Postbag: Times change

I AM sorry that my earlier response to Mrs Anne Bradshaw (Letters, December 8) did not make sufficiently clear the status of the present Huntingdon Freemen s Charity. Whilst few would dispute the foresight of the ancient freemen in gathering together for

I AM sorry that my earlier response to Mrs Anne Bradshaw (Letters, December 8) did not make sufficiently clear the status of the present Huntingdon Freemen's Charity.

Whilst few would dispute the foresight of the ancient freemen in gathering together for themselves large areas of Huntingdon land, it has also to be accepted that, over the centuries since that time, much has changed. The High Court in 1993 decided that the "Freemen of Huntingdon" (and the "widows of Freemen") were now so few that they no longer represented the majority of the inhabitants of Huntingdon.

It ruled that the benefits of the income from the charity should now be distributed for the benefit of all the inhabitants of Huntingdon (which obviously includes Freemen if they are still resident within the town) rather than for the benefit of the select few - a number of possibly less than 10.

It is understandable that the "select few" are unhappy with this ruling, which in effect makes them no different from any other Huntingdon resident. There are, as they acknowledge, substantial financial implications.


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During the last 12 years, since the start of the new Huntingdon Freemen's Charity, there have been thousands of residents and organisations that have been grateful for the financial assistance given by this new charity through grants for such things as wheelchairs/scooters, stairlifts, baths/showers, educational grants, sporting grants, not to mention the £3,000 given each year to every primary school in the town and the substantial help given for additional specialist facilities at Hinchingbrooke Hospital and also the new Papworth Saxongate development.

Equally, the residents should be assured of the safety of the commons of Huntingdon, which the High Court also directed the charity to protect.

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Those qualifying Freemen of Huntingdon, and the widows of Freemen, will soon again have the opportunity to nominate a trustee to the charity and will have the chance to play a full part in the activities and decisions of the charity.

This position has been fulfilled since 1994 by Freeman Ralph Lamb, with whom the Bradshaws, represented by Anne, have neglected to communicate. It is with this in mind that the charity needs to ensure that the Roll of Freemen (held by the district council) is still up to date.

Finally, may I again reassure everyone in Huntingdon that the present trustees of this charity will continue to abide by the rulings of the High Court.

TED BOCKING, Chairman, Huntingdon Freemen's Charity

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