Family History Federation

Barnstaple Burgesses Capital & Common – 1780

This booklet was compiled by members of the Devon Family History Society in co-operation with the North Devon Records Office. The booklet provides an extract of some information and further details may be obtained from the North Devon Records Office. Barnstaple was an ancient borough and, like other incorporated towns, it had a long tradition of admitting many of its citizens to the freedom of the borough. Admission as a freeman entitled one to trade within the town, gave exemptions from various tolls, provided a vote in local elections and eligibility to serve on the borough council. In most towns, freedom was gained by inheritance, by serving a recognised trade apprenticeship within the town, by purchase, or by order of the mayor and corporation. Many towns kept registers of their freemen, and some include details of date of admission, name of freeman and abode, name and occupation of father or master. Among the records of Barnstaple Borough Council held by the North Devon Record Office are lists of freemen going back to the 16th century, although records tend to be very patchy before the nineteenth century. In more recent times, admission to the freedom of a town or city became more of a ceremonial honour bestowed on” only a few noteworthy individuals or groups.


SKU : N027

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