On 26 April, I was a delighted to be a guest of the Master Plumber at the Worshipful Company of Plumbers Masters’ and Clerks’ Luncheon, Carpenters Hall. It is always a pleasure to lunch here in the Hall where we hold our own installation luncheon, but this time with round tables giving a rather more informal feel.
The Master Plumber, Air Cdre Paul Nash OBE gave a most amusing speech on the Company and its origins, whilst welcoming the Masters and Clerks of eight Construction companies. Guests were presented with gifts of individual lead plumb weights, of a type first used by the Company in 1365. These had been “proved and tried as true”, and so were eligible to be marked with impression of St Michael the Archangel. One of the duties of the Plumbers’ Company in the 14th century was the detection of false weights within seven miles of the City of London. Each weight now comes with a warning to always wear gloves when handling lead, and to wash your hands as soon as you finish!
Later that day, the Mistress and I attended the Treloar’s School charity dinner at Mansion House, sponsored by the Lord Mayor. Treloar’s school is a truly remarkable institution, aking children with a range of serious disabilities and giving them quite exceptional opportunities and education. The Mistress and I had a wonderful time, and the musical entertainment by the cast of “Les Miserables” in the theatrical purple lighting in the Egyptian Hall was truly memorable.
Finally, on 27 April, together with the Clerk, I hosted an intimate “New members’ supper” at Davy’s Plantation Place, with five new members. This is a great way for the Master to get to know new Freemen, to discuss the Company and explain how one can become more involved in our activities. My sincere thanks to the new members who were able to attend.
Before I left on 10 April for a visit to Vienna, the Mistress and I spent a delightful day in Canterbury, visiting the Cathedral and meeting with a local guide in preparation for the Master’s trip in June. We are looking forward to this very much, and the event is now fully booked with 25 people coming to Kent.
Over the Easter break, the Livery world goes quiet for a few days, making the trip to Vienna with a few friends feasible. We had a wonderful time, and it is a most impressive and historically important city. The spectacular tiles on the roof of St Stephen’s Cathedral were a reminder of the impact which decorative roof tiling can make.
Whilst I was away, the Mistress had a busy week. She attended our Women’s livery luncheon at Ironmongers’ Hall on 16 April, organised by Renter Warden Dr Jenny Rolls and Past Master Lesley Day, which I am assured was a great success!
This was followed on 19 April by the Consorts’ visit to the Ranger’s House, Blackheath. Now owned by English Heritage, Ranger’s House is an elegant Georgian villa on the boundary of Greenwich Park and Blackheath which contains The Wernher Collection, a world-class art collection amassed by the 19th-century businessman, Sir Julius Wernher.
The house is better known to many as the London home of the Bridgerton family in the eponymous television series - note the imported wisteria!
Nineteen consorts and guests enjoyed a guided tour