Webpage created: September 26, 2019
Webpage updated: September 26, 2019
Doctor James Yonge died in Plymouth in 1721 and left, in his manuscript of memoirs, an account of the days upon which the Mayor and Aldermen of Plymouth were to wear their scarlet coats. One of those was Freedom Day.
Between Lambert's Day, September 17th, when the new Mayor of Plymouth was chosen, and the Feast of Michaelmas and All Angels, September 29th, the day upon which the new Mayor was sworn in, the newly elected Mayor and the outgoing Mayor would select a day to become Freedom Day.
On this day the boys of the Town were at liberty 'to take what they meet that is eatable' and in a body they walked around the boundary of the Borough along with the Mayor and any other inhabitants, possibly on horse-back, who wished to join them. Doctor Yonge called it "riding the freedom". They would then all meet up at a place called freedom field, where beer, wine, apples, cakes, etc., were distributed.
The boys then went to the Barbican to meet the boys from Cattedown, who were brought across by boat. The gathering would then go to the home of the outgoing Mayor, where they (referred to in Yonge's manuscript as 'ye Rable') were again entertained with cakes and apples thrown out of a window into the street. While the boys were scrambling around for their shares, the adults were given wine and buns in the house.
They then all went around to the new Mayor's house, where they did the same again before making their ways home.
The use of the term "riding the freedom", along with the fact that the day involved beating the bounds, as it was later known, suggests that the freedom that was being celebrated was freedom from the control of the Prior of Plympton that was gained when the Borough received its first Charter of Incorporation in 1439. This is pure speculation at present.