Welcome to the October newsletter – which I was tempted to call the Royal Edition! See below for an account of the Royal visit to the City and the dinner at the Mansion House on 18 October.
But first the Installation. Once again, we were fortunate to have dry and not too cold weather for our packed morning of activity – a Court meeting at Carpenters’, then a formal procession through the streets to St Margaret Lothbury, then the Annual Service, a return to Carpenters’ and an excellent lunch with speeches.
The Court meeting was the last to be chaired by John Schofield and at the end he gave the customary valedictory address. It was difficult to sum up a year packed with so much incident and so many events. Whilst the Court was sitting the consorts and partners were enjoying coffee and biscuits, each biscuit carrying a miniature T&B crest (in edible form!).
Our procession was led by Liveryman Gerald Classey as the Banner Carrier. He did an excellent job, having surveyed the course earlier and making some judicious tweaks to avoid the numerous roadworks and obstructions. As ever, tourists and City workers stopped to view the scene.
The Annual Service was a delight, with fine music, some nautical hymns and both the organist (John Keys of St Mary’s Church in Nottingham) and the Lothbury Singers on top form. Hon Freeman Richard Townend directed the choir and our Chaplain, Dr Jonathan Smith, gave a thought-provoking address. There is a full report in the Review which will land on your hall mat shortly.
I do not want to cover the same ground as the Review, which carries a full report of the Installation Luncheon and where you can – if you wish – read the full text of my remarks after lunch and see many lovely photographs. So I will just quote a line or two from Master Carpenter, who wrote to me after the lunch. He commented that “the warmth and friendliness of your Company [was] patently obvious and most enjoyable”. Indeed it was.The next day I attended a lunch at Tallow Chandlers’ Hall organised by the Lightmongers. This was their Masters and Clerks event, so the room was full of other Livery company representatives. TC Hall is reckoned to be one of the finest small halls and I had a very relaxed time knowing that I had no responsibility for any element of the day! I was made very welcome and given a book on the history of the light bulb, which I am working my way through.
On 10 October I attended the Prize Day at City of London School, where we fund some of the awards. Over tea afterwards I met (by chance) the parents of a girl who had been awarded one of our Maths prizes at City of London Girls’ School (John Schofield officiating on that occasion) and they were very generous in saying how much these relatively small things mean to young people working their way through life.
On 12 October Gilly and I attended the Installation Dinner for the new Master Constructor at Grocers’ Hall. The Constructors have a different model from the Ts and Bs, with much more emphasis on networking for business purposes, so it was instructive to watch the different dynamic (if you can watch a dynamic) on the night.
I then had a few days off in theory, although in practice I spent a lot of time talking to David Williams, Court Assistant and Consulting Editor of our Review, about fine tuning the draft ready for printing. David has a real flair for design so we selected photos, moved blocks of text around and introduced two extra pages of photos from the Annual Guest Night in May. I think you will like the final version.
To the House of Commons on 18 October, for the annual awards of Youthbuild UK. Court Assistant Ian Wilson, as the new Chair of the Craft Committee, was there as well and we listened to the astonishing, and often moving, stories of young persons who survived calamitous early starts (physical or sexual abuse, arriving as penniless refugees with no English, or having behavioural or psychological problems) to go on and acquire construction skills and steady jobs with building firms. We are the only Livery company supporting these awards and it was a really worthwhile three hours. The Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle , pictured above with Ian Davis, Chair of the YBUK) , a former bricklayer himself and principal guest at our Craft Awards some years ago, also came along for the reception. Andrei Avasiloai, Young Builder of the Year in the 14-18 age group is also seen here with his award.
I had an event that night which was confidential for security reasons so I bade farewell to Ian and headed off to don white tie kit. The King and Queen had expressed a wish to thank the City institutions for all the work and support we put in prior to the Coronation. They hosted a dinner at the Mansion House and all Masters of Livery companies were invited, together with the Chairmen of major financial companies, Aldermen and Common Councillors. The King gave a wonderful speech which was widely reported in the media. It had the feel of a speech written by His Majesty, not an aide.
The whole occasion was delightful and experts in City etiquette will be pleased to learn that Master T&B was seated at the top of a sprig near the high table.
To the Old Bailey the following day, which happened to be my 70th birthday. Thank you Ts and Bs for the card and the champagne. Liveryman Michael Ash and his brother Stephen, plus three McMillans, are jurors of the Court Leet of the King’s Manor in Southwark and they are entitled to dine from time to time at the Old Bailey. This was my first time at the Central Criminal Court since the 1970s when I appeared as a pupil barrister in a murder trial (my pupilmaster did all the advocacy!). We secured a verdict of manslaughter, which was the correct one on the facts.
We had a very interesting evening, with drinks in the main corridor area upstairs, which is huge, and a talk given in Court No 1, for which I sat in the dock! Then a good dinner in the Judges’ Dining Room with Judge Brian Barker as distinguished guest. I looked him up and he is a Past Master Cooper. Thank you, Michael, for this kind invitation.
Over the weekend of 20-22 October we were celebrating the Big Birthday in Amsterdam, where my daughter lives. Plenty of good tiling to photograph, but continuous rain made it difficult. Can the Master enter the Photographic Competition? Probably not.
Last week was relatively quiet so I took the opportunity of acquiring a fourth, or is it fifth, covid jab. Headache for 24 hours. But some time free to take forward the admin for the June visit to York.
