George Mallows Freeman (1852 - 1934)

by Malcolm Pratt

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Three years later at the 1914 mayoring much emphasis was placed on the fact that whoever was appointed mayor that day would the following July be presiding as Speaker of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports (it was Winchelsea's turn for its mayor to be Speaker) at the installation of Earl Beauchamp as the Confederation's Lord Warden. His colleagues thought Freeman particularly suited to this duty; he was duly elected mayor and did indeed preside at the installation. Following the complex ceremonies and procedures of the Ancient Court of Shepway at which a Lord Warden is installed, the new Lord Warden proposed a toast to the Speaker. In his reply Freeman spoke of the violent history of the men of the Cinque Ports and, reflecting on the situation of the present membership said there were signs that they were going to revive. 'Dover was going to become a great imperial port. Hastings was going to become the Paris of the south. Rye had found refuge in an ancient game in which cannon balls were exchanged for golf balls. Sandwich was going to become the Swansea of Kent while Winchelsea folded its hands and sat in the sun (laughter) and reposed upon its heritage of fadeless beauty and eternal poetry.' Some present thought this was not quite Freeman's usual style and that it had been written for him by Ford Madox Ford, until recently his Winchelsea neighbour. Whether or not that was correct, the reference to Winchelsea was not fulfilled. These words were spoken on 18th July 1914. In less than three weeks the country was plunged into the First World War; Winchelsea became a garrison town for the duration (with Freeman as mayor throughout) and certainly could not fold its hands and sit in the sun.

During his long wartime mayoralty Mr Freeman took great pleasure in the generous response of Winchelsea residents to appeals on behalf of the County War Patriotic Fund. On one occasion no less than £270 was collected (a considerable amount for a small community in those days) and forwarded by him to the Fund's headquarters in Lewes. He also took the initiative in establishing a connection between his town and the Shire of Winchelsea, Victoria, Australia. Symbolic of that relationship was the sending by the mayor of a Cinque Ports Flag, specially made by a resident, from Winchelsea, Sussex to Winchelsea, Victoria. The councilors of Winchelsea, Victoria obtained special permission for this flag to be used officially and it was first unfurled and flown on the Shire Hall in August 1916.

Despite the demands of his career as a London barrister, Freeman found time to sit on the Rye bench as a magistrate, usually, when he was present, as chairman. On one occasion a certain William Crump, a Winchelsea Beach farmer, came before him on a motoring charge. Crump was extremely annoyed to be fined the maximum amount for his offence. When sometime later Freeman ordered a supply of hay from Crump he was sent, no doubt with little hope of success, a bill which was considerably more than the hay would normally cost but coincided exactly with the amount of the fine!

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