Ironbridge Gorge is described as the birth place of the Industrial Revolution. Each June, the Livery Masters and their consorts pay an annual pilgrimage to this beautiful part of Staffordshire. It is a highlight of every Master’s year and the event was well attended with 95 Masters. As anticipated, the week-end proved an excellent opportunity for Caroline and I to get to know many more of our fellow Masters and Mistresses.
After arriving on the Friday afternoon, we were all entertained to a dinner in The Covered Bays at Coalbrook. Next morning, we were taken by coach on tours to the Iron Bridge itself, spanning the gorge, the Blists Hill Victorian Town and the Jackfield Tile Museum. This fascinating museum, which the Company’s Craft Trust supports with an annual donation, features gas-lit galleries in period room settings, showing the many different places that were decorated with tiles once made at Jackfield.
In the evening we were joined by The Lord Mayor, The Lady Mayoress, both Sheriffs and their partners, for The Presidents Summer Ball at Enginuity in the Engine Shop and Museum at Coalbrookdale. It was great fun. The following morning, and in accordance with tradition, a light-hearted meeting of Masters took place as we formed our Pastmasters’ Association, with the name of the Phoenix (it being of course the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London) and Master Pewterer was elected our chairman.
A fortnight later and we were reunited as the Masters processed into Guildhall for the Election of Sheriffs at Common Hall. We dutifully elected (North Korean style!) two Aldermanic Sheriffs for the coming year: Peter Estlin –- Alderman and International Banker; and William Russell - Alderman and Haberdasher.
A quick lunch and I was back in Guildhall Yard for Armed Forces Flag Day. The Lord Mayor, accompanied by the Sheriffs, took the salute at the raising of the Armed Forces flag. Rear Admiral Nicholas Hine, Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, joined the Lord Mayor on the saluting dais. The Band of the Grenadier Guards provided the musical accompaniment.
The following week I attended with Past Masters Nicholas Carter and Julyan Gordon and their wives at the Service of Thanksgiving, in Cucklington, Somerset, for Past Master Christopher Grellier. Nicholas Carter gave one of the eulogies and spoke movingly of Chris’s contribution to the Company over many years. As you will know from the book "They Built London," the Grellier family have played an active part in the activities of the Company for over two centuries.
Next, on 30th June, was the Building Crafts College Exhibition and End of Year Show at Carpenters’ Hall, where I was the guest of Master Carpenter. The level of skill shown by the students of the College in Stratford was highly impressive.
The Lord Mayor’s Service of Thanksgiving at St Stephen Walbrook at the beginning of July has become an annual event in recent years with the investiture of The Lord Mayor as an honorary Warden. It was well attended. The Intercessions were given by Rev Sally Muggeridge, the Assistant Curate, and the wife of Liveryman David Williams. It is a fascinating church with its large, carved stone altar by Henry Moore situated in the centre, with the circular pews spanning outwards from it.
I have always wanted to visit Innholders’ Hall in College Street; I pass it daily on my way to work. The opportunity came with invitations to the Clerk and myself from Master Cook to their Livery Luncheon. The hall was rebuilt after the Great Fire, damaged in World War 1, severely damaged in World War 2 and fully restored in 1950. Being one of the smaller halls, it has a feeling of intimacy. Needless to say, the food and wine at the lunch were superb.
That evening a group of 20 from the Company met at the Monument for one of the guided walks organised by Master Chartered Architect. We traced part of the route of the Great Fire down to Blackfriars on what was a rare, barmy evening. This enjoyable tour is reported more fully on the Events page.
My last event in July was a dinner and tour of the Old Bailey, when Caroline and I were the guests of Sheriff Dr Christine Rigden and Stephen Rigden. We were joined by Master Pewterer and his wife and Master Framework Knitter. On a sweltering evening and after a full tour, including the cells, our thirst was slaked by champagne served in the flutes given by the Company from bottles opened by sword by the Sheriff. She has clearly not wasted her year!