DEVON-L ArchivesArchiver > DEVON > 2009-11 > 1258566484
From: "Tompkins, M.L.L." <>
Subject: Re: [DEV] admission as a freeman
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2009 17:48:04 +0000
Your first two questions seem to come down to: did people qualified to become freemen by either apprenticeship or being the son of a freeman have to take up the freedom as soon as they qualified for it, or could they take it up some years after they became qualified? If delayed enfranchisement was possible then, first, John  and John  could have been the same man, being someone who delayed taking up the freedom for at least 5-10 years after he completed his apprenticeship, and, second, Richard's father John  could have been the same man as John , because it wouldn't matter that Richard had delayed taking up the freedom until 23 years after his father had died.
I don't know specifically whether Exeter in the 18th century allowed delayed enfranchisement, but I would have thought it was perfectly possible - I don't think many boroughs (if any at all) said a right to enfranchisement had to be exercised immediately or be lost forever. I believe it wasn't uncommon for individuals to delay taking up the freedom until a later date, especially in boroughs where there was no particular advantage to be gained by being a freeman (which seems to have been partly the case in Exeter in the 18th century - there had once been rules that only freemen could carry on a trade or business within the city, but they seem not to have been enforced after the late 17th century; on the other hand the freemen there did enjoy some economic privileges well into the 19th century). I notice that in 1790 Richard Sercombe lived in London, so would have had no pressing reason to become a freeman in Exeter.
I wonder whether you got the details of these enfranchisements from 'Exeter Freemen 1266-1967', Devon and Cornwall Record Society Extra Series 1 (1973)? If so the Introduction to that volume provides a great deal of useful background information (it is my source for much of this reply). Among other things it explains that in the 18th century parliamentary elections were often the occasion for large numbers of new freemen to be enrolled, in order to secure their votes. If there were elections in 1747 and 1790 then that might be the reason for your Sercombes taking up the freedom some years after they had become entitled to it.
I believe in Exeter all sons of freemen had the right to become freemen themselves. (Incidentally, you seem to be saying sons of freemen had to wait till their father died before they could themselves become freemen - I don't think this was the case.)
From: [mailto:] On Behalf Of Daniel Morgan
Sent: 17 November 2009 16:23
To: GOONS mailing list; Devon Mailing List
Subject: [DEV] admission as a freeman
I know that one could qualify to be a freeman of Exeter either by
being the son of a freeman or by serving an apprenticeship with a
freeman. Does anyone know more about this process? In the following,
I am trying to work out whether John SERCOMBE  and John SERCOMBE
 could be the same person:
John  became a freeman in 1747 by virtue of an apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships usually lasted until age 21, and apprentices couldn't
marry. In 1747, John  was 31 and had been married for five years.
Could an apprentice of a freeman become a freeman immediately upon
completing his apprenticeship? Or was there an age requirement, or a
requirement to work some number of years as a journeyman?
When Richard SERCOMBE, son of John , became a freeman in 1790 in
succession to his father, he was 31. By then, John  had been dead
for 23 years. Was there an age requirement to become a freeman by
succession? Does Richard's admission in 1790 suggest that his father
John  had died more recently than 23 years ago?
John  had at least one surviving son who was older than Richard and
was not a freeman. Were all sons eligible to become freemen by
succession, or only the eldest?
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