Queen’s deputy lieutenant John Ludgate receives first ‘Freedom of Tower Hamlets’ of the 21st century
- Credit: Mike Brooke
The first ‘Freedom of the Borough’ of the 21st century given by Tower Hamlets Council has been awarded to Commander John Ludgate as former as Deputy Lieutenant who escorted the Royal family on visits to London’s East End for 22 years.
The Queen’s representative to the London borough served as a volunteer for more than 20 years after his retirement from the Royal Navy’s HMS President Reserve base at Wapping.
“I didn’t expect this,” he said at the council’s AGM. “I’m not sure if there are any special rules with this title, such as herding sheep down the street, or maybe a rickshaw down Brick Lane.”
Tower Hamlets was where the Queen’s royal palace and fortress, the Tower of London, was situated, he pointed out.
Cmdr Ludgate, vice chairman of the Cadets Association and vice president of both the Marine Society and Sea Cadets Association, served in the Royal Navy for 36 years until retiring in 1996 when he dedicated his time as Queen’s Representative before stepping down last year.
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His nomination to receive the Freedom of the Borough was made by Cllr Denise Jones, who represents Wapping which includes his old Naval Reserve base.
She said: “He stood by my side to welcome the Queen, giving me advice on how to address or curtsey to royalty.”
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Cmdr Ludgate supported the Outdoor Activity centre at Shadwell Basin and helped fundraising to preserve the last remaining working Victorian steamship SS Robin when it was moored at Canary Wharf in the Millwall Docks. He also supported the 31 Squadron Air Cadets at Mile End which was named the best cadet squadron in the country.
John Ludgate joins a distinguished list of famous people awarded the Freedom of the Borough since 1948 including those honoured in the former Metropolitan boroughs of Stepney, Bethnal Green and Poplar.
These include Clement Attlee, the Limehouse MP who became Labour Prime Minister in 1945, East End Suffragette Nellie Cressall and social philanthropist and 1930s pacifist Muriel Lester who set up the Kingsley Hall in Bromley-by-Bow.
Cmdr Ludgate spoke at his presentation of the East End’s significance in Britain’s social, political, industrial and naval heritage.
He referred to Toynbee Hall as the catalyst for social change for the past 130 years, to William Beverage whose report in 1944 went on the found the NHS, Sylvia Pankhurst setting up her East London Suffragette movement at Bow in 1912, Thomas Barnardo opening the Ragged School in Stepney in 1867, William Booth founding the Salvation Army in Whitechapel in 1866, Isambard Brunel building the Gt Eastern steamship at Millwall and the world’s first tunnel under a major river in 1843 at Wapping, and the explorer Capt James Cook learning his navigation skills at Limehouse who went on to discover Australia and the Pacific islands in the 18th century.