Welcome to the May newsletter. A musical start to the month, with the Mistress and I going to the Barbican to listen to the finals of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Gold Medal competition. GSMD was founded by the City of London Corporation in 1880 and is supported financially by many Livery companies. The competition alternates between singers and instrumental players, with previous winners including Jacqueline du Pre and Bryn Terfel. This year the finalists were a harpist, a clarinettist and a double bass player, each playing a concerto for his instrument.The double bass prevailed, in a concerto by Nino Rota, who also wrote much film music including the 'Godfather' scores.

The following week was a busy one, starting with the Clergy Support Trust service at St Paul’s. The Livery Masters process in and out (strictly in order of precedence) and the multitude of gaily coloured gowns, some with furtrimmings, provides a spectacle for the congregation. As always, a challenge for Master Mercer because if he sits down or stands up at the wrong point, all other Masters follow suit. Lovely music from three different Cathedral choirs.

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The next day was dry and sunny, a blessing given that it was 8 May and our Annual Banquet at Merchant Taylors’ Hall. Over 180 guests were able to enjoy champagne in the courtyard, a good meal in the Hall and entertainment from Adrian Mumford, Clerk to the Plumbers and Senior Assistant of the Musicians, playing on the organ. We were joined by 25 Swedish members of the Masons’ Guild in Stockholm (Murmestare) who engaged enthusiastically with the traditional forms of a Livery dinner - Beadle, multiple toasts, multiple wines, sung grace and speeches. Their own dinners are less formal,but they do have a lovely hall in Stockholm. The plan is for us to make a return visit in the next year or two. A letter from their delegation leader, Svante Hagman, was circulated with this Newsletter.

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The main speaker was the Very Rev’d Mark Oakley, the Dean of Southwark, who gave an address that was both moving and funny, a difficult thing to achieve. He mentioned the very close links between our Company and his Cathedral: see our Company book "They Built London".

The following morning, a group of us had a meeting with some of the Swedish Masons and we discussed ways of staying in touch. Heather and I then made our way to Goldsmiths’ Hall to witness the verdict of the Trial of the Pyx. 

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This is an ancient proceeding, during which a random selection of coins (some coins newly minted for circulation and some commemorative coins) supplied by the Mint are tested by skilled jurors from the Goldsmiths’ Company. The coins have to comply with strict requirements as to size, shape and, importantly, weight. On rare occasions, the coins fail their trial, and this a big embarrassment for the Royal Mint and the Government. The Government takes the trial seriously and we were joined at the lunch by a Treasury Minister and numerous officials from HM Treasury and the Bank of England. The Ts and Bs are not usually invited to the Trial of the Pyx, but probably our booking of the hall for our Craft Awards in March made a difference.

That evening, another very hot day, I made my way to Mercers’ Hall past crowds of City workers spilling out from pubs and wine bars. A great sight for those of us who love the City. Master Mercer kindly entertains all the Masters to drinks and there was a very good attendance. According to our WhatsApp group, many Masters stayed the full two hours and then found a pub until closing time, but I beat a modest retreat to Waterloo, since I had two more engagements on the Friday.

Both the NFRC and the Tile Association held their annual awards event on 10 May. I joined the former at lunch in the O2, meeting up with many members including Ian Wilson, Andy Rowlands, Keith Aldis, Jason Wright, Bob Richardson and Bob Coutts, then had to exit quietly to catch a train to Birmingham. 

The Tile Awards were held at the Hilton Hotel NEC, and the Tile Association kindly put the Mistress and me up for the night in the hotel. 

I had acted as a judge for the Tile Awards so was keen to see whether my relatively unskilled choices coincided with the eventual winners. In some cases, yes, which was reassuring. Gilly and I had a great evening and were able to talk to Bob Howard, Kay Porter and Brian Newell amongst others.

13 May found me back at Carpenters’ Hall, for a lecture sponsored by the Plumbers. This was on the work of Save the Children, focusing on clean and dirty water issues in areas experiencing conflict (such as Rafah at the moment).

