Did I steal this? Should I give it back?
Over 25 years ago, my husband and myself were avid antique collectors, we already had an impressive collection of coins and stamps and other bits of memoribilia, mainly family tree that had picqued our interest in all things old. We didn’t have children, seemingly had no intention of having any and were happy working and living our own lives. We regularly attended antiques fairs and began collecting pearl handled cutlery, Mah Jong tiles, land deeds and wooden items, which we both loved. On one such occasion at an antique fair in Stafford, we spotted a beautiful picture frame. We both spotted it at the same time, and both fell in love with it, the added bonus was what it contained.
The Freedom of the City of London, granted to one John Allan, a Spectacle maker in 1898.
This ticked both boxes for us, history and wood and the deal was done. The said picture was brought home and has sat on the same bit of wall on our hall, stairs and landing since then and has been lovingly dusted each week.
Recently, however, we felt the need to re-organise and re-structure all of the family memorabilia that we had and to clean our existing RootsMagic databases. During that process, we have wished many times that relatives had not given things away or sold them or even dumped them in skips or landfills.
And so, our attention turned to our Spectacle maker and his Freedom of the City.
|“Many people assume that the Freedom of the City of London is purely an honorary award, presented only to the great and the good, or for particular bravery, for example. However, this is true of only a very small number of City Freemen. The Honorary Freedom of the City of London is indeed the highest honour that the City can bestow, but it is granted very rarely. The vast majority of City Freemen were, and are, admitted by other means, and represent a very broad cross-section of the population. Over the last 300 years, about 300,000 ordinary people have been made Free of the City of London. Even today, many men and women continue to be admitted to the City Freedom, although most of the privileges and practical reasons for doing so have now disappeared.Before the mid-19th century, the Freedom of the City of London was a practical necessity for those who plied a trade or made their living in the City of London. Indeed, certain groups of people were compelled, on pain of prosecution, to be Free of the City, including:” To read the rest of this article, originally published by London Metropolitan Archives go HERE|
To put your mind at rest, no I didn’t actually steal it, I bought it quite legimately for about £30, if I recall. However, I feel like I’ve stolen a piece of this family’s history. Both of us were astonished that a family could actually put this on the market for sale, but then you never know people’s circumstances. Still, we would ultimately like it to be returned to its rightful family. We have done some research on it so we have a fair idea of its provenance but are drawing a blank on finding a family connection on Ancestry as none of the family names seem to tie up.
So we are appealing to the social media network and hoping that this post will go viral in the hopes that we will be able to reunite such a fabulous piece of family history with John Allan’s rightful descendents. There is no doubt that we should give it back, though it will be with a very heavy heart and its long-held place on our wall will never be quite the same without it. Suffice to say, that should we not find its rightful owner, we will continue to keep it as safe as anyone can keep their possessions in this day and age until such time as it can hang on the wall of his proud family once more.
Transcript: John Allan, Citizen and Spectacle Maker of London was admitted into the Freedom aforesaid and made the Declaration required by Law in the Mayoralty of Sir John Voce Moore, Mayor and Sir William James Richmond Cotton, Knt Chamberlain and is entered in the book signed with the Letter K1 relating to the Purchasing of Freedoms and the Admission of Freedom (to wit) the 22nd Day of December in the 62nd Year of the reign of Queen VICTORIA and in the Year of our Lord 1898. In Witness whereof the Seal of the Office of Chamberlain of the said City is hereunto affixed. Dated in the Chamber of the Guildhall of the same City the day and Year abovesaid.
What do you think? Should I be trying to reunite this with its rightful owners or am I just wasting my time? The family sold it once, do they really want it back? Let me know what you think on our Facebook page.
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