In the above photograph my youngest niece, Alice, holds in her hands one of the most interesting objects in the Usmeum. It was recently unearthed in a box at the regional branch (Brother 2’s house) and transferred here, where it resides in my cabinet of family curiosities. I don’t know the full story behind it, other than the information contained within the item itself. This close-up shot gives more clues; it is a cylindrical wooden box measuring about 4 inches long and 1 inch across, with a printed label:
And inside this box is a fragile, tightly rolled parchment document, 16 inches wide and 3 inches high (click on image to enlarge):
“Roger Staples Fisher, son of Robert Fisher, [?] and Goldsmith, was admitted into the Freedom aforesaid and sworn in the Mayoralty of William Domville Esq, Mayor of London, and Richard Clarke Esq, Chamberlain, and is entered into the book signed with the letter E relating to the Purchasing of Freedoms and the Admissions of Freemen (to visit) The 6th day of April in the 54th year of the Reign of King George the Third and in the year of our Lord 1814. In Witness whereof the seal of the Office of Chamberlain of the said City is hereunto affixed dated in the Chamber of the Guild-hall of the Same City the day and Year abovesaid.”
This intriguing document is, therefore, a copy of the Freedom of the City of London bestowed upon one of my distant forebears from the Horman-Fisher branch of the family. Initially I was very excited about this, wondering what great public service he had done in order to earn such an honour. A brief bit of research via Google and Wikipedia, however, reveals that my modern ideas about the Freedom of the City being bestowed upon the likes of Nelson Mandela and Florence Nightingale in recognition of their contributions to society, did not necessarily apply back then. In 1814, Freedom of the City of London would routinely be granted to gentlemen of the merchant class with sufficient wealth and “good character.” Great acts of philanthropy or largesse were not required. As far as I am aware, then, Roger Staples Fisher was no hero, just rich.
Still, the document deserves its place in the Usmeum, as an artefact of my family history. I’m pleased to be able to post about it on this day, exactly 200 years after it was signed and sealed.
With thanks to Owen Llewellyn for the close-up photography