AN ANCIENT order of freemen has set a modern-day membership record, topping 200 for the first time in living memory.

Leaders of City of Durham Freemen welcomed 11 new members into their eight surviving craft guilds in a ceremony at Durham Town Hall this morning (November 11).

The group, believed to date back to 1327, admitted its first women members in February. Seven of today’s new recruits were female, taking the number of women Freemen to 30.

The latest intake included: brothers Duncan and Martin Browell, from Alnwick and Craster, Northumberland, respectively; brother and sister Peter Gilroy and Claire Wigham, from West Yorkshire and Witton-le-Wear, County Durham, respectively; Patricia Allan, from Seahouses, Northumberland; Kathleen Vasey and Barry Joicey, both of Durham City; Gillian Brookes, from Bishop Auckland; cousins Judith Nightingale, from Hetton-le-Hole, Wearside, and Joyce Handy, from Hexham; and Barbara Scott, from Whitley Bay.

John Heslop, chairman of the Freeman’s wardens, said: “The present-day Freemen are custodians of a legacy left by the legions of skilled people whose hard work across the centuries was vital in helping make this wonderful city what it is today.

“Over the past eight years we have been able to give £80,000 to local causes and charities and as our membership grows, providing a firm platform for the future, we look forward to continuing to build on those good works.”

Membership is limited to those who have served an apprenticeship in Durham or are related to a Freeman. For more information, call Mr Heslop on 07792-655031.