Which brings me to the final event covered by this newsletter – the Installation Dinner for the new Master Builders’ Merchant. This was held on Friday at the lovely Drapers’ Hall and I had a good evening meeting Liverymen and their guests. They are a ‘closed’ company in the sense that only builders’ merchants (broadly construed) may join, but on the evidence of Friday night builders’ merchants are an entertaining bunch! The Past Master who looked after me had spent years in investment banking before going back to fork handles.
Looking ahead, Master and Wardens plus the Silver Steward will be walking, gaily attired in our gowns and bonnets, in the Lord Mayor’s Show on 11 November and we would value your cheers of support and photographs from the stands! It is a fun morning with an optional lunch for spectators, so do come along. There are still places available for the informal luncheon at Ironmongers Hall on 13 November, please book as soon as possible through Past Master Lesley Day.
With best wishes,
I hope you have all had a pleasant summer break! The Mistress and I together with Bertie, our cocker spaniel, are just back from a delightful week away in Lincolnshire, staying in “The House of Correction”. It is the monumental gatehouse of a former prison built in 1825, now owned by the Landmark Trust. The founder of the Trust insisted that the brick prison wall, taken down in the early 20th century, was reinstated as can be seen in the photograph.
We visited Lincoln Cathedral and Southwell Minster as well as Belvoir and Grimsthorpe castles. It was wonderful to get away, even if only for a short time!
Finally, through an antique dealer we know, we recently came across a small silver fob seal with the Company’s armorials, hall marked for 1792 (image shown here is reversed). I am very pleased to have now acquired it for the Company. We think it might have been used by the Clerk at the time for sealing Company letters and it remains in remarkably good condition.
August is a quiet month in the city, so little to blog about. However, on Thursday 12 August, 31 members of the Company and their guests met on a sunny day in the courtyard of the Burlington House for a visit to the Royal Academy of Arts annual Summer Exhibition.
The Summer Exhibition is the world’s oldest “open submission” exhibition, which means that anyone can enter their work to be considered for inclusion. It has been run every year since 1769, and each year a different Royal Academician coordinates the exhibition, this time 81 yr old David Remfry RA.
As always, there were a huge number of works on display and an eclectic mix of sculpture, painting, textiles and architectural drawings and models, in a wide range of styles from naturalistic to abstract.
The artists ranged from well-known Royal Academicians to unknown but talented amateurs. While some were “pleasing to the eye”, others portrayed challenging and thought-provoking subjects. A plastic packing case on the gallery floor, which appeared to be left over from transporting an exhibit, turned out to be a work of art itself.
After an hour and a half we gathered again in the courtyard of Burlington House to make our way to the Reform Club.
A ten minute leisurely walk later we reached the Reform Club, founded in 1836 and immortalised in Jules Verne’s “Around the world in 80 days”. The clubhouse, based on the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, was designed by architect Sir Charles Barry. It was intended to be the largest and most spectacular in London and was completed in 1841.
Once up the steps into the Saloon we entered the “Strangers’ Room”, for many years the only place in the Club where members could entertain non-members. With its red and gold walls, it is a warm room overlooking Pall Mall and now used by members for a light lunch. It is closed to members during August, so we had this spacious private dining room to ourselves.
After lunch, the party was divided into two groups for a tour of the Club, led by the Master and Mistress, both of whom are members of the Club. The tour included some history of the formation of the Club as a break-away group of more radical Liberals and Whigs from the traditional members of the party who favoured Brooks’s Club.
The day concluded with tea and coffee in the saloon, and a welcome rest after going “Around the Club in 80 minutes”.
On 13 August, I was honoured to be invited to the Middlesex & North West London Army Cadet Force annual camp final parade and presentations, this year held in the grounds of the RAF Museum in Hendon
The Colonel Commandant, Col Angela Richardson gave a fascinating presentation on the activities of the cadets throughout the past year, in the lecture theatre at the Museum. We then moved to the grass area outside to watch the cadets march on their final parade. I was asked review the Cadets who were all very well presented, confident and polite. We were warned there was “no wet weather alternative”, and indeed there was a short sharp shower, but spirits were not dampened.
The four finalists for “Cadet of the Year” had to deliver a message to the Camp Commandant and were judged on presentation and style. After a few tense moments the winner was announced to a great wave of applause from the cadets and spectators. Adult volunteers and staff were also rewarded with medals, and promotions were announced.
All in all, it was a most uplifting day, emphasising the value that the Army Cadet Force bring to Society as a whole.
On Saturday 29 July, for the first time we celebrated our Charter Day at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Taking in 600 years of history, our tour included the spectacular Chapel and the Painted Hall and we finished off in the Royal Observatory.
The Old Royal Naval College is built on the site of the Palace of Placentia, where Queen Elizabeth I was born and brought up as a child. Not much of the original brickwork survives, but the brick foundations of the Palace were re-used by Sir Christopher Wren to support the Painted Hall. Recycling is not a new concept – some of the bricks were also used in the construction of the Royal Observatory, and the floors of the Chapel were made from old ships timbers.
We visited the Victorian skittles alley, one of the few pleasures afforded to the pensioners. The room had previously been a smoking gallery, and for years the floors were white from the fragments of discarded clay pipes.
Following our extensive guided tour of the site, we had a leisurely lunch in the Old Brewhouse, overlooking the Thames, before walking up the hill to the Royal Observatory. Here there are John Harrison’s famous chronometers together with Thomas Tompion’s built-in year-running regulators.
Finally, a few of us made it to Queen Elizabeth’s Oak, sadly now dead, but allegedly a tree she played in as a child. A new oak was planted on the site by the late HRH Duke of Edinburgh to signify continuity and regeneration. My sincere thanks to the Mistress for organising the event.