Freedom of the Borough
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Freedom of the Borough

The Freedom of the Borough is the highest honour that the Council can bestow. It’s awarded to ‘persons of distinction and persons who have, in the opinion of the Council, rendered eminent services to the borough’.

To date, only 13 people have received the honour.

Year​

Person awarded Freedom of the Borough​

2016

 

​Bridget Prentice

Bridget Prentice was Member of Parliament for Lewisham East for 18 years.

The Council agreed: 'Her concerns for her constituents and their welfare was always clear as was her commitment to young people, for whom she has continued to be a champion, serving most recently as Chair of Governors at Trinity School. She is an appropriate and deserving nominee for the highest award the borough can make.'

2016

 

​Dame Joan Ruddock

Joan Ruddock was Member of Parliament for Lewisham Deptford for 28 years. She was the first woman to be elected in that constituency, after six men. 

The Council agreed: 'Her campaigning skills were deployed many times on behalf of issues of concern to her constituents and her determination and compassion was seen clearly in her work with the New Cross Fire Parents’ Committee to secure a second inquest. Her dedication to her constituents and determination to serve them was reflected in the warmth in which she was held. She is an appropriate recipient of the highest award the borough can make.'

2014​

Baroness Doreen Lawrence

For many years, Doreen Lawrence has sought justice for her son while creating a positive and dynamic legacy in his honour. In 2000, she set up the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to help young people realise their ambitions to become architects. In 2008, the Stephen Lawrence Centre was opened in Deptford, giving thousands more young people an opportunity to nurture and use their creativity.

The Council agreed: ‘To do one of these things in the wake of such a devastating personal tragedy would be remarkable but to do both indicates someone deserving of the highest recognition. The dignity and humanity that she has demonstrated makes her a truly inspirational figure for our borough.’​

2013​

Dame Erica Pienaar

A former Head of Prendergast School (1998–2013) who provided exceptional leadership and distinguished advisory work particularly with schools experiencing challenging circumstances. Her involvement in national and educational change inspired countless educationists, teachers and students with resulting significant local and national impact.

The Council agreed: ‘Her involvement in national and educational change has inspired countless educationists, teachers and students with resulting significant local and national impact. Her belief in our young people has shone through her work and has changed their futures.’ 

2007​

Les Eytle

The first black Mayor in Lewisham. He served for 24 years as a Councillor, was Mayor twice (1984–85 and 1990–91) and Deputy Mayor once.

The Council agreed: 'During his long association with the Council he has been instrumental in bringing about changes that have enhanced the Council's reputation as a leading authority in the UK. Les' legacy to Lewisham is tolerance, integrity, fairness and honesty and his work and career is best personified by the Council's motto Salus Populi Suprema Lex; the welfare of the people above everything else.'

2000​

Dame Cicely Saunders

A pioneer in palliative care. In 1967, she opened St Christopher's Hospice in Sydenham, widely recognised as the first modern hospice.

The Council recognised: 'Her unique contribution over many years as founder of the hospice movement which has developed and blossomed into a worldwide movement through her special commitment and dedication to relieve the suffering through special nursing care of countless people in the UK and internationally.'

1996​

Sybil Phoenix OBE

The first black woman to be awarded the MBE in 1971 and then the OBE in 2008 for services to the community. A Methodist Minister and former Mayoress of Lewisham, she still runs a sheltered accommodation for homeless young women in Brockley.

The Council recognised: 'Her unique contribution over many years to community relations and the welfare of children in the borough; in particular, her pioneering multi-racial work in the fostering of teenagers, youth club leadership and hostel provision for girls, inspiring people of all ages with her generosity and spiritual strength.'

1992​

Terry Waite CBE

Former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Worked for the release of hostages in the Middle East and was captive himself for five years. He is a Blackheath resident.

The Council believed the award to be: 'A truly fitting and appropriate response to his long, tortuous imprisonment and the remarkable fortitude and resilience displayed throughout his horrifying ordeal. That it arose from his deep personal commitment to human rights and justice, has served as an inspiration to his home community of Lewisham, and brought particular and favourable attention to the borough and the values of its citizens.'

1990​

Desmond Tutu

South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop who was a curate at St Augustine’s Church in Grove Park in the 1970s.

The Council paid tribute to his: 'Courageous non-violent struggle against apartheid and the inspiration he has given to oppressed peoples everywhere; and we take pride in him as a former resident of the borough. Above all we are recognising his human qualities: his courage and enthusiasm, his intellectual vigour and wit, his gentle care and compassion, and his resilience in the face of adversity.'

1990​

Andy Hawkins

Leader of the Council from 1971–84. Councillor and Alderman for nearly 40 years. His opposition to racism led him to a wide range of positive action: this included helping the establishment of the Lewisham Way Centre and the reconstruction of the Pagnell Street Centre, developing anti-racist training for Council staff and acting as the first co-Chair of the Equal Opportunities Working Party (the predecessor of the Race Relations Committee).

The Council recognised: 'The distinguished role he has played in the development of the borough and of his service to local government in Lewisham.'

1985​

Daisy Hurren

Councillor for over 30 years and first female Mayor of the borough from 1962–63. She served on many of the Council's major committees including Public Health, Housing Management, and Children's Welfare. In 1978, she was elected Deputy Mayor. Following her retirement from the Council in 1982 she continued to serve as a co-opted member on the Social Service Committee. She also worked as a volunteer Governor of Malory School, was Chair of the Friends of Ladywell concerned with the welfare of older people in the borough, and involved in Lewisham Age Concern.

The Council recognised: 'The unique contribution she has made to the borough over the past 32 years.'

​1975

Fred Winslade OBE

First became a councillor in 1931 and served for over 50 years. Leader of the Council from 1965–68 and laid down the foundations of the new Lewisham Council following changes to the borough's boundaries. He served on most of the statutory committees and was chair of several. He was interested in all aspects of local government and his leadership, knowledge and experience were of great value. He had a deep belief in the importance of the personal and local nature of local government.

The Council recognised: 'The unique contribution he has made to the borough and to local government in general over the past 50 years.'

​1971

Alan Milner-Smith OBE

Awarded an OBE in 1945 for his role in the civil defence of Lewisham during the Second World War. A former Town Clerk and Chief Executive who served from 1943-1971. Lewisham was badly bombed during the war and he was responsible for Lewisham having one of the best post-war housing records. In 1963, his report on how to deal with housing management problems in London was regarded as a valuable guide for housing authorities all over the country. He oversaw the formation of a larger Lewisham borough in the mid-1960s and guided it through a difficult transition.

The Council paid tribute: 'To a man universally held in the greatest affection and respect and to a life's work for the borough.'

Find out more about Lewisham's local history and heritage.