Choosing Day

Brightlingsea's Deputy, as the Mayor of Sandwich's representative in this Liberty, is annually charged truly to obey and execute all lawful commandments from him. The Deputy's Choosing takes place each year on the first Monday after Saint Andrew's Day (the first Monday in December) at All Saints Church, Brightlingsea. At 11am, as the bells stop tolling and a procession of Cinque Port dignitaries arrive in church, a short religious service begins.
All Saints Church
All Saints Church
This is followed by a ceremony for the election of the Deputy and the Recognition of New Inhabitants who, on swearing an oath of loyalty to the Deputy, are declared 'Recognised Inhabitants'. Residence in Brightlingsea for a year and a day is the New Inhabitants only necessary qualification and those of Brightlingsea birth or those who 'had the good sense to have married a Brightlingsea girl' are given their Freedom without payment. 'Foreigners' are fined eleven pennies (that's 11d old money) for the privilege. Other monies paid to the Treasurer during the ceremony are four shillings (that's 4/- old money) each from six Assistants and the Deputy. An item of expenditure during the Deputy's reign is that of the town's payment of ten shillings (that's 10/- old money) in lieu of Ship Service, previously supplied by the men of Brightlingsea. This payment has become known as ship-money and is presented to the Mayor of Sandwich during the Deputy's visit to the Mother Port at the time of his Confirmation of Office.
The Ringing Room
The Ringing Room

Choosing Day in the Ringing Room at All Saints Church on 5 December 1927. The number of men present became so large that the proceedings were transferred to the green immediately before the Lych-gate. From around this time, subsequent Choosing Day ceremonies were held within the body of the church.
A W Norfolk being elected Deputy for 1927/28. Dr Edward Dicken, Keeper of the Records is seen reading the minutes, with treasurer Harry Chamberlain on his left. In the chair is the retiring Deputy Charles Brasted, with the senior Assistant Rev F A Grosvenor Smyth on his right. It was on this occasion that the Cinque Port Liberty Sports Shield was first presented for annual competition between local schools.
Choosing Day in the Ringing Room 1927
Choosing Day 1927
The Nave and Chancel
The Nave and Chancel


Choosing Day is now held in the main body of the church. Here the nave and chancel are shown, seen from the gallery, where musicians would have accompanied services in earlier times. The ceremony takes place on the steps of the chancel, when there are several hundred Freemen present.
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To promote the historic significance of this day, two year 10 students, from the Colne Community School, are invited to attend the Ceremony. Their report is presented below:
 
Choosing Day Report 2007

We enjoyed the colourful Choosing Day ceremony and the short service because it added to our learning about the history of our town. We enjoyed seeing the presence of the Mayor of Sandwich and other dignitaries and the election of the new Deputy, Doug Stone, to be so proud of being a part of his town’s history. We also enjoyed seeing the process of the Recognition of the new Freemen because they were nominated by other Freemen of the town and the tradition of paying fines in pre-decimal pennies. This gave some background to the dramatic growth of our town compared to Wivenhoe and St Osyth. And hopefully in the future we would like to be nominated to become Freemen of Brightlingsea.

Darran Girling & Daniel Chell

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Photographs by Charles Herbert and Jon Sturdy Photography
 
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