There are two types of Freemen of the City - Hereditary Freemen and Honorary Freemen. A brief description of each is given below.
In Newcastle freedom is acquired by patrimony or apprenticeship and until 1835 occasionally by gift. Three times a year, at the Christmas, Easter and Michaelmas Guilds, the Lord Mayor swears in those entitled to become hereditary freemen. The ceremony takes place at the end of the Freemen's meeting at the Guildhall. Any son, daughter or apprentice of a Freeman on reaching the age of 20 (and in the case of an apprentice having completed his apprenticeship) is entitled to become a Freeman on complying with the proper formalities.
From the earliest Charter until 1835 the Freemen formed a constituent part of the Corporation and as such enjoyed special rights in the corporate property which was vested in the Mayor and Burgesses for the time being. The possession of these rights implied duties and liabilities on the part of the Freemen, namely the proper government of the Town and in particular the defence of the Town from attack, as exemplified in the motto of the City's Coat of Arms 'Fortiter Defendit Triumphans'. To this day when a Freeman is admitted he is sworn before the Lord Mayor to defend the City.
The coat of arms of the companies of freemen are displayed on the ceiling of the banqueting chamber in the Civic Centre.
For further information on hereditary freemen contact : Administrator for the Freemen, Moor Bank Lodge, Claremont Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4NL
From time to time the City Council may decide to bestow honorary freedom on an eminent individual or group. The honorary freedom is then conferred by the Lord Mayor at a special ceremony. Whilst it is the highest honour that the City can give there are no particular entitlements attached to it and the honour cannot be passed on.
The names of all the honorary freemen are carved into the walls of the Banqueting Hall in the Civic Centre.
Notable examples are Robert Baden-Powell, William Gladstone, Jan Smuts, Henry Morton Stanley and Nelson Mandela.