George Mallows Freeman (1852 - 1934)

by Malcolm Pratt

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George Mallows Freeman (he insisted on the use of either both his first names or both his initials - he was never George except, presumably to his wife and close friends) was particularly honoured when appointed mayor in 1911 for his year of office would include the coronation of King George V at which ceremony the Mayor of Winchelsea would be entitled to be present as a Baron of the Cinque Ports. As Winchelsea's representative he wrote an account of his experience for circulation among the residents. He began by reporting that, on the night before the ceremony, the Cinque Ports Barons all slept at the Charing Cross Hotel 'so as not to get lost!'. Sleep, he said, was wished for but not obtained as until 2.30 a perfect pandemonium reigned in the streets including every form of trumpet and whistle and at 4 began the firing of cannon and the forming up of troops. It took a long time to reach the Abbey as all participants had strict instructions to approach from the west which was a long way round. Among the vast gathering of men resplendent in elaborate uniforms and women ablaze with diamonds, the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, remarked that 'Not the least interesting was the costume of the Cinque Port Barons'. The barons took their places in the nave at 9.30 in plenty of time for the procession which began at 11. During the procession they were to take from their bearers, and hold throughout the three hour service, the standards of the various leading countries of the Empire. Freeman held that of Canada. These standards were nine feet high (Freeman was very short!) and as the Queen and afterwards the King passed they had to be dipped in salute. Unfortunately there was very little room and on either side the King and Queen were flanked by high officers of state and bodyguards, 'magnificent persons' each with a helmet adorned with ostrich feathers. Freeman feared that in dipping their standards they would poke some high dignitary and be consigned to terrible punishment! However, all went well. The standards were returned to their bearers as the procession left after the service, most of which the barons had been able to see. They walked back to their hotel and 'fell like famished wolves on our long-delayed lunch!' Freeman described the experience as unique, historic and awe-inspiring. He would have been much gratified had he known that his son Anthony would succeed him as a Baron at the coronation of H M Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Freeman had made, and largely financed, arrangements for the celebration of coronation day in Winchelsea. As he was not, of course, present, he received a long report of what happened from his deputy mayor, Dr J R Skinner. A procession and a church service were followed by separate lunches for adults and children. The children were served first and of this Dr Skinner wrote 'Homard [the caterer] told me he would not have believed that children could drink so much ginger beer - none of them are any the worse as far as I know!' Every attempt was made to ensure that no residents were left out. No fewer than 305 adults enjoyed the meal and a further 20 lunches were taken to those unable to attend.

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