Warden and Freemen of Malmesbury
Warden and Freemen is another title for the Old Corporation. There are nearly 260 Commoners, the lowest in order of seniority. From the commoners, inheriting ’dead men’s shoes’ thirty-one landholders are established; they are divided into six ‘hundreds’ – Taylors, Fishers, Glovers, Coxfoot, David’s Loynes and Thornhill.
From these landholders are elected twenty-four assistant burgesses, and in turn from the assistant burgesses the most senior rank, the capital burgesses are elected. There are thirteen of them.
Each rank enjoys differing profit shares and has different privileges.
A commoner once accepted undergoes an initiation ceremony. A shallow hole is prepared into which the new commoner places a silver coin. The following words are said:
“Turf and twig I give to thee
As King Athelstan gave to me
A good brother thou shalt be”
The incomer is then struck thrice with a twig across their back and the coin removed.