George Mallows Freeman (1852 - 1934)

by Malcolm Pratt

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His life in Sussex


George Mallows Freeman's first Winchelsea home was Cleveland House. This property he had not acquired at the time of the 1891 census but must have done so soon afterwards for he was made a freeman of the town on Easter Monday 1893 and elected mayor for the first time in 1895. It should perhaps be explained briefly here that Winchelsea Corporation, the body which appoints the mayor annually, is not Winchelsea's local authority but an unelected charity. Nevertheless the mayors of those days assumed full authority over the affairs of the town and were seldom challenged! The reason for this historical anomaly was that parliament, through primary legislation ten years earlier, had allowed the Winchelsea Corporation to remain in existence when all other surviving medieval corporations were abolished so that it could fulfil Winchelsea's function as a head port of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports. Mayor first in 1895, Freeman went on to serve in that office on a further twelve occasions.

Mr Freeman always took a keen interest in the life and convenience of Winchelsea's residents, mostly, as in this case, the wealthier residents! In 1897 he complained bitterly about Winchelsea's water supply with which there had been problems for many years. He said that the owners of large houses could only get water to their top tanks when Holden was pumping. 'Holden must pump every day'. Holden, about whom we do not have further information, understandably wanted extra pay if he were to do this. His request was refused so we must assume that the inconvenience continued. Nearly twenty years later it was again the owners of bigger properties who were principally of interest to him. At that time the government proposed to provide a countrywide electricity supply. Freeman was asked his opinion about this and its potential impact on Winchelsea. He thought that the cost of labour and materials would be prohibitive and doubted whether many houses in the town would take such a supply, 'As most of the larger houses have their own private lighting'. He did, however, feel it necessary to consult more widely before registering this opinion so he consulted the members of Winchelsea Corporation who were the owners of the larger houses!

Development of frequently ramshackle property at what was then known as Dog's Hill and is now Winchelsea Beach also met with his considerable displeasure. Such construction was in an area liable to flooding by the sea. Freeman and his Winchelsea Corporation colleagues had little sympathy for those who created homes on the area's shingle in such structures as disused railway carriages and were not prepared to offer either help or support when those homes were the subject of inundations by the sea.

He was also much concerned about the motor traffic which, in the first decade of the twentieth century, made its presence felt in a major way. He urged the county council to put up noticeboards requesting motorists not to drive through Winchelsea at more than 10 miles an hour. His complaint was prompted by his claim that property along the main road was being damaged as a result of the dust raised by motorcars and he thought 'steps must be taken to remedy this evil'. Mr Freeman was also active in promoting the sensible idea that Winchelsea should be provided with a by-pass. Others have been equally active ever since but it has never happened!

While generally resistant to changes such as development at Winchelsea Beach, the introduction into the town of a general electricity supply and the growing impact of vehicular traffic, he was an early subscriber to the telephone system. His number was Winchelsea 5.

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