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.


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.


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.


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.