Country Life

Dunting the Freeholder, Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland

Homer Sykes

Dunting the Freeholder, Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland

Vintage Gelatin Silver Print

24 x 30.5 cms (9.43 x 11.99 ins)

1974

HC 9831

Provenance

Acquired directly from the artist

Signed on the reverse.

Although a ceremonial position by the 1970s, The Freeholders once wielded great power and influence. In 1316 Edward II granted Freeholders a patent kayage or the authority to collect tolls from ships loading and unloading in the habour - Newbriggin was the third largest port in Britain. By the 1970s, the Freeholders' influence was greatly reduced, but they were still primarily responsible for managing the Newbiggin Moor. The Moor was divided into eighty stints or plots and each freeholder must have owned at least two stints. When Sykes photographed the Freeholders in the 1970s, most of their income came from a golf course that rented half of the stints and from the sea-coal merchants who paid for access to the beach. Sykes' photograph illustrates the initiation ceremony for new Freeholders. On the 18th of May, the Freeholders would have inspected the moor and any new members were dunted three time against the stone with the assistance of the Baliff and other senior members. Originally they would have used a Druid stone, but that stone was vandalised in the 1970s and replaced with a concrete pillar.

This photograph was included in the book by Homer Sykes Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs (Gordon Fraser, 1977)




British Photography / The Hyman Collection

Homer Sykes

Dunting the Freeholder, Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland

Vintage Gelatin Silver Print

24 x 30.5 cms (9.43 x 11.99 ins)

1974

HC 9831

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