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Freedom of the Borough

See who has been awarded Freedom of the Borough, the highest honour that we can bestow.

Freedom of the Borough is awarded to ‘persons of distinction and persons who have, in the opinion of the Council, rendered eminent services to the borough’. To date, only 17 people have received the honour.

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

Sir Steve Bullock DL (2019)

Sir Steve was the first directly elected Mayor of Lewisham, serving for 16 years from 2002-2018. Prior to that he was elected as a Councillor from 1982, where he served as Chair of Finance, Chair of Leisure and Deputy Leader of the Council, before serving as Leader of the Council from 1988-93. Whilst he was Mayor, Sir Steve created the Young Mayor’s Programme, which has been emulated throughout England and across Europe; led the council’s response to save Lewisham A&E; and he ensured that every single secondary school in Lewisham was rebuilt.

The Council believes: “Sir Steve brought changes to Lewisham that will endure for many decades to come and his service to the borough perfectly illustrates the Council’s motto ‘Salus Populi Suprema Lex’; the welfare of the people above everything else. Sir Steve was knighted in 2007 for services to local government and was commissioned to be a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London in 2018. Sir Steve’s unique contribution to the borough and to local government in general over the past decades means that he is an appropriate recipient of the highest award the borough can make.”

Kris Hibbert (2019)

Kris served as a Councillor for eight years, from 1982-90. She was a pioneer, helping set up the first local government committee on women’s issues anywhere in Britain, the Women’s Committee, which she served on from 1983-89. She also served on many of the Council’s other major committees including Police; Leisure; and Employment and Industry, which she chaired from 1986-88. Kris also led the fundraising work for the Lavender Trust charity. Her drive, determination and energy has led to Lewisham raising £225,000 to support younger women with breast cancer.

Kris has also made an outstanding contribution to improving the life chances of many of Lewisham’s young people. She has been a governor in Lewisham for 29 years and serves as Vice Chair of the Lewisham School Governors Association.

The Council states: “Lewisham is proud to have Kris as an ambassador for our borough and her dedication to Lewisham makes her an appropriate recipient of the highest award the borough can make.”

Wozzy Brewster, OBE FRSA (2018)

Wozzy Brewster has spent over thirty years designing, shaping and delivering youth arts projects in theatre, new media and music. She has worked with hundreds of young people to help them achieve their creative goals. She provides them with invaluable guidance, knowledge and direction.

The Council agreed: 'She grew up in Deptford and has been making a difference to young people ever since, helping many of them become involved in music and arts. She founded the MidiMusic Company and is still running it today. She has been a marvellous source of advice, encouragement and inspiration to many in Lewisham across all ages, demonstrating which she is an appropriate recipient of the highest award the borough can make.'

Sir Ian Mills (2018)

Sir Ian Mills has dedicated many years of commitment to the local community. He was responsible for the setting up of various projects to serve local communities of Lewisham. His fundraising exploits are legendary and all for the benefit of the people of Lewisham, especially young people.

The Council agreed: 'He was a transformational chair of Age Exchange leading it to become the key hub it is today for Blackheath. He has been the founding chair of Youth First helping to secure quality provision for our young people. He continues to support young people with an enthusiasm and a commitment that epitomises a lifetime of service and demonstrates why he is an appropriate recipient of the highest award the borough can make.'

Bridget Prentice (2016)

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.'

Dame Joan Ruddock (2016)

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.'

Baroness Doreen Lawrence (2014)

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.’

Dame Erica Pienaar (2013)

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.’

Les Eytle (2007)

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.'

Dame Cicely Saunders (2000)

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.'

Sybil Phoenix OBE (1996)

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.'

Terry Waite CBE (1992)

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.'

Desmond Tutu (1990)

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.'

Andy Hawkins (1990)

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.'

Daisy Hurren (1985)

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.'

Fred Winslade OBE (1975)

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.'

Alan Milner-Smith OBE (1971)

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.'