Llantrisant Town Trust To Enrol Women Freemen
Written by Gavin on 3rd January 2023
Women will be admitted as Freemen of Llantrisant for the first time since the ancient tradition began more than a thousand years ago.
Llantrisant Town Trust , a charitable body that manages the lands and rights of the Freemen, will enrol the daughters and granddaughters of enrolled Freemen for the first time in May 2023.
This follows centuries when the hereditary rights of the Freemen to manage land and graze their animals on the common lands were passed from father to son or son-in-law.
Clerk of Llantrisant Town Trust Dean Powell said:
“Society has changed beyond recognition since the tradition began. However, in accordance with Welsh inheritance laws, it always recognised the importance of the woman: the freedom was passed down through their bloodline to their male children and sons in law, but they were not allowed to become Freemen themselves.
“Trustees felt the time had long since come when women should be able to become Freemen in their own right. The admission of the daughters of freemen will preserve the principle of the “bloodline” which has always formed the strict basis of assessing all applications for admission .This upholds the tradition while giving women their rightful title of Freemen alongside their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.”
In May 1346 a Charter was presented to the traders and merchants of Llantrisant which gave them the right to runs markets, fairs, pubs and workshops without paying a tax to the Lord of Glamorgan. This Charter confirmed the many rights or “ancient liberties” already enjoyed by the men of Llantrisant since the 10th century, if not earlier.
But the Charter of 1346 cemented the power of the Freemen of the time: many were experienced longbow men who fought later that year for the “Black Prince” Edward of Woodstock at the Battle of Crecy. They have been known as the “Black Army” of Llantrisant ever since.
Since then Freemen have governed their lands, including the cherished 246 acres of Llantrisant Common where they hold special grazing rights. Because the land has never been grazed by sheep, only by horses and cattle, it is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest and home to rare butterfly breeds and certain plant life not seen anywhere else in Britain.
They also own he Graig hillside where the lookout tower known as the Billy Wynt, stands on the summit with views across the Bristol Channel.
Freemen are enrolled each May at a Court Leet Ceremony held in their ancestral home, Llantrisant Guildhall. This is a 14th century court house which has been recently restored and transformed into a heritage and visitors’ centre.
Every seven years the Freemen of Llantrisant walk the boundaries of their ancient borough in a seven-mile procession known as Beating the Bounds. The last event drew 15,000 people to the town and the next will take place in June 2024.
Dean Powell added:
“Llantrisant enjoys a very long and proud history in which the Freemen have played a significant role for centuries.
“As we look to the future, Freemen continue to enhance the land which has been passed down to them through the generations for all residents of the town to enjoy.”
Llantrisant Town Trustees proposed to make the change to the hereditary rights in autumn 2022 . A special meeting of Freemen accepted the proposed change, and it was ratified by the Charity Commission.
There are currently 1,280 Freemen of Llantrisant. They have included Sir David Evans, the Lord Major of London, Sir Brandon Rhys Williams MP, Lord Mayor of Cardiff James Taylor and Lord Lieutenant of Mid Glamorgan Sir Cennydd Traherne.
For further details and enrolment forms, visit www.llantrisant.net