On the Tuesday I went down to Bromley, where Michael Ash showed me round the premises of the Freddie Farmer Foundation. This charity provides physiotherapy and other forms of support for children and young people suffering from palsy or other disabling conditions. It is doing a great job in the Bromley area and supplying a need that is not met by the NHS. I met Freddie, who is a keen Millwall fan and manages to get to away games in his wheelchair as well as watching the home fixtures. Our charities have supported the Foundation with grants in the past.

On 20 May I went to County Hall for the memorial evening celebrating the life of Geoff Mann. I don’t think many of us in the Company appreciated what a full and high profile life Geoff had. He was a leading architect in London and acted for the overseas investor who purchased County Hall when it ceased to house the GLC. The building was re- purposed to include flats, restaurants and hotels. The old debating chamber was retained and that is where we sat to hear colourful stories about his life. He was a good enough pianist to give public concerts and we heard a piece from the violinist he frequently played with. He designed the football stadium for Coventry City and travelled all round the country supporting them – he was made a director of the club. And he owned a small private railway in Scotland.

MN_May_2024_4.jpgPM George Bird and CA Martin Reading also attended the evening. On the following day, Gilly and I set off for the Goring Hotel dressed very formally – it was the day of the Buckingham Palace Garden Party. 

A dozen Masters and their consorts enjoyed an excellent lunch together,before joining the long queue to get in to the Palace grounds. The weather was rainy so visibility inside the gardens was restricted by a sea of umbrellas, and the tea tent was crammed with people huddling away from the rain. Nonetheless it was a great honour to be invited and we explored the very large grounds at our leisure.Passengers on the bus back to Waterloo commented favourably on our costume choices.

Sunday 26th was not an official engagement, but is worth recording. My son George and I were at Wembley to see Southampton win promotion back to the Premiership!

MN_May_2024_5.jpgOn 30 May I returned to the Old Bailey, this time for a reception in aid of SSAFA, the Forces charity.

Beneficiaries of the charity gave an account of their experiences: the charity is directed towards helping thefamilies of servicemen.

The month ended with a lunch back at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, as the guest of Nicholas Carter, who is not only a Past Master of the Ts and Bs but also a Merchant Taylor.

Looking forward to seeing some of you at Brewers’ Hall.

Christopher Causer

Master

Welcome to the April newsletter. The month started with a return to Carpenters’ Hall for the Learned Clerk and me. Grayson Perry gave their annual ‘craft’ lecture on 3 April and as you can imagine the room was full! He kept us all entertained by a stream of personal reminiscences, comments on the art world and life in general and glimpses of his personal philosophy. He is an original thinker and very impressive. He then joined us for a drink afterwards.

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On 11 April I headed back to the Chamberlain’s Court in the Guildhall, to witness the Freedom Ceremony for Freeman Dean Degun. Dean had assembled a big group of supporters and we then went on to the Ned (fine piece of Lutyens
architecture, formerly the head office of the Midland Bank) for a very enjoyable lunch. Some of his guests will be attending our Annual Banquet next week.

The following day I drove to Ludlow to attend the English Song Weekend. Not an ‘official’ engagement but Betjeman called Ludlow the most beautiful small town in England and there is much fine brickwork and roofing to see.

On 15 April the Chartered Accountants had arranged a lunch with the Lord Mayor in their hall just off Moorgate. Many Masters attended, it being billed as a ‘catch up’ with the Lord Mayor’s programme at the half way point in his year. Wisely in my view, the LM was more interested in hearing from the Masters, so we got through a range of questions from the vitally important (‘what exactly is planned for the Masters’ Weekend?’) to the intriguing – the LM’s experience of trying to influence the Government and the Opposition.

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Thursday of that week saw 46 or so members of the Company converging on Guildhall for the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch. This must surely be one of the largest Livery company delegations to this event. We met up over champagne, proceeded in threes and fours into the main hall for our curry lunch, worked out how to access the free bars and generally had a very good time, knowing that our entrance money and bids for special prizes were going towards Armed Forces charities. I was pleased to see a good number of guests from outside the Company, all experiencing a very unusual event which raises a huge sum in one day – last year’s lunch raised £437,000.

My thanks to DM Simon Martin for organising our participation this year.

