The influence of the Thames on the City

The City of London Corporation invited me to 'The turning tide: the City and the River' a lecture by Professor Jeremy Black, MBE, Professor of History, University of Exeter. Having always had a fascination for history I did not hesitate to accept. The lecture took place in the Old Library, one of the beautiful Pugin style rooms at Guildhall.  

I have to say this was one of the most interesting lectures I have been to during the year. Professor Black took the listeners through the weaving history of the Thames with only occasional reference to notes to read out a quotation or some statistics. 

I had not appreciated that London is one of the few capital cities in the world that was both a government capital and a trading and manufacturing as well. All because of the geographical location of the City on the Thames. 

The only loss to the City was the problem of the Unions in post-war London when their behaviour caused the London based docks to lose out to Hamburg and Rotterdam.


Off to the House of Lords 

The next morning saw some 40 Masters and Consorts head to the Palace of Westminster for a tour of the House of Lords followed by lunch arranged by Master Framework Knitter and hosted by PM Farmer Baroness Byford, and the opportunity to sit in the Lords when they were working through the Questions for the day. 

There is so much history attached to the Palace of Westminster that it sometimes difficult to take it all in. It was a pleasure to walk over the encaustic tiles made by Craven Dunnill in the Central Lobby for the restoration of the Palace, and to see the inner workings of the House of Lords. It is such an ornate area of the Palace, and worthy of the major ongoing restoration process. We were told that the restoration programme will run to 2026 with both Houses moving out of the Palace for work to continue in their areas. 

After lunch in the Cholmondley Room over looking the river, we went, in groups into the House of Lords to listen to questions on D-Day landing memorials, rural post offices, calorie labelling of food for diabetics and the criminal exploitation of children. 

Walking the City Churches 

The Worshipful Companies of Constructors and Plumbers arrange an annual walk around a number of churches in the City of London. 86 churches had been burnt down during the Great Fire and the office of Christopher Wren rebuilt some 50. Most were damaged or destroyed during WW2 and some were never rebuilt but remain as gardens. 

Our day started in the crypt of St Pauls Cathedral for coffee and a bacon roll and then we made our way to St Vedast alias Foster, the roof garden at One New Change, St Mary Aldermary, St Mary Le Bow, St Lawrence Jewry, St Stephen Walbrook, St Mary Woolnoth, St Mary Abchurch, St Magnus the Martyr, St Mary at Hill and the garden of St Dunstan in the East, before finishing at All Hallows at the Tower, and a very welcome cup of tea! 

We were led by two City of London Guides who taught us a great deal about the history of the City Churches, including the Sword Rests, which I will have to look for everytime I visit a church in the city. 

After the walk finished I walked back toward London Bridge and on the way, took time to watch one of the London Barges make its stately way down the Thames and under the opened Tower Bridge.


Speech Day for St Pauls Cathedral 

It was an early start for yours truly as I had to be seated by 9 a.m. in St Pauls Cathedral for the School’s Speech Day. 

St Pauls Cathedral School is for children between 3 and 13, and the visiting Masters all admired the pre-prep children who sat quietly (well almost) for the duration of the Ceremony and speeches.  

Whilst we waited for the ceremony to begin the year 7 String Quartet played for us; I just wish I had just one ounce of their talent!  The Cathedral Choristers sang the beautiful Laudate Pueri, and their angelic voices filled the beautiful cathedral, and after the Ceremony Pre-prep pupils sang Amani Utupe and Year 8 “And so it goes” by Billy Joel. 

A legacy from Past Master John Martin allows the Company to give prizes to the school, and seven prizes were awarded to students at this Ceremony, and they are all to be congratulated.