Freemen of the Borough
The granting of Freeman status is the greatest honour which the council can bestow upon an individual or corporate entity. Watford Borough Council has appointed many Freemen over the years. At the present time, there are three Freemen: Sir Elton John and Norman Tyrwhitt and Mavis Tyrwhitt (also with a Freeman each in Germany and France, given in connection with town twinning and friendship links with the cities of Mainz and Nanterre). Freedom of the Borough or 'Freedom of Entry' is given to organisations. In the case of Watford, this is the local regiment which recruits in Watford and Hertfordshire, the Royal Anglian Regiment.
Honorary Freemen of the borough (*deceased)
The Rt. Hon George Herbert Hyde Villiers, Earl of Clarendon (admitted 28 July 1924) *
Alderman Ralph Alfred Thorpe (admitted 22 June 1927) *
The Rt. Hon Lord Hemingford (admitted 22 March 1943) *
Alderman Thomas Rubython Clark (admitted 22 March 1943) *
William Hudson (admitted 22 March 1943) *
Ernest James Baxter OBE, JP (admitted 1 September 1959) *
Harry Horwood OBE, JP (admitted 1 September 1959) *
Edward C Amey OBE (admitted 19 July 1976) *
Hubert Buckingham (admitted 19 July 1976) *
Albert G Dillingham (admitted 19 July 1976)*
Sir Raphael Tuck BSC (ECON), MA, Ii M (admitted 15 November 1980) *
Irene Tunstall Dunn (admitted 6 October 1977) *
Frederick Hodgson (admitted 6 October 1977) *
Elton John (admitted 6 October 1977)
Stella Meldrum (admitted 6 October 1977) *
Herr Jockel Fuchs (admitted 4 October 1986) *
Monsieur Yves Serge Saudmont (admitted 4 October 1986)
Graham Taylor (admitted 25 June 2001) *
Norman Tyrwhitt (admitted 23 July 2005)
Mavis Tyrwhitt (admitted 23 July 2005)
Luther Blissett (admitted 16 March 2021)
The Royal Anglian Regiment, Freedom of Entry (admitted in 1959 to predecessor regiment, the East Anglian Regiment).
Freeman status - how it is conferred
The general advice given to councils is contained in Section 249(5) of the Local Government Act 1972. It states that a council may admit "persons of distinction and persons who have in the opinion of the council, rendered eminent services to the borough" as Honorary Freeman or in the case of HM Services Units, Freedom of the Borough.
The resolution must be passed by not less than two-thirds of the members at a meeting of the council specially convened for the purpose with notice of the object.
To be granted the title of Honorary Freeman is a mark of distinction upon the person whom the council wishes to honour. The Freedom itself carries no privilege and is purely an honour, reflecting the eminence of the person on whom it is conferred or as recognition of significant and valuable services rendered to the city or borough by that person. It is normally an honour or award to men or women of note who have lived or worked in the city/borough, and who are proud to be a part of the city/borough's history by becoming freemen or in the case of HM Services Units, Freedom of the Borough. It should not be awarded to serving councillors.
The overriding principle is that these awards should be made on merit, defined as:
- Exceptional Service
Awards should not be for a job well done or because someone has reached a particular level. They should be awarded because an individual has excelled in the contribution they have made or stand out 'head and shoulders' above others in what has been achieved.
To be considered, someone should have:
- delivered in a way that has brought distinction to borough life and enhanced the borough's reputation in the area or activity concerned
- contributed in a way to improve the lives of those less able to help themselves
- demonstrated innovation and entrepreneurship which is delivering results in the borough.
The awarding of the title of Honorary Freeman is the highest honour that a borough council can grant and is given sparingly.
The title of Honorary Freeman does not give any rights but it is hoped that person would support the Offices of Mayor and Chairman at civic functions.
The awarding of the Freedom of the Borough to Service units 'to march through the streets of the borough with bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying' has been granted to the local regiment, the Royal Anglian Regiment.
Amongst other councils, Watford is probably unique in having Freemen who actively undertake activities on behalf of the borough on a weekly basis; Norman and Mavis Tyrwhitt carry out many civic engagements on behalf of the Borough, representing the council, the Mayor or the Chairman, providing an excellent support service to the council.