On 24 April the Architects, whose hall is the old Temple Bar which once stood outside the Royal Courts of Justice, hosted a presentation by Homewards. This is a charity sponsored by the Prince of Wales, which currently has programmes in eight cities or regions designed to reduce homelessness. The definition of homeless includes those sofa surfing or staying for periods with friends and family – it is not just rough sleepers. The purpose of the evening was to explore how the Livery companies could use their pro bono expertise to help one or more Homewards projects. At first sight, the architects and chartered surveyors seem to be the best placed, because many Homewards developments require advice on planning and design and experience of negotiating with local authorities. But training opportunities or ‘taster days’ in skills such as bricklaying or roofing would be very welcome, to introduce those currently without a job to a source of employment.

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On 29 April Heather and I were guests of the Glaziers for their stained glass competition and then dinner in Glaziers’ Hall. This year, the competition was to produce designs for stained glass panels to be installed in the dining room of the Oriental Club. The Club has roots in India so the panels featured references to tea and elephants, which already feature throughout the Club. We inspected the designs and applauded the winners – one chosen by the judges and a second whose designs will be installed in the Club. This one, pictured, won the commission. Apparently it is quite normal for the commercial client and the judges to disagree! Two artists benefit.

The guest speaker was the architect Ptolemy Dean, who looks after Westminster Abbey and Christ Church, Oxford amongst other buildings. He gave an excellent speech and included some amusing stories about David Hockney and his (iPad) designs for the new window in the Abbey.

Heather and I had another event on the following day – the Masters and Clerks lunch for the Plumbers’ Company. This went very cheerfully (we even saw the sun that day) and the Clerk to the Plumbers, who will be playing the organ for us next week, made an amusing speech on behalf of the Clerks.

Finally, there is exciting news: entries are open for the Triennial Awards! The nomination forms are up on the website HERE:

And you are encouraged to drum up some entries, so do consider your own projects (if in the construction business) or tell your contacts about it. I got the Immediate Past Master Architect to agree to submit four projects, by talking about the Triennials and their long history over the Big Curry Lunch. Since we have the Lord Mayor presenting the prizes, it would be good to have some distinguished buildings on the short list.

Christopher Causer

Master

Welcome to the February newsletter. The last day of January saw me in Eastleigh, attending a Speed Awareness Course, following which I drove (very slowly) back home to prepare for the Nominations Committee on 1 February and the Members’ Dinner at Cutlers’ Hall. At Nominations we discuss the more senior appointments, such as who should become Renter Warden in Nomination and who should join the Court. Our recommendations are then considered by the Court in March and take effect in October.

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The dinner in Cutlers’ Hall is always a highlight of the year, since it is the only event where we mix amongst ourselves with no guests, principal or otherwise. The speeches are kept to a minimum too.

Seating by lottery means you get to know new people in the Company. For many years the catering has been provided by the Beadle to the Cutlers and his wife, who live in the Hall. They have given us excellent food at a very reasonable cost. Alas the Beadle is retiring this year, so we expressed our thanks to them for looking after us so well and presented David with some malt whisky and Shirley with some flowers. I also handed over champagne to the artistic winners of our Photographic Competition, namely Lesley Day, Ian Harmond and Frank Clarke.

1st February was a busy day since I attended at lunch time a meeting of Masters from the Construction Liveries Group, to discuss how the CLG should develop going forward.

More on this when we reach a consensus. At present the Chair of our Craft Committee attends quarterly CLG meetings, which does mean we have some continuity of input.

The next event was a meeting on Teams of our Livery Climate Action Group working group, chaired by Freeman Kate Oldridge. This group meets regularly and we are preparing an action plan for the Company in the field of climate change and sustainability. There is still room on the working group for volunteers who have a strong interest in this field, with Deputy Master Simon Martin the newest recruit.

The Mistress and I headed off to Hyderabad in mid month, to attend a wedding. The groom was the elder son of our principal guest at the Installation Luncheon, Sir David Bean. The wedding extended over two days and we were invited by our hosts to buy or borrow traditional costumes

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The photo above shows the central, most religious, part of the two days when the priests preside in the stone building and a sacred fire is lit. The groom is far left, with a white turban, and his bride next to him. They walk clockwise round the fire seven times. I am wearing a rajah’s coat which was given to Gilly’s grandmother over a hundred years ago. The Rajasthani turbans are tied for each guest on the morning! Green for the groom’s side and red for the bride’s side on this occasion. It was a great experience

Normally the Master would compete in the Pancake Races on Shrove Tuesday, but the Poulters, who organise the event, graciously allowed our Upper Warden to compete instead. This proved an inspired move, since the actual races were rained off (Health & Safety!) and the contest took the form of competitive pancake flipping against the clock. Jenny is much better equipped for this than most Masters, and has nerves of steel, so claimed outright victory, beating all other Livery companies. Master Skinner was second.

