What does it mean to become a fremman of the

Goldsmiths' Company, London?

Contemporary Silversmith and metal sculptorRajesh Gognais to be granted the freedom of the City of Londonin acknowledgment of his contribution to the masterful craft of Silversmithing.



Rajesh celebrates being made a Freeman to the Mystery of Goldsmiths in London with members of the Goldsmiths Court

The Royal Grant follows his admission as a Freeman to the Mystery of Goldsmiths (Goldsmiths Company) recently when he took part in the oldest traditional ceremony surviving inBritaintoday, dating back to 1237.

Afterwards, he was escorted by wardens from the Goldsmiths Hall to the Guildhall where he was invited to apply for the freedom of the City of London.

Rajesh is a fourth-generation craftsman, whose family has been deeply committed for nearly 100 years to the research, design and making of artworks

He will return to the Guildhall to swear an oath to the Queen and formally complete the ceremony by signing the Freeman’s Declaration Book. A parchment copy of the freedom is presented, together with a copy of the Rules for the Conduct of Life which date from the mid-18th century.

The medieval term ‘freeman’ meant someone who was not the property of a feudal lord but enjoyed privileges such as the right to earn money and own land.

A number of ancient privileges are associated with the freedom. They include the right to herd sheep overLondonbridge, 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 inSt Paul’s Cathedral, buried in the city and to be drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest.

Based on the Medieval Guild system, Rajesh gained his freedom of the Ancient Company of Goldsmiths by redemption.

He said: “Freedom by redemption requires at least 15 years of continuous practice as a silversmith/goldsmith. Applicants must be judged to be masters of their profession and considered to have made an international contribution to the art of goldsmithing.

“Each of the City Guilds is allowed to nominate 10 individuals a year, although today few goldsmiths are granted freedom of the City ofLondon.

“Having gained my freedom, I am now able to pass on the privileges to an apprentice, who I can nominate after five years under my guidance. The freedom is also hereditary.”

Famous honorary freemen include Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, Florence Nightingale, General Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill Assistant clerk of the Goldsmiths’ Company, Warren Benbow, said the records containing the names of freemen went back unbroken to the 1300s, the hall having survived both the Great Fire of London and the bombs in World War Two.

Unlike other livery companies, the Goldsmiths Company kept close links with the gold and silver-smithing trade and was closely involved in training apprentices. It also gave money to charities.

He said it contained one of three assay offices inEngland, the other two beingBirminghamandSheffield. About five to six million items passed through the assay office annually.

Gold and silversmiths traditionally brought their wares to the hall to be marked, which was where the expression ‘hallmarked’ came from. TheLondonhallmark was a leopard’s head. Another word, ‘masterpiece’, referred to the item an apprentice made while under his master’s instruction to mark the end of his apprenticeship.

Freemen were expected to be ambassadors for the company and take part in activities as well as keep an eye on happenings in the trade.

After being freemen for a period, they could become livery members. There were about 300 members, from whom the management board, or court, is elected.