Become a Freeman



Welcome. Welcome to the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire as a Freeman. The aim of this short note of introduction is to give you some background on the Company and to set out for you to the value and benefits of being a Freeman.

Purpose. The purpose of the Company is to promote the interests of manufacturing industry in South Yorkshire, through the public platform occupied by the Master Cutler. You, as a Freemen, are part of the life blood of the Company and essential to this purpose.

Benefits. There are benefits to being a Freeman:

  • The Hall. As a Freeman, and with the Master’s permission, you will have the right to use the Company Rooms in the Hall. You will also be able to bring visitors to the Hall and show them round what is a local gem, if you wish to do so.
  • Networking. You will be able to attend events where you can network with other Freemen and with Friends of the Company.
  • Invitations. You will be invited to the Installation each year and to Cutlers’ Feast from time to time, as well as having the option to attend the Forfeit Feast (Double Ticket) every year on payment of the marginal cost. You will have the opportunity to attend and to entertain business guests at the Freemen’s Dinner as well as friends and family at the Freemen’s Social Dinner and at the Freemen’s Lunch.
  • Access to the Master. The Master Cutler has a unique platform, in that he has access to MPs, local politicians and decision makers and is frequently in London, moving in circles of influence. As a Freeman, you will be able to put your view forward to the Master Cutler. This is normally done through the Chief Executive/Clerk to the Company.

Sheffield. The name “Sheffield” is protected. Companies House will not allow Sheffield to be used in any Company name without a letter of non-objection from the Company of Cutlers. Equally, we control the certification mark ‘Sheffield’ and are joint owners of the Made in Sheffield brand with the City Council and Chamber of Commerce.

The Company. The Company has a unique position and is much envied by other cities and regions. It is apolitical and has no agenda beyond helping manufacturing in the Region to grow and representing its wider interests. It can therefore, through the Master, help coordinate activity, to lobby for the Region and to influence events both within and outside South Yorkshire. Being a Freeman of the Company contributes to this.

Status. Freedom of the Company of Cutlers is restricted. Only those meeting the stipulated qualification criteria can be granted Freedom.


Structure. The Company (effectively the board) comprises:

The board, known as the Company:
33 Members by Statute comprising:
The Master Cutler.
Two Wardens. The Senior Warden is the next in line to be Master Cutler and the Junior Warden is next after that.
Six Searchers. (The origin of the Searchers was that they were originally tasked with seeking out and destroying substandard products)
24 Assistants. (Normally 15 Past Masters and 9 on the ladder to Mastership).

The Commonalty
of the Company. This is essentially the Freemen.

Friends. Currently a maximum of 55 organizations or individuals who are not qualified for Freedom but who wish to be associated with the Company.
Qualification. Only individuals who meet the qualification criteria will be accepted for Freedom. The requirement is laid out in the enclosed Criteria for Freedom.
History. The Company was formed by Act of Parliament in 1624. Our nearest equivalents are the London Livery companies and “Merchant Companies” of York, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow, but none of them is established by Act of Parliament.


Education. The Company has long been involved in education, even at the time of its formation through trade apprenticeships. Current involvement in education includes:

  1. The Cutlers’ Company Better Learners Better Workers Programme. The Company, in collaboration with Sheffield City Council, has introduced a programme better to equip young people with the workplace skills, based on a skills’ framework supported by a programme of activities and work experience.
  2. Joint Education Awards. There are a range of awards:
  3. Apprentices/Undergraduates. Travel/study grants have been made, jointly with the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers to apprentices in the Region and to students at Sheffield Hallam University.
  4. Pontifex Awards. Named after a succession of Masters of the Armourers & Brasiers called Pontifex, this awards travel/study grants to young managers in manufacturing Industry.

Welfare/Charities. Charities are run separately, but the Company effectively has five strings to its charitable bow:

  1. Charitable Trust. This is for the relief of poverty and distress in South Yorkshire.
  2. Sir John Osborn Fund. This is a fund open to more general charitable giving, but focused on Sheffield.
  3. South Yorkshire Community Foundation (SYCF). Money was gifted by the Company to SYCF to open up a fund to encourage young people into manufacturing. This donates approximately £9,000 each year.
  4. The Cutlers’ Hall Preservation Trust. The prime function of this charity is to maintain the Hall its treasures and historical records, but it also contributes to the Joint Awards Scheme.
  5. Master Cutler’s Challenge. The Master Cutler runs a challenge each year to support a major charity in the Region. Details of each year’s Master Cutler’s Challenge are publicised in Company literature and on the website. It has also been agreed that a percentage of the money raised will be given to the Sir John Osborn Trust so that it can be redistributed to smaller charities. These do not have the necessary resources to run the challenge and would otherwise miss out on what has become one of the major fundraising activities in this Region.