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Liveryman Michael Ash organised, as usual, his generous sponsorship scheme for those attending the Pancake Races and this raised £359 for our Charitable Trust. Thank you, Michael.


On 22 February I caught the train to Gillingham for the Royal Engineers’ Corps Guest Night at Brompton Barracks. This proved to be a splendid occasion, with the RE officers wearing scarlet mess kit, a smattering of guests from other regiments, the Royal Navy and the RAF, plus civilians in black tie. A Rear Admiral asked whether we had a Navy affiliation and when I said it was the smallest ship in the fleet he responded ‘Magpie!’. He said he always wanted to be a hydrographer but ended up flying fast jets…. I was able to talk to the Chief Royal Engineer, Lt Gen Sir Christopher Tickell, about our plans for celebrating the 25th anniversary of the affiliation between the Company and the Corps. He sounded enthusiastic so let’s hope he can attend one of the events being planned for next year. The Upper Warden and Ian Ogden are leading on this.

It was a lovely evening and a privilege to dine in the Officers’ Mess at Brompton, which in the past has seen young officers like Gordon (of Khartoum) and Kitchener enjoying their breakfast. We were there last summer too, at the Bricklaying Day organised by the Craft Committee, and are lucky to have such an active link to the Royal Engineers.

There are some good events coming up, including the Craft Awards luncheon on 19 March and the Big Curry Lunch on 18 April, so I look forward to seeing you then.

Christopher Causer
Master

Welcome to the March newsletter. The month started with the Melluish Lecture at St Lawrence Jewry, organised by the Guild of City Guides. The speaker was the Archivist from the Middle Temple, who told us all about the revels and the turmoil in the Inns of Court, and London generally, during the Commonwealth and then after the Restoration. It was a dangerous time to be a prominent person, although some of the senior lawyers managed to transfer successfully from the Parliamentary faction to the King’s party when they saw the way the wind was blowing. He told some interesting stories about the contested ground which was the Temple in those days – numerous Lords Mayor were physically attacked by Middle and Inner Temple students when they tried to assert control over the Inn! Generally the Lord Mayor retired to a tavern to dust himself down.

The following morning, the Learned Clerk, the Chair of the Craft Committee and I made a quick visit to Goldsmiths’ Hall to plan the physical arrangements for the Craft Awards luncheon. You need to walk the floors to work out where to station the Stewards and the reception line, where to robe before the Court meeting and, in this case, the flow of people collecting awards and returning to their seats. We also sorted out where we needed lecterns and microphones. Ian and I then made our way to Worship Street for a meeting of the Craft Committee.

On 7 March, we interviewed three prospective Freemen and two of them managed to be ready for the Court meeting and lunch on 19 March, so that was all very efficient!

On 12 March I went to the beautiful Dutch Church in Austin Friars, to visit the exhibition of basket making organised by the Basketmakers’ Company. That company has a number of Yeomen who are professional makers, not just of baskets but also of furniture, fishing creels, rush matting and even coffins (willow coffins are totally biodegradable). The church was full of these makers and their works, and the Livery guests were able to sip a glass of wine as they admired the craftwork for sale. Numerous Masters invested in a new fishing creel or fancy basket, so it was a successful day for the Yeomen.

On the following day, I drove to Treloar School and College near Alton in Hampshire. This is a school/college for students who are severely physically disabled. Almost all the students are in wheelchairs and the mainstream education system is unable to give them all the support they require. Treloar’s is named after the Lord Mayor of London who founded the school in 1908. This was their Open Day, attended by the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress, plus twenty or so Masters of Livery companies. We were shown round the very impressive establishment, which offers education and training at primary, secondary and sixth form levels. The college relies on charitable funding, especially from the City of London, to fund the very high level of staffing and the expensive equipment required, such as electric hoists to get students in and out of bed or a bath, or electrically adjustable standing frames to enable them to work, read or watch television in a standing posture. These standing frames are very popular, because otherwise the students spend 18 hours a day sitting in a wheelchair. The Lady Mayoress is organising a fund raising tea party at the Mansion House on 26 June, with Alan Titchmarsh running a Gardeners’ Question Time, for anyone who would like to support this amazing institution.

