by Malcolm Pratt
At the 1905 Easter Monday mayoring when he was again to be mayor, G M Freeman asked Winchelsea Corporation to accept a gold badge which he had had made for the mayor's chain. This badge represented the ship shown on the town's seal and had on the reverse the following inscription: '1905 Presented by Geo Mallows Freeman KC, three times mayor, 1895-1904'. The meeting resolved, unanimously of course, that the badge be accepted with the thanks of the Corporation 'for his kindness' It was reported at the same meeting that a further eight links had been fitted to the chain engraved with the names of past mayors. The badge and the chain with its engraved links remain in use.
It was in 1908 that a death occurred which had a potentially major effect upon the Winchelsea community. It was that of Major Robert Curteis Stileman who had, with the support of his sister, been Winchelsea's greatly respected leading resident for many years. The apprehension felt within the community was about what would happen to the major's property, not only because of the possible impact of the sale of the Greyfriars Estate (the major had no heir) but also because many of the poorer people were his tenants. His property in the town and area was considerable and fears about its disposal seemed to be justified when the auctioneers included in their advertisement, 'This estate must strongly appeal to Land Companies and Speculators as it presents an Absolutely Unique Opportunity for Profitable Development'. The description went on to draw attention to 'several thousand feet of frontage to main roads and any quantity of good building stone on the property, free of all building restrictions'. Had property developers succeeded in acquiring all Major Stileman's land and buildings the Winchelsea of today would be a very different place. They did not. George Mallows Freeman purchased a considerable majority of the lots with the express purpose of preserving the character of the town and preventing insensitive development. He thus became the owner of The Friars to which, after alterations and improvements under the direction of the well-known architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, the Freemans moved from Cleveland House.
This was not the only occasion on which Freeman purchased property to prevent what he saw as unsightly and undesirable development. Having been extremely disapproving of what he described as 'cheap villas' built on the former site of Higham House in Winchelsea he bought Mariteau House when it came on the market in the 1920s to prevent the same thing happening.