Becoming a Freeman

To be a Freeman is to be part of an organisation that has been intimately involved with the manufacturing industries of Sheffield and South Yorkshire for nearly 400 years. Initially the arbiter of Cutlers’ Trademarks and Apprentices the Cutlers took control of the cutlery industry in Hallamshire with the Act of Parliament in April 1624 placing the economic benefits of manufacturing directly into the hands of the people working in the industry.

Since 1624 the Cutlers of Sheffield have evolved through innovation, hard work and vision from its founding role supporting the cutlery industry into steel and steel product makers before expanding into aerospace, digital engineering, tooling, advanced manufacturing and many other sectors. This expansion into new manufacturing sectors has always been with the “Made in Sheffield” quality ethos of the original Cutlers at our core and has happened alongside the traditional industries of the Region – “Hallamshire and 6 miles compass” (the S postcode). The Company of Cutlers has evolved to reflect these advances and rolled with the changes in UK governments over 400 years to lead the representation and promotion of the manufacturing industries of the region locally, nationally and internationally. The Master Cutler acts as the “Voice of Manufacturing” for Sheffield and South Yorkshire supported by the Members, Freemen and Friends who help to keep the prominence and importance of manufacturing at the forefront of what we do.

The Company also plays a major part in the civic life of the Region, through maintaining close links with a wide range of organisations, including Regional and Local Government, the voluntary and faith sector, the Judiciary, health and emergency services and the military.

The representation work of the Master is underpinned by the Company’s role in Education, spearheaded by the “Better Learners Better Workers” programme, and the charitable activities undertaken including, but not limited to, the Master Cutler’s Challenge. Finally, the Company is in the events industry using the Cutlers’ Hall to welcome people to the region to impress them with what has been achieved here and inspire them with what is happening in Sheffield and South Yorkshire now.

About the Company of Cutlers

The “Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire in the County of York” is normally shortened locally to the Cutlers Company and is still very close to its manufacturing roots as it has been since 1624. In fact all Masters Cutler are “in trade” and elected because of their involvement with local manufacturing.

The “Company” structure is set out in the Act of Parliament as being the Commonalty of Freemen with a governing body consisting of a Master Cutler and 32 Members charged with the control of trademarks, apprentices and searching out shoddy goods. These roles continue today with the two Wardens, 6 Searchers and 24 Assistants, of which 16 are Past Masters who chair the key committees such as education & skills, finance, halls and events. Past Masters also chair the Charitable and Preservation Trusts and hold key roles like the Friends advisor, Freeman’s advisor and the Sheffield Defence Advisor.

The Freemen are the body of the Company from which the members are drawn.

The Friends are key non-manufacturing companies in the region who wish to be linked with manufacturing, enjoy the Company life and support the Master in their role as the Voice of Manufacturing for the region.

Finally, the Company is run on a day to day basis by the Clerk who is the Company’s CEO. He in turn is supported by his team of Beadles, Administrators, Chefs, Archivists, Hospitality, House and Catering staff who make the Hall what it is today.

About being a Freeman

As a Freeman, an ancient title which means a person was free (not a slave or serf) and had the right to produce their own goods and sell them, you continue the traditions and company life of the 1624 Cutlers adjusted for modern times which include:

  • The Company life, including the Installation of the Master Cutler and the Cutlers’ Feast
  • Company and Subscription events like the Forfeit Feast and the Freemen’s Dinner in December
  • Invitations to meetings with key opinion formers to support the Master Cutler in their role as the “Voice of Manufacturing” in promoting positive messages about manufacturing in the region
  • Freemen events such as the Freemen’s Lunch
  • Social events and other activities arranged by the Freemen’s Committee
  • Use of the Scholey room in the Hallamshire Suite which is set aside for the use of the Commonalty
  • A Freeman’s discount on Hall hire and catering for private events
  • Affiliate membership of Make UK. There are also opportunities to contribute or serve on committees that deliver Company activities
  • Be part of the Company’s charitable activities
  • Be involved in the Company’s educational activities around skills and bringing young people into engineering
  • Offer and receive feedback about what is happening in Industry in response to issues around manufacturing
  • Promote the positive messages about manufacturing in the region
  • Raise issues for the Master Cutler to raise with Government when they are in London
  • Be part of the Freemen’s Committee
  • Help delivering the Hallamshire Ball
  • Be part of the Company’s Manufacturing Forum and the International Trade Forum
  • Take part in networking opportunities organised by the Company and Friends