It is an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as Master of a Livery Company for a year. There are many different aspects to the Master’s role and responsibilities and the events which I have attended in the past week gives a good illustration of this.
Thursday 5 May: Christ’s Hospital Appeal Committee meeting (on Zoom)
The Christ’s Hospital Appeal Committee was formed in September 2021 to oversee the appeal to raise funds to send another child from a disadvantaged background to Christ’s Hospital School. I launched the appeal at the start of my year as Master. The target was £36,600 but we have already raised nearly £47,000 to date, including matched funding from the Company of £18,000. This is a staggering achievement for a Company of fewer than 200 members. I am sure that one of the reasons that so many people have responded so generously to the appeal is that we can see a direct connection between our charity and the outcome – a life changing education for a young person.
And there is more to come. Past Master David Szymanski and his good friend Mark Vose will be cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats, setting off on 22 May. David has kindly offered to seek sponsorship for this epic ride from family, friends and business associates. At the time of writing this blog, David has already raised over £10,000. You can follow David and Mark via a link on the T&B home page.
Thursday 5 May: dinner with the Court Leet of the King’s Manor in Southwark at the Old Bailey
I was invited by Liveryman Ernest Smart to be the principal guest at this dinner held in the Judges’ Dining Room at the Old Bailey. The Court Leet trace their origins back to Alfred the Great in 871, with their first Royal Charter being awarded in 1327 and a second charter by Edward VI in 1550. This is a much longer lineage than most Livery Companies and certainly predates the Tylers and Bricklayers – we received our Royal Charter from Elizabeth I in 1568. Ernest is the Hon Clerk and Archivist of the Court.
I was pleased to find that no fewer than seven of the 24 Jurors on the Court Leet are also members of the Tylers and Bricklayers so I was amongst friends. The honour of being principal guest almost always carries with it the requirement to make a speech on behalf of the guests but Ernest had instructed me that it should be brief! A memorable evening.
Tuesday 10 May: Craft Committee meeting
The Company relies on the often-unseen work of members contributing to various Committees for its efficient and effective administration. The Craft Committee, chaired by Court Assistant David White, is one of these committees. The Craft Committee has responsibility for overseeing the Company’s support for and relationships with relevant bodies and individuals associated with our three crafts: bricklaying, roof tiling and slating and wall and floor tiling. Most members of the Committee are men and women with craft backgrounds and the Master sits on the Committee in his or her year in office. As I do not have a craft background, this has been a most welcome opportunity to learn more about all aspects of the Company’s support for the three crafts.
The two main items for discussion were a proposal that the Company should seek to support three young men and women to undertake an apprenticeship in one of our related crafts. Our support would take the form of funding and mentoring. There are some significant questions to consider including how will we find deserving candidates, how will we raise the funds needed, how can we best support the apprentices during and perhaps after their training and what relationship will the apprentices have with the Company? The other major discussion was around a proposal from the Court that we should introduce a new award in the Company’s Triennial Awards for the best environmentally sustainable scheme. The Craft Committee discussed the feasibility, form and criteria for such an award which, if introduced, would first be awarded at the next Triennial Awards in 2024.
Wednesday 11 May: View Day at St Bartholomew’s Hospital
One of the great joys of serving as Master is the opportunity to participate in services, ceremonies and visits in and around the City. St Bartholomew’s Hospital is a great City institution, founded in 1123 by Rahere, Henry I’s Court Jester. The View Day was first held in 1551 and was an occasion for the City authorities to inspect the Hospital. View Day now provides an opportunity for supporters to visit the Hospital, to learn about the extraordinary work that is undertaken and to hear about plans for the future.
The programme included Choral Evensong in the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great and a Reception in the Great Hall. The Priory Church was also founded in 1123 and is London’s oldest church. It is well worth a visit and will be familiar to many people as the venue for the last wedding in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The service was simple but moving, with lovely singing by the choir.
The Reception in the Great Hall was well attended and I had the chance to catch up with many Masters of other Companies as well as hearing more about the Hospital’s plans to mark its 900th anniversary in 2023.
Thursday 12 May: Annual Livery Dinner at Haberdashers Hall
The Annual Livery Dinner is one of the main events in any Master’s year. The Dinner was held this year at Haberdashers’ Hall. The Hall was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2002 and won a Tylers & Bricklayers Brickwork Award in the 2005 Triennial Awards. The judges noted the “supreme craftsmanship in both exterior and interior face brickwork, with lovely detailing” so it was an appropriate venue for the Tylers and Bricklayers annual dinner. There were 120 members and guests present at the dinner.
My principal guest was Professor Dame Carol Black. Dame Carol has had a long and distinguished career in medicine and in public service. She is currently an independent adviser to the Government on illicit drugs and chairs the Boards of the British Library, the Centre for Ageing Better and Think Ahead, the Government’s fast-stream training programme for Mental Health Social Workers. Dame Carol made an interesting and thought-provoking speech on the mental health challenges faced by many who work in the construction industry.
It was a wonderful evening which I greatly enjoyed (particularly after I had given my speech in response to the toast to the Company!).
Friday 13 May: Worshipful Company of Educators’ Military Education Lecture, HMS President
Many Livery Companies hold lectures during the course of the year to which Masters, Wardens and sometimes members of other Companies are invited. I was invited to the Worshipful Company of Educators’ annual military education lecture. This was held at HMS President, a Royal Naval Reserve and sea cadet training centre in St Katherine Docks, which was very apt as the subject of the lecture was “The impact and value of the military cadet forces of the UK”. Although topic of the lecture appeared somewhat dry, the lecture was very interesting, reporting on research undertaken by a team from the University of Northampton which has been able to demonstrate that children from disadvantaged backgrounds who participate as cadets achieve better outcomes at school and in life than those who do not. This was supported by inspiring personal testimonies from two former cadets, both of whom now serve as adult volunteers. The lecture was followed by a drinks reception on the deck outside HMS President with a wonderful view up river to Tower Bridge and a chance to tour a sail training ship, T/S Royalist, which was tied up alongside.
A great end to a busy and interesting week.