rt. Hon. James Callaghan, MP (Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury)2005
1978County Councillor Sir Charles Ronald Ironmonger1984
1978Councillor Isidore Lewis, LLD, JP1983
1978Mr Stanley Lester Speight, OBE, MIEx(Grad), FIM1998
1981Mr George Caborn1982
1981Prof. Ronald Stanley Illingworth, MD (Leeds) Hon. MD (Sheffield) Hon.D.Sc (Baghdad) FRCP, DPH, DCH, FRPS1990
1991Ms Helen Sharman BSc C.Chem (the first Briton to journey into space) 
1991Councillor William Owen, JP1992
1993Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (President of the African National Congress)2013
1993Mr Derek Dooley (footballer)2008
1998The Rt. Hon. Dr. Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, MP (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)2005
1998Dr. Peter Horton, Hon.LittD. BSc2005
2001The Chestnut Troop, 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery 
200138th Signal Regiment (Volunteers) 
2001212 (Yorkshire) Field Hospital (Volunteers) 
2001The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding) – subsequently conferred to the Yorkshire Regiment 
2002106 (West Riding) Field Squadron (Air Support) (Volunteers) 
2005Michael Paul Vaughan (Captain of England Cricket Team) 
2005Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Leader of National League for Democracy in Burma) – The Freedom of the City was removed on 1 November 2017 
2005Sebastian Newbold Coe OBE, The Right Honourable The Lord Coe of Ranmore 
2006The Yorkshire Regiment (formed by an amalgamation of three historic County Regiments including the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) 
2009The Lindsays (Ronald Birks, Peter Cropper, Bernard Gregor-Smith and Robin Ireland) 
2012Mrs. Tawakel Karman (Yemeni Human Rights Activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner) 
2012Ms. Jessica Ennis MBE (Olympic, World and European Heptathlon Champion) 
201464 Signal Squadron (transferring the Freedom from the 38 Signal Regiment owing to the 38 Regiment’s withdrawal from the Army’s Order of Battle.) 
2019John Burkhill BEM – fundraising 
2022Mr Richard Caborn 

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