Promotion of Hallamshire (South Yorkshire). These are prestige occasions, such as the Cutlers’ Feast and Forfeit Feast, Police and Fire Service Awards. Also including the Master Cutler’s duties and engagements, in particular, in the City of London.

The Hall. The Company has a duty to maintain, preserve and enhance the Hall and its possessions, as a showpiece and asset for Hallamshire. Repairs are funded by the Cutlers’ Hall Preservation Trust.

Forum for Manufacturing Industry. The Manufacturing Forum is chaired by a Freeman of the Cutlers’ Company on behalf of the Master Cutler and is now the manufacturing arm of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Catering and Hospitality. In January 2015, the Company took the catering and hospitality operation in-house. This has been run successfully since. The hospitality business is reviewed regularly and is overseen by the Catering and Hospitality Committee. Freemen are encouraged to use the Hall for private and business events.


Installation. Contributing Freemen are invited to the Installation of the Master Cutler every year. This is on the first Tuesday in October and comprises a reception (normally combined with a Freemen’s Annual General Meeting), the Installation ceremony, a church service and then a luncheon, preceded by drinks. It normally starts at 09h30 (AGM) and is complete by 14h30.

Cutlers’ Feast. This is an Evening Dress (white tie) dinner held in May each year. It is one of the premier social and business events of the year. Freeman are invited in their first year and approximately every third year thereafter, by rotation. It is the occasion when the Senior Warden makes the principal speech, allowing him/her to give an indication of the themes for his/her year as Master.

Forfeit Feast. This takes place late in July. Its unusual name comes from the fact that it used to be funded by forfeits, either from manufacturers who had broken the rules, or from Members of the Company who had not attended meetings. This is a less formal affair with the dress being black tie (Dinner Jacket). The principal guest is normally the Lord Mayor of London. It is a double ticket event with Freemen normally bringing their spouses or partners. Freemen are invited every year on a first come first served basis, but they pay for their tickets.

Freemen’s Dinner. This is held early in December and is an occasion when Freemen can invite business colleagues to the Hall to entertain them. It is normally great fun with an opportunity to meet lots of other Freemen and Friends.

Freemen’s Social Dinner. This is held in March annually. It is a “black tie” dinner with spouses or partners, but also allows Freemen to invite personal guests.

Freemen’s Luncheon. This is normally held on the nearest Friday to St George’s day. It is an informal luncheon where Freemen and Friends are welcome to bring along family and friends.

Golf Day. There is a golf day in August or September when Freemen and Friends take part in a competition for trophies including a silver putter and a Ryder Cup plate. Recently, this has been held at the Hallamshire Golf Club.

Other Events. There are other events during the year to which Freemen may be invited.


Company Staff is small and comprises:

Chief Executive and Clerk to the Company. Colonel Philip Bates. He oversees and runs all Company business, the Hall, the hospitality business, the charity groups and manages, and is secretary, to all the working committees.

The Beadle. Mr Richard Vardy– the hall manager responsible for security and day- to-day maintenance.

The Senior Secretary. Mrs Michele Norman. She runs the Company office.

The Deputy Beadle. Mr David Birch, as his title suggests, he deputises for and assists the Beadle.

The Master’s PA and MiS. Ms Louise Webster manages the Master’s diary from the Company’s perspective and is responsible for the administration of MiS.

The Archivist. Dr Joan Unwin deals with historical aspects of the Company and also manages the website.

The Accountant. Mrs Carolyn Winnard, manages all accounts including audit.


A Freemen’s Committee was re-established in 2010. It is intended as a means of ensuring that Freemen’s voices are heard within the Company. The Current Chairman is Richard Gould of MetLase. There are 11 other members including one Friend, the Junior Warden and the Senior Searcher. Issues can be raised through the Chief Executive.

  1. Website. The Company has a website with an area dedicated to Freemen and Friends. It is worth looking at it periodically. The website includes a newsfeed element where events and activities are reported.
  2. Newsletter. A Newsletter is also produced and distributed on a monthly basis. If you are not receiving a copy, please let the Secretary know and they will ensure that you are added to the distribution list.


Should you come across potential Freemen, you should feel free to suggest that they apply for Freedom. A copy of the criteria can be obtained from the Chief Executive or Secretary.


Contact in the Hall is:

Colonel Philip Bates MBA FIoD
Chief Executive and Clerk to the Company
The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire
Cutlers Hall
Church Street


T. 0114 272 8456

Eligibility and Process

Directors or Senior managers of eligible businesses in Sheffield and South Yorkshire are identified by the Members and the Freemen’s committee and asked to complete a form confirming their eligibility, willingness and desire both to become a Freeman and to be involved in the Company life if accepted as a Freeman. This application is then scrutinised by the Freeman’s advisor before approval by the Company.

Successful applicants are then invited to join and subscribe to the annual contribution which is paid into the Preservation Trust to help maintain the Hall and its Heritage.

The current annual subscription is £300