I then headed for Carpenters’ Hall, where the Mistress and I were guests of the Company for the evening. We enjoyed some fine food and wine, and the Master, who is South African, had invited a bass singer from that country to entertain us. He sang arias from opera and also two songs in Xhosa (his first language). Lots of clicking. It was a very enjoyable evening and we will look out for the singer, Msido Mbali, on the opera stage in London. Currently he is based in Geneva.

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We stayed overnight in London and joined Liveryman and Commander (good idea for a novel, perhaps even a series) Ed Rolls and the HMS Magpie Liaison Group at HMS President in the morning. Our affiliated vessel had made the trip up the Thames specially and was moored on the pontoon ready to go. After introductions by the Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Nick Radue, we cast off and did a quick underwater survey of the channel next to the pontoon – all fine – before proceeding down river. The crew members were enthusiastic about explaining the very complex electronic kit on board and demonstrating its use. Freeman Radiah Ford, who works at the MoD sometimes on naval matters, was able to take the helm for a bit and said the photos would astonish her colleagues in the office! The ship has diesel engines but no propellers, with propulsion coming from jets underneath the hull which can fire in any direction, making her very manoeuvrable. When we returned to the pontoon, the CO made the vessel move smoothly sideways, completely parallel to the dock. The T&B team then had a sandwich lunch with the whole crew of Magpie, before awarding the first of our annual prizes, to LET Dennis Taylor. We hope to see both Nick and Dennis at our Annual Banquet in May.

The Mistress and I then re-grouped and donned white tie for an evening at the Mansion House. Roughly halfway through his year, the Lord Mayor entertains all the Masters of Livery companies to dinner and gives a report on progress. It was a lovely evening and we got to meet Butcher and Bowyer, who I had not really come across before. The Lord Mayor made an amusing speech and there are a couple of new ideas we will pick up and discuss in committee.

The same cast then assembled the following day for the United Guilds Service at St Paul’s Cathedral. This service celebrates the contribution of the Guilds and Livery companies and their charities to the City and was a mix of some fine music and a very thoughtful sermon from the Dean, who did not shrink from addressing the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

After the service, the T&B party walked to Carpenters’ Hall, where we lunched with the Carpenters and three other companies. An enjoyable end to a busy week.

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19 March was a nice dry day, so I set off for Goldsmiths’ in good spirits, ready for a Court meeting and then the Craft Awards luncheon. At the Court meeting we welcomed three new Freemen and clothed three new Liverymen, so there were some bright new ribbons on display at lunch time. The lunch itself was a great occasion, with 160 people enjoying the delights of Goldsmiths’ Hall and applauding our prize winners. Liveryman Sir Mark Mans presented the awards and gave an excellent speech bringing us up to date with developments in the Royal Engineers, ready for the 25th anniversary next year. Our thanks to Court Assistant Ian Wilson for the huge amount of preparatory work done to set up the awards ceremony.

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The following day was the Vernal Equinox and also the Lightmongers’ Dinner, held this year at Painters’ Hall. The Lightmongers are electricians and a relatively modern company, with close links to the Tallow Chandlers and Wax Chandlers whose products were made redundant by electricity! As I pointed out to Master Lightmonger, they have the largest ship in the fleet (HMS Queen Elizabeth) and we have the smallest. But there are of course a lot of electricians on an aircraft carrier and not much tiling or bricklaying on any RN vessel.

My final engagement in March was another dinner at Painters’ Hall, this time hosted by Master Painter-Stainer. Like the Lightmongers, we are all part of the Construction Liveries Group. The Painter-Stainers represent both commercial painting (I sat next to a Past Master who painted the bridge for the Dartford Crossing) and fine art painting, and they have had some famous painters as members. The hall is full of pictures. The current Master personally decorated the ground floor reception rooms, some years ago, and took pleasure in showing me some ‘wood’ panels that were actually painted.

A busy month, with a great deal of variety. The next major events for us are the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch on 18 April, where we are attending in force, and the Annual Dinner at Merchant Taylors’ Hall on 8 May. We have a fine speaker for the latter event, the new Dean of Southwark, and will be joined by a party from the Stockholm Guild of Masons, so the evening will have an intriguing international flavour! Do bring along some guests.

Christopher

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Welcome to the December Newsletter. Livery activity comes to a halt after each Company has held its carol service, so there are fewer events to report this month.

For the first few days of the month I escaped to the north Lakes, near Keswick, and so managed to miss the foot of snow that paralysed the Windermere area for a couple of days. In the north we had a centimetre on the ground, making the landscape look beautiful without stopping the traffic. I got up in the hills and then came down very carefully, with icy conditions and no crampons.

The next T&B engagement was on 6 December when I had planned to attend the Masons’ Awards – similar to our Craft Awards – being presented by the Duke of Gloucester. Aslef intervened and I was stuck in Hampshire so made a quick phone call to Deputy Master John Schofield. John lives in Blackheath and has several options for travel to London, so he deputised at short notice and enjoyed a visit to Mercers’ Hall. I am grateful to John for moving so fast.

On 8 December I made my way to the station and then Mansion House. The Lord Mayor hosted afternoon tea for the winners of awards from the Lord Mayor’s 800th Anniversary Awards Trust. The Trust was set up in 1989 in order to encourage young people aged 17 to 24 to travel overseas and do something challenging or worthwhile.Dec_2023_2.jpgAnyone can apply for a grant, including friends or family of Liverymen, so if you know of a young person plotting a trip or a gap year, encourage them to ask for a grant. The winners at the tea included a young woman who had climbed several challenging peaks in Kurdistan; a young man who had spent six months in Ghana, nominally teaching English but expanding his role to include maths, sciences, vegetable gardening, theatre and football coaching; and a young woman who led a team of marine biologists underwater studying how scuba diving affects the behaviour of a particular species of fish. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the conclusion was that this particular species values the variety and novelty, and the shoal clustered around each morning to greet the divers.

Dec2023_3.jpgThe next task was finalising preparations for the Court meeting, Carol Service and Supper. Each event has a different cast list and different documentation, from Court papers to orders of service and pew markers, so there is a lot to be done. At the Court meeting we advanced Phil Pinto and Ed Renwick to the Livery.

Dec_2023_5.jpgWe welcomed Rachel Malpass-Brown as a Freeman and granted the status of Honorary Liveryman to our Beadle of 14 years, David Wylie.

Dec_2023_4.jpgDavid has decided to retire from beadling for the Ts and Bs and at the Supper, I was able to thank David for all his hard work and enthusiasm since 2009. On behalf of the Company I presented David with a decanter and some glasses. David’s family were at the Supper in Armourers’ Hall and we look forward to seeing him at our events in the future as a Liveryman.

Dec_2023_6.jpgThe main business of the Court meeting was the establishment of a separate limited company to take over responsibility for organising our events. The reasons for this are explained in my attached note. My thanks to Past Masters Michel Saminaden, Tom Rider and Simon Martin, and Court Assistant Tom Christopherson, who provided a great deal of pro bono advice in order to devise a way forward and then implement it.

If any member of the Company has questions about the new arrangements, then please feel free to contact me or the Clerk.

IMG_3877.jpegThe Carol Service was well attended and the congregation sang loudly for their carols. The Lothbury Singers, directed by Richard Townend, were on excellent form and the Hon Chaplain gave a thought-provoking address. For many of us the T&B service is the official start of Christmas!

IMG_3889.jpegWe then walked to Armourers’ Hall, which has been refurbished recently and is looking magnificent, for a buffet supper and some fine wines. The hall was full to capacity and members lingered on for some time after the ‘Carriages’ hour, providing a fitting end to a very enjoyable 2023.

See you in the New Year!

Christopher Causer

PS. You still have a few days to send your photographs to Ian Wilson and win some champagne. Close of the Photographic Competition is 31 December but Ian has kindly granted a short extension to 12 January. The original notice with all the details is sent to you again