Westminster Kingsway Hospitality Apprenticeships Programme Manager Sharon Barry and Chef Lecturer Nick Gunyon have been granted an ancient and coveted honour – the Freedom of the City of London – for their services to apprentices.

Sharon and Nick received their Freedom parchments in a ceremony at London’s historic Guildhall, on Monday 4 March. They had been put forward) by the Worshipful Company of Cooks, for their dedication and service to culinary apprentices.

Each year Sharon and Nick run a programme for 28 apprentices, which is sponsored by the Worshipful Company.  Sharon teams up the young apprentices who apply, with suitable employers in the hospitality and culinary industries. The employers are from right across the industry – from top hotels like the Shangri-La at the Shard in London, to private members clubs, and contract caterers like Cook & Butler.

Sharon told us: “I was surprised and delighted to be honoured in this way. The college has run the programme for the past 7 years.  It has been great to see so many young people move on from their apprenticeships into careers in hospitality.”

What is a Freeman?

The status of Freeman is believed to have first been presented in 1237.  In those days, being a ‘freeman’ was an essential requirement for anyone who wished to carry on business and trade in the Square Mile of the City of London. Freemen were also allowed to bring livestock (yes, sheep) and tools into the City without paying tax.

Nowadays the award is entirely ceremonial and all historical privileges that Freemen once enjoyed have been removed, so sadly, Sharon and Nick will not be able to drive their sheep up Ludgate Hill or across London Bridge!

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However, as Freemen, they are in good company. Notable Freemen include Angela Burdett-Coutts (the first woman to be awarded the honorary Freedom in 1872); Winston Churchill; Florence Nightingale and Nelson Mandela.

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