Freedom of the city

Salford crest

One of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today is the granting of the freedom of the city of Salford.

The medieval term 'freeman' traditionally meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord, but enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often free - hence the term 'freedom of the city'.

The conferment of the Honorary Freedom of a borough or city has been established since 1885 as the highest honour which the local authority can bestow. Historically, it had not always been treated with such reverence. Until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 put an end to the practice, it had been possible to appoint honorary freemen for less noble reasons, not least of which might have been the future disposition of their vote at elections.

To be granted the title of Honorary Freeman is a mark of distinction upon the person whom the council wishes to honour. The freedom itself carries no privilege and is purely an honour, reflecting the eminence of the person on whom it is conferred or as recognition of significant and valuable services rendered to the city by that person. It is normally an honour or award to men or women of note who have lived or worked in the city, and who are proud to be a part of the city's history by becoming freemen or in the case of HM Services Units, freedom of the city. It should not be awarded to serving councillors.

The freedom of the city is considered the highest honour that the city council can bestow on an individual.

The freedom of the city will be given to persons:

  • Who were born, live or work in, or who have strong links with, the city of Salford.
  • Who have made a significant and outstanding contribution to the city as a whole or to its communities, or has achieved regional, national or international prominence, and in so doing, promoted the city of Salford.
  • Who have a strong and continuing connection with and commitment to, the city of Salford, or having made a major contribution to regional, national and international live, and in doing so, have enhanced the reputation of the city of Salford.
  • In accepting the award, the recipient must be willing to continue such work, be able to accept the award and attend a civic ceremony, and be willing to continue to act as an ambassador to the city.

Freemen of the city of Salford

Name Admitted Presented Comments
Dr John Cooper Clarke 19 July 2023 19 July 2023 Extraordinary contribution to the world of poetry and unwavering commitment to the arts.
Alan Henning 28 April 2023 28 April 2023 In recognition of the selfless relief work to help vulnerable people suffering in Syria. His compassion and kindness will always be remembered.
Benjamin Wallsworth MBE, MM 30 October 2019 30 October 2019 Member of the council for 44 years and integral person in the development of Salford Quays, Worsley Greenway and the Red Rose Forest project.
Mike Leigh 24 July 2019 24 July 2019 Renowned film director
Harold Riley 15 November 2017 15 November 2017 Renowned artist
Ryan Giggs March 2009 January 2010 Worsley resident and football ace
Nelson Mandela September 2004 30 November 2005 Former South African President Nelson Mandela
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies August 2004 November 2004 Classical composer, Master of the Queen's Music
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers 21 August 1974 26 April 1975 Long-standing links between the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the former City of Salford
James Roberts Not available 27 March 1973 Director of civic welfare for 17 years
Charis Ursula Frankenburg Not available 27 March 1973 JP in Salford and service in field of health and social welfare
Sampson Goldstone Not available 27 March 1973 JP in Salford and services in industry and social welfare
D E P Norton Not available 27 March 1973 Eminent services to Salford in field of industry
John Henry Lester 6 December 1972 27 March 1973 Ex-Mayor, member of the council for 35 years and chairman of the Sewerage Committee
Harry Calderwood Not available 27 March 1973 Member of the city council for 21 years
L S Lowry Not available March 1965 World-famous artist
Abraham Williamson October 1959 January 1960 Ex-Mayor, ex-tory leader and chairman of finance committee
John Rothwell October 1959 January 1960 Ex-Mayor, ex-liberal leader and business tycoon
Edward Arthur Hardy October 1959 January 1960 Alderman, leader of the city council and former MP
George Brown October 1959 January 1960 Former superintendent of Hope Hospital
Lancashire Fusiliers 3 September 1947 18 October 1947 Long-standing links between the Lancashire Fusiliers and the former City of Salford
Rev Canon Peter Green July 1944 Not available Rector of St Phillips, 1911 to 1951
Alfred Willett May 1935 Not available Moving spirit behind Salford poor children's holiday camp
Lord Colwyn July 1933 Not available Industrial magnate who did a lot of charitable work
Frank Samuel Phillips October 1923 Not available Alderman, leader of the city council for many years
David Lloyd George July 1918 October 1922 Tribute to his leadership as Prime Minister during WW1
Benn Wolfe Levy January 1899 Not available Responsible for the David Lewis Recreation Ground
Benjamin Armitage January 1899 Not available Cotton magnate with a fantastic record of social work

Further information

A number of ancient privileges are usually associated with the freedom - although they are more a product of collective memory than of documented evidence. For example freemen of the city of London have a right to herd sheep over London Bridge, to go about the city with a drawn sword, and if convicted of a capital offence, to be hung with a silken rope! Other advantages are said to have included the right to avoid being press-ganged, to be married in St Paul's Cathedral, buried in the city or to be drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest.

Today the 'freedom of the city' has no real privileges and is instead regarded as an honour or award to men or women of note who have lived or worked in the city, and who are proud to be a part of the city's history by becoming freemen.

Please telephone 0161 793 3618 or email if you have any questions. You can complete an online nomination form below.

Freedom of the city nomination

Downloadable documents

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This page was last updated on 19 July 2023

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