Discover more

A freeman was a rank within livery companies signifying that the individual had been granted freedom of the company. Livery companies pertain to those ancient and modern guilds and trade associations of London and relate to various trades.

An individual became a freeman in one of three ways: (1) through completion of an apprenticeship, (2) by patrimony, meaning the individual’s father was a freeman at the time of birth, or (3) by redemption or purchase, where a fee is paid to the company.

Apprenticeship has a long history in the United Kingdom. Generally, a child around the age of 14 would be apprenticed to a master for a set number of years (between 5 and 9 years). The parents of the child would pay a fee (depending on when the apprenticeship occurred, this could have been a lump sum or fee paid in installments) and the apprenticeship contract was documented in an indenture. The master would be responsible for clothing, housing, and feeding the apprentice, as well as technical training. From time to time, there were laws passed to protect and regulate the apprenticeship system. For example, in 1563, the Statute of Artificers and Apprentices stipulated that one had to have completed a 7-year apprenticeship to a master before practising any trade or craft.