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On Monday 3 July I was delighted that once again the Company provided a stand at the London Careers Festival at Guildhall, part of the Livery Schools Link. Over 800 children from a wide range of school came to see examples of potential careers put on by various Livery Companies.

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Chairman of the Craft Committee, Court Assistant David White, Liverymen Emma Simpson MBE, Peter Lynch and Tony Yianni and colleagues James Brown and George Hodgson, the T&B team gave children the opportunity to understand the importance of a career in our trades. The stand was very popular and the do-it-yourself bricklaying demonstrations went down well! A full report of the event is available on our website, with thanks to David White.

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The next day, Tuesday 4 July I attended the Sheriffs and Recorders Fund AGM and reception at the Old Bailey. The AGM was held in the presence of Sheriff Alistair King and the Recorder, His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC in Number 1 Court, where the most serious legal cases are heard. The Fund raises money to help offenders in jail and on release, giving them additional financial support and mentorship to avoid re-offending. It is a most worthwhile cause which we are very pleased to support though regular donation. The Mistress and I also supported the fund by attended a private screening of the movie “The Duke” at the Barbican earlier in the year.
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Then on Thursday 6 July together with the Mistress, the Clerk, and representatives of 35 other livery companies, we spent the day walking in the City. Each year the Plumbers Company organise a “City Churches Walk”, visiting ten or more city churches. Starting with tea and bacon rolls in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, we were split into two groups each led by an experienced Blue Badge London guide. Over a four-hour period with a sandwich lunch, we learned a huge amount about the history and architecture of the churches, many of which were rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666.

One of the most interesting Wren churches is St Stephen Walbrook, right next to Mansion house. It is the Lord Mayor’s parish church with a remarkable central dome and round central altar by the sculptor Henry Moore.MB_July_2023_1-5.jpgIt was a fascinating and inspiring day. My thanks to our Blue badge guides Stephen Birrell and Philip Wright, and the Master Plumber Air Cdre Paul Nash OBE and the Clerk to the Plumbers’ Company Adrian Mumford for organising the day.

MB_June_2023_4-1.jpgOn our return to London from the London Livery weekend in Glasgow, The Mistress and I were delighted to be invited to the private opening of the National Portrait Gallery. The Craft Trust gave a grant to support the restoration of the mosaic tiled floors, and it was wonderful to be back in this spectacular building after its three-year closure for renovation. 

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The last few days of June were very busy! On 26 June we were at Guildhall for the Election of Sheriffs. Almost all the Masters attended in full fig, gowned, badged and chained. We processed into the main hall in order of precedence before the Court of Aldermen, Sheriffs and The Lord Mayor, together with former Lord Mayors and other senior civic figures.

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Alderwoman Dame Susan Langley and Alderman Bronek Masojada, both Insurers, were duly elected, and afterwards addressed us from the balcony of Stationers’ Hall. 

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Twelve members of the Company and guests had a wonderful luncheon at in the recently refurbished Hall, courtesy of the Master Moira Sleight. The hall has just reopened after a two year closure and is looking very fine. Later in the day, I was the guest of the Farriers’ Company at their Court dinner, again in Apothecaries’ Hall.

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On 27 June I attended St Paul’s Cathedral for the celebration of Wren 300, followed by yet another dinner at Apothecaries’ Hall. The service commemorated 300 years since the death of Sir Christopher Wren, architect of the Cathedral and so much of London post-1666.  Tributes were given by several senior figures in the architectural world including the Master Chartered Architect, Chris Dyson. The Lord Mayor and Sheriff Marsden were in attendance, seen here leaving after the service.

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The month ended with the Master’s Trip to Kent, Wednesday 28 – Friday 30 June.  Twenty-seven Company members and partners descended on the Chilston Park Hotel, Lenham, near Maidstone. The hotel is based in an 18th century house, previously a private home. It provided fond memories for several of the Company who knew it well in former years - there has been a house on this site since the 12th century. 

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We were transported across Kent in the luxurious coaches of the King’s Ferry, with time spent at Chapel Down Vineyard in Tenterden, where we had a fascinating outdoor tasting session!

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Our day in Canterbury included a visit to Eastbridge Hospital, the Franciscan gardens with its Tudor walls, and a tour of the Cathedral followed by evensong.

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During the visit we were delighted to meet the Master of Eastbridge Hospital, and the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and Sheriff of the City of Canterbury at Guildhall. 

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Our walking tour guide, Stephen, took us to the Roper Gate, the oldest remaining brick gatehouse, just outside the city walls. Despite a downpour, we managed to get a group photograph at this lesser-known attraction.


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After a lovely evensong service in the Cathedral, we enjoyed a very good dinner at the Cornerhouse Restaurant in Canterbury. The food and service were of exceptionally good standard, and we were sorry to leave when our coach arrived to whisk us back to Chilston Park at precisely 10.00pm.

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On the last day we visited Sissinghurst Castle gardens, and we met with locally-based members and companions for lunch. The white garden was looking superb, despite rain the day before. I am very grateful to the many people who came on the trip, and I must congratulate the Mistress who was responsible for almost all of the organization. 

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At our Court meeting on 8 June held at Apothecaries’ Hall, Black Friars, we were delighted to elect two new Freemen, David Hackett and Dean Degun. They are most welcome and are shown here wearing their personal medals on yellow Freemens’ ribbons.

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At the same meeting, Christian Brash was clothed in the Livery and became our Junior Liveryman. His yellow ribbon was changed for the blue of a Liveryman. It almost didn’t happen, as Christian was stuck in a stationary train near Grantham just two hours beforehand! Many congratulations to all three.

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After the meeting, we held our Masters and Clerks luncheon in the hall. The reception was held in the courtyard in blazing sunshine. Champagne flowed and we entertained 75 members and guests, including our principal guest the Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of St Paul’s. Other guests included Alderwoman Susan Pearson and Masters and Clerks from the Paviors, Apothecaries, Builders Merchants, Constructors and Chartered Architects.

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I was the one wearing a fur coat during a heat wave, amongst others more comfortably dressed, here with Master Constructor David Sheehan, the Dean, Master Pavior John May and Master Apothecary Dr Jonathan Holliday.

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We were particularly delighted to welcome Alderwoman Susan Pearson, seen here with the Clerk, the Mistress and Mr John May, Master Pavior. Susan practiced as an architect for 40 years and joined the Court of Common Council in 2017. She was appointed to the Court of Aldermen on 18th October 2022, and is our Company’s official link with the Livery Committee.

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Luncheon was taken in the Livery Hall, under the watchful gaze of King Charles I, King James I, Queen Elizabeth II and the Apothecaries’ founder Gideon De Laune.

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Our guest speaker, the Very Rev Andrew Tremlett gave a fascinating insight into the history of St Paul’s Cathedral and the importance of Tylers and Bricklayers in its construction. He also praised our fundraising efforts supporting presentees at Christ’s Hospital, an institution he knows from personal experience.

All in all, a wonderful luncheon is a most spectacular setting!

 

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On 14 June, the Mistress attended a “Mudlarking” lecture and luncheon for Consorts at Cutlers’ Hall. Mudlarking is scouring the riverbed at low tide looking for long lost items, with history dating back to Victorian times. Today, mudlarking is a hobby rather than an occupation, with participants looking for items of archaeological rather than monetary value. It could be addictive!
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Then, on 16 June, the Mistress and I flew BA from London City to Glasgow for the London Livery Weekend. 107 London Livery and other companies were represented. On our plane were the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, both Sheriffs and their consorts, and a number of Masters and Mistresses. We must have represented their largest group on the plane, and thank goodness there was no mishap – it would have been a civic disaster!

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In Glasgow we had an action-packed programme including a formal dinner at the Trades Hall on the first evening, travelling from the hotel by coach. We were delayed because of a collision between two cars which closed the main road for about 20 minutes. Finally we reached the Robert Adam designed venue for a reception and dinner hosted by the Deacon Convener and the Incorporations of the City.

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The next day, we were entertained by a visit to the only Charles Rennie Mackintosh church in existence, Mackintosh Queens Cross. The architecture is extraordinary, with every detail designed by the architect. Almost filling the interior was a travelling installation, Gaia, a huge inflatable globe which had previously been placed in the Painted Hall in Greenwich amongst other venues.MB_June_2023_3-5.jpg

On the way to visit the tall ship Glenlee, we managed to stop off in the Riverside transport museum. A 1930s Lagonda with the initials of the Mistress made her day.

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The tall ships, made in the shipyards of Glasgow were central to the development of international trade and financial success of the city. The Glenlee has been used as a training ship by the Spanish navy for many years before being repatriated. It is in remarkably good condition after extensive restoration, but maintenance is an ongoing issue. We had a light sandwich lunch on board before re-joining our coach to set off for the Burrell Collection.

MB_June_2023_3-7.jpgThe Burrell collection is remarkable. Situated just outside Glasgow in a purpose-built modern museum building, it is the legacy of one man. Sir William Burrell was an eclectic collector with great taste and the money to indulge in buying the best art and artefacts available. He had certain favorites, and Auguste Rodin was a much-loved sculptor leading to the acquisition of a large number of bronze casts. The massive roman Warwick vase from Hadrian’s Villa, made in the 2nd century and placed centrally in the entrance lobby gives a flavour of the ambition expressed in this collection! There was not enough time to do it justice, so we will have to go back.

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After a short coach ride back to the city, we got ready for the main reception and dinner which was held in the spectacular City Chambers. We were all amazed by the grandeur of the location, and equally surprised that the Prosecco ran dry before the end of the reception! Beer and whisky were provided and proved fine alternatives.

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The Lord Mayor gave a fascinating speech on the links between the 18 Incorporations of the Trades House of Glasgow and the London Livery Companies. Our Company is most closely associated with the Wrights whose number have included Sir William Burrell, founder of the Burrell Collection, Sir William Arrol, who built the Forth Railway Bridge and London’s Tower Bridge, and John Keppie, mentor to Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

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The next day we went by coach to Glasgow Cathedral for a morning service and sandwich luncheon, before taxiing back to the airport and a flight home. Our flight was delayed because of poor weather earlier in the day, and the cancellation of some of earlier flights, but we eventually reached London City ready for a few hours of down time! It was a very busy and exhilarating weekend.

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In my last blog, I didn’t mention an extraordinary concert I attended last month at Mercers’ Hall. Each year, the Master Mercer chooses the theme which is closely guarded secret until the night. Last year it was Indian sitar music, and this year it was R & B (rhythm and blues) music. We were treated to a spectacular musical extravaganza from the acclaimed singer Ruby Turner MBE, with lead guitar, bass guitar, keyboard player and drummer. I suspect Mercers’ Hall has never looked quite like this before!

Then, on 1 June, the Mistress and I attended the Salters’ Company’s annual lecture at their Hall adjacent to the Barbican. The Salters’ Company is over 600 years old and one of the “Great Twelve” Livery Companies. Their hall is within a unique Brutalist building built in 1976 which is strikingly modern in comparison to many others.

Salters’ Hall is also home to the largest landscaped area created in the Square Mile since the First World War, a delightful garden in which we had a drinks reception prior to the lecture which was given in the Livery hall on the 5th floor. Just outside the Salters’ garden is a huge bronze sculpture of a rather menacing crouching minotaur by Michael Ayrton, a neo-romantic painter who later trained as a sculptor as an assistant to Henry Moore.

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This year the Salters’ lecture was delivered by John Simpson CBE, well known BBC World Affairs Editor, overseas correspondent, broadcaster and author. The topic on which he was asked to speak was “Ancient Institutions and Lessons from Current Affairs”, and he started by explaining that his address would be based on his own experiences of Cambridge where he studied, Oxford where he is now a Fellow of Brazenose College, and the BBC which was formed in 1922.

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He emphasised the importance of honesty, openness and transparency. After a discussion of freedom of speech and changes in culture over the years, he talked of his experiences meeting and interviewing many world leaders, particularly in recent times Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He described a strictly hierarchical military system in Russia, which combined with a blame culture meant that decision making was often delayed.


During the Q &A session he referred to the US “friendly fire” incident in Iraq in 2003, where 18 people were killed around him including his interpreter. John Simpson is deaf in one ear and has shrapnel left in his “backside” after the incident. Stoically, he explained that the American soldiers were very apologetic afterwards, but these things happen when fighting a war. I was able to chat to John Simpson after his presentation, and he is a delightful character showing no intention of retiring at the age of 78!