Grimsby Freemen

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Skills Centre Officially Opened

15 April 2011

The Skills Centre in Freeman Street Market was officially opened by the Mayor, Councillor Norma Lincoln, on Friday 15th April, 2011. The MP for Grimsby, Austin Mitchell, was also in attendance.

This is how Stephen White welcomed the invited guests;-

Skills Centre ~ Official Opening

15th April 2011
Madam Mayor, Honourable Sir, ladies and gentlemen.
A very warm welcome to Freeman Street Market and The Freemen’s Skills Centre.
For those of you who do not know me, my name is Stephen White and I am the Chairman of the Enrolled Freemen and the Pastures Committee, the governing body of the Enrolled Freemen.
It has fallen to me to open these proceedings and I thought that it would be useful to explain the events which have brought us to this point, where we are today.
This last year has had particular significance for the Freemen in more ways than one.
Most recently, Government Legislation which received Royal Assent in 2010 meant that we could change the rules of admission to the Freedom. In short, sexual equality had finally caught up with us and for the first time in Grimsby daughters, as well as sons, became eligible to become Freemen.
At the risk of embarrassing her, I have to tell you that Her Worshipful the Mayor, or our Norma as she likes to be known, was one of the first, if not THE first, to benefit from these new rules at the Mayor’s Court held in October last year. There have been two subsequent “extra” Courts held and a further one is planned such is the interest being expressed by the previously disenfranchised fairer sex.
The Freemen have been very proud and privileged to have been asked to participate in these Admission Ceremonies and we are hopeful that these new arrangements will become permanent so that we can build upon the Civic pride that has been generated.
Not that the Mayor is any stranger to Freemen’s affairs for in 2001, when she was also First Citizen, she was my guest when the Freemen of England and Wales came to Grimsby for their Annual General Meeting as part of the Charter 800 Celebration Year.
The official opening of the Skills Centre marks the culmination of the first stage of a considerable investment that the Freemen are making in the market, and within the Freeman Street area generally, and we are particularly pleased that Her Worship the Mayor has been able to take time out of what we know to be a very busy day for her to be with us today.
As you all may, or may not know, the Freemen, and the Mayoralty both date back to the granting of the first Royal Charter in 1201 which conferred Borough Status on the town.
Quite apart from obliging the Freemen, or Burgesses, to provide the Local Government, and to return two MP’s to Parliament, certain privileges were also granted, one of those being the right to operate a market.
Until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 the market was held in the town centre by the Old Town Hall roughly where the “Top Town” market is situated today.
However, with the newly elected Councils replacing the old administration, both the Council and the Freemen each exercised their rights to operate a market under the original Charter and this market has been situated here, in Freeman Street, since 1873.
Originally open to the elements, the market was roofed over, enclosed and had new electric lighting installed in the 1960’s. In fact, by chance, as a boy I was on the market with my mother when my future father-in-law – who was Chairman at the time – performed the switching-on ceremony. Little did I know.
This market has suffered in the same way that Freeman Street generally has especially over the last 10 years or so, we lost a number of traders which left gaps which we found very difficult to fill.
Co-incidentally, around 2 years ago, local meetings started to be held extolling the virtues of “community hubs”, the Big Society had arrived.
This is where I must pay tribute to Richard Bellamy, who had the notion of creating a Freemen’s Craft and Skills Centre. Since the Freeman had, at one time provided grammar schools in the town, albeit exclusively for the children of Freemen, education and training was not something totally alien to our nature and so we set about seeing what we might do to make good use of our redundant space.
It was all pretty speculative, it was a bit of a gamble. We held meetings with interested parties, potential tenants or partners and we sat through presentations in what was, at the outset, a very cold and draughty corner of the market and which really stretched the imagination.
But here we are, we have all of the units filled, perhaps not in the way that we originally envisaged but nevertheless with organisations that are, in the main, about job creation or bringing people back into work in an area that is long overdue a bit of a lift.
Whilst it is a functional area with work spaces and wifi internet we have also made it quirky and a place where people will want to come, to sit in the courtyard bistro area and to enjoy the ambience. And, for example, this evening sees the second Film night in the Courtyard to be presented by Meniscus Films.
And it doesn’t end there.
We have, over the last year or so, been working closely with North East Lincolnshire Council and Shoreline Housing Partnership to initially put together, and to now deliver the Freeman Street Neighbourhood Development Framework.
We will continue to support, and work for the benefit of the town in general and this area especially where we think we can make a difference.
I will now hand you over to our Clerk, Stephen Savage.
~ o O o ~

The picture below, which is used courtesy of the Cleethorpes Chronicle, shows (left to right) Stephen White (Chairman ~ Pastures Committee & Enrolled Freemen), The Mayor ~ Councillor Norma Lincoln, Stephen Wakefield (Vice Chairman), Stephen Savage (Clerk to the Freemen) and Richard Bellamy (Chairman ~ Market Committee). The Mayor is being presented with a framed copy of the plaque which she unveiled.

Follow the link below to see how The Grimsby Evening Telegraph reported the news;-