Welcome to the November newsletter. October and November are the start of the new ‘school year’ in the City, with the incoming Lord Mayor taking office and many Livery companies installing new principals. It is a strange school because most students are there for a year and then move on.
The new arrivals create a buzz and there is a rich collation of church services, drinks receptions, lunches and dinners to be enjoyed.
The week beginning 30 October was comparatively quiet, with just two working lunches. The Hon Chaplain and I discussed carols for the Carol Service over a delightful lunch at the Royal Ocean Racing Club – you will be pleased to hear that there are very few nautical carols. And then I attended lunch at Davy’s in St James’s with our wine adviser Francis Flavin and the full Wine Committee. The theme was Rhone grape varieties, whether in wine made there or elsewhere, and with the dedication of a very professional committee we sampled seven or eight qualifying bottles, plus some champagne which did not qualify. Francis was in charge of the bottles so we took very small amounts of each wine!
The following week was more solemn, with Remembrance Day the focus. On the Monday I planted a cross on behalf of our Company in the Garden of Remembrance at St Paul’s Cathedral, as part of an outdoors service attended by many Livery companies and other City bodies. The Dean led the service. In the evening the Learned Clerk and I went to St Stephen Walbrook for a service celebrating the year of the outgoing Lord Mayor, Nicholas Lyons. Although I worked in the City for some forty years, I had never gone inside this Wren church, which is very beautiful.
On 8 November the Mistress and I changed gear and attended the Brick Awards at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, presented by the Brick Development Association. CA Keith Aldis was the host for the night and CA Ian Wilson was there as one of the judges. The TV presenter George Clarke did a good job of controlling a ballroom full of construction professionals out for a night in London. Gilly and I had a great time and I presented the award for Refurbishment. Thank you BDA for entertaining us.
The following morning I reported to the Chamberlain’s Court in Guildhall to witness the Freedom ceremony for three of our Freemen – Phil Pinto, Debby Burman and Ed Renwick. As always, it was a fascinating morning with the presiding officer giving an entertaining survey of Freemen of the City over the centuries. That evening, after two committee meetings on Zoom, I felt I had earned a glass of wine so set off for Freemasons’ Hall to attend the reception for London Air Ambulance. This is one of the charities we support and in the summer I visited their base on the helipad at the London Hospital. Whilst there I saw one of their helicopters come in to land and was able to talk to the medical staff. They are truly world leading in some of the medical procedures they carry out (at street level – the helicopter is vital in getting the medics to the patient in the shortest time possible). They are raising money for two new helicopters which are being built in Germany and the London Freemasons have kicked off the campaign with a gift of £3 million. Truly inspiring, and there is a construction link because some of their patients have suffered major injuries on building sites.
Then on Saturday it was the Lord Mayor’s Show. Once more the Master and Wardens, preceded by CA Martin Reading carrying our placard, walked briskly from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice and back, wearing gowns and bonnets. The Renter Warden threw himself into greeting the crowd with high fives and seemed to be launching an early election campaign. As we passed Mansion House we saluted not just the Mayoral party but also John and Helen Schofield who were distinguished guests in the stands. It is amazing that in an age of electronic entertainment on demand, so many people take to the streets to wave theprocession on. A very special day.
The following day I attended the Remembrance Service at St Paul’s, together with all the other Livery Masters. We occupied the South Transept in gowns and badges. It was a moving service with lovely music. The Dean gave a very balanced address against the background of the fighting in Gaza. Afterwards we walked down Cheapside and formed up near the Royal Exchange for the laying of wreaths at the war memorial. As the Grenadier Guards played Elgar I reflected that the City is still a village – we moved in ten minutes from ‘our’ cathedral to a war memorial right outside the Bank of England, passing the Lord Mayor’s house on the way.
The following week opened with a new venture – an informal Members’ Lunch at Ironmongers’ Hall. Liverymen brought along guests and we had a table of a dozen or so people for lunch in a fine hall. We hope that introducing people in this way will lead to some of them deciding to join the Company.
On 16 November I made my way to the Royal Society of Medicine for the annual lecture sponsored by the Horners. The Horners, who used to make drinking horns, have transitioned to sponsoring the plastics industry and the lecture was about the increasing use of plastic in making horse shoes. Plastic shoes offer many advantages (lighter weight, ability to flex, less risk of injury to other horses) and are increasingly being used in high end equitation, such as race-horses and polo ponies. The speaker was a master farrier, but as he pointed out, not Master Farrier.
On 21 November I was a guest at the Plaisterers’ Awards Luncheon, which is similar to our Craft Awards luncheon. I was placed next to the Lord Mayor and we had the chance to talk about a range of subjects. He is a keen sailor, a member of RORC, and used to own a Thames sailing barge, Lady Daphne. Some of you will remember his very amusing speech at Barber Surgeons’ Hall in Michel’s year, just about our first proper event after the covid closedown. It will be a stimulating year with Prof Mainelli in the Mansion House.
After lunch it was time for a short break, then a trip to a Livery hall outside the City of London (the only one – pub quiz answer). Having blown up two previous halls, the Gunmakers’ Company were required to relocate to a spot 20 minutes outside the walls – now the Commercial Road! There they continue to carry out their legal responsibility of ‘proofing’ guns, in other words testing them to ensure they are safe to use. So the hall is called the Proof House. All guns need a proof mark before they can be sold and even the rifles used by the Army undergo testing in either London or Birmingham. The Proof Master spent an hour explaining his role, which is technical, scientific and legal at the same time, and we were shown the small dining room used by the Gunmakers. The 15 Ts and Bs present (that is the maximum number permitted per tour) then headed off for an informal curry in Brick Lane.
The Mistress and I set off the following morning for Milton Keynes, to attend the finals of SkillBuild as guests of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors. Our hotel was built wrapped around the MK Dons football stadium, which means some public rooms have great views on to the pitch. We had an enjoyable dinner with NFRC on the Wednesday, with CA Ian Wilson, CA Andy Rowlands, Liveryman Bob Richardson and Freeman Bob Coutts all present, and toured SkillBuild on Thursday morning, visiting the stands for all three of our crafts.
We talked to many of the competitors and presented the eight roofing finalists with certificates. You will meet the winners in our three crafts next March at the Craft Awards in Goldsmiths’ Hall.
To the station then, and a train to London for a change of clothes and the Paviors’ dinner at Merchant Taylors’ Hall. The Learned Clerk and I enjoyed an excellent meal and the first speech to a Livery company of the Lady Mayoress, Elisabeth Mainelli. She made a fine debut and no doubt will speak on many more occasions this year.
The very busy month then ended the following week with the Building Crafts College prizegiving – we fund the prize for Bricklaying – and two drinks receptions, for the Big Curry Lunch and Barts Charity.
CA Ian Wilson and I met the new Principal of the BCC and the winner of the Bricklaying prize, Daniel Riley. To our delight Daniel won the overall ‘Best Student’ award, which is an achievement given that the BCC is heavily committed to wood related trades, being founded by the Carpenters.
This year’s Big Curry Lunch raised an incredible £437,000 for services charities (all three services) and the Lord Mayor announced at the reception, held in the City of London Club, his target of £450,000 for next year’s lunch. We will again be taking a large party to this fabulous event.
Barts Charity announced a new Breast Cancer programme at the Royal London Hospital and we donated £900 this year to support their Barts 900 appeal.
My apologies for this extended newsletter, but November is probably the busiest month for the T&B Master and next month’s will be shorter!
I would just add two items of AOB: first, we are using Instagram as the main channel of news in between the monthly newsletters, so if you use Instagram follow #tylersandbricklayers to see what we are up to.
See you at the Carol Service!