It’s happening – just as the Virtual Museum hinted it would! Bath’s own Queen of Cakes – food writer and tv personality Mary Berry – is to be granted the Freedom of the City – only the second woman ever to be given that honour.
The announcement was made at tonight’s Christmas lights switch on – which Mary was doing – by the Mayor of Bath Cllr Malcolm Lees. He is Chairman of the Charter Trustees – an organisation made up of city councillors – which maintains the traditions of the City of Bath – and still holds the Charter – given by Elizabeth the First – which established its independent status.
The honour will be officially granted on June 7th next year but follows on from an Honorary Degree given by Bath Spa University in 2012 and the CBE awarded to Mary for services to the culinary arts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that same year.
Mary, who was born in Bath in 1934 – and is the daughter of a former Mayor – discovered her culinary talents while at school in the city and has gone on to write 70 cookery books and become a television presenter – famous now for her role in the BBC’s Great British Bake Off.
Up to now there is only one Bath-born female who has been awarded the Freedom of the City and that was ‘Ice Queen’ Amy Williams who brought back a Gold Medal from the Winter Olympics in 2010.
But what – apart from being given a framed document – are the benefits of such a civic honour. Seems Mary will not escape a parking ticket if she overstays the limit or can now claim a ten per cent discount in the Southgate shops.
The title of ‘freeman or woman’ does not confer any special privileges other than show the appreciation of citizens. It is the only way effectively that a local authority can confer honours.
The award arises from the medieval practice of granting respected citizens freedom from serfdom and the tradition lives on in countries such as the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Australia and Canada.