Today, 25th July, was a notable day for the Wembley National Stadium Trust, when our
CEO, Stewart Goshawk, was invested with the Freedom of the City of London, in recognition
of his three decades of working in the charity sector.
The Freedom is an ancient institution, going back, it is believed, to the thirteenth century.
Throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, only “freemen” were able to ply their trade within
the square mile of the City of London. So, it was a valuable status to acquire.
Nowadays though, the award of the Freedom of the City is more of a traditional and
ceremonial honour – but it is still used to recognise achievement and service to the
community. Also, within the modern governance framework of the Square Mile, being a
freeman of the City is the first requirement to join the City of London Court of Common
Council and the first step for a very few, to become Lord Mayor of the City.
The highest and rarest honour is the award of the Honorary Freedom, bestowed upon those
few individuals who are of genuine global standing. Two recent recipients were the
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
Over the years, many notable public figures have been awarded the Freedom – from royalty,
political leaders and others of public note to stars of stage, screen and sport. Recent
recipients have included US vice-president John Kerry, pop superstar Ed Sheeran, theatre
impresario Cameron Mackintosh, England centre-forward Harry Kane and the entire
Lionesses Women’s Euro 2022 squad (although they are struggling to find a date when all
20+ players can attend an investiture ceremony!). Not that Stewart would ever compare his
exploits with these remarkable individuals. The Freedom is though also open to anyone who
has contributed significantly either to the work of the City of London or to the good of society
Most people associate the Freedom of the City with the ability to drive one’s sheep across
London Bridge without paying any toll. Whilst this might once have been true, it is now,
sadly, an urban myth, although the Worshipful Company of Woolmen still hold an annual
ceremony on London Bridge, to uphold the tradition. It was also historically the case that
any freeman who had drunk a little too much ale in the City could demand that the police get
them home safely. It was additionally once the “privilege” of any freeman condemned to
death, to be hung by a silken rope rather than the more common sisal one !
Stewart told us, “I am honoured to have been awarded the Freedom of the City of London,
joining, in my own very small way, such illustrious company. It goes without saying that over
the years, I have had the privilege to work with many inspiring and committed people.
Inevitably, a few individuals stand out in my mind for their friendship, professionalism and
“But I recognise that today is a chance to celebrate my near 30 years working in the world of
charitable trusts and foundations and it is certainly a landmark occasion for me and my
family. I thank everyone who has helped make this happen.”