The Lord Mayor's Office administers the admittance of Freeman to the City of Coventry.
A small pension upon reaching pensionable age, from the Coventry Freemen's Charity, for needy Freemen of the City and their dependants, and the widows and widowers of dead Freemen who live in the city.
Preference to applications from suitably qualified Freeman to a scheme known as General Charities. No one Freeman has a right to loan or grants, and decisions rest with the Trustees of the City. Typically the charity provides for people in need, hardship or distress; interest free loans; financial assistance for education; and a pension for poorer people.
A register of the names of all the Freemen of the City of Coventry is held by the Council. It is kept in the Lord Mayor's Office, and can be seen by anyone - to make an appointment please call the Lord Mayor's secretary.
The West Midlands County Council Act 1980 states that to qualify for the Freedom of the City you must have completed an apprenticeship under an enrolled Deed:
The right to become a Freeman of Coventry is still earned through service (serving an apprenticeship) and the city is the only one to award Freedom in just this way. Other cities award the Freedom through a payment or it can be passed from parent to child.
Coventry's history goes back for hundreds of years and the City of Coventry Freemen's Guilds have been part of that history for almost the same time. The people who belonged to those merchant and craft guilds had served an apprenticeship to their trade and were "free" to trade in the community.
Eventually in 1345, Coventry became a city and had a Mayor in 1348. The Freemen were then able to swear an oath of allegiance before him and this ceremony has been carried out to this day with little change. The oath still tells of their duty to the Mayor, the city and the community, making today’s Freemen direct successors of the members of the ancient Guilds.
The main Guilds of Coventry, those of St Mary, St John and St Catherine, combined in 1364 to form the very powerful and religious Trinity Guild. It was the religious link that led King Henry VIII to dissolve it in 1546.
The Guild Hall of St Mary, built in 1342 and extended in 1414, was owned by the Trinity Guild but was confiscated by King Henry VIII. It now belongs to the Coventry Corporation and is one of the oldest guild halls in the country.
Coventry continued to admit Freemen but it was not until 1945 that a group of them banded together to form the City of Coventry Freemen's Guild which was Incorporated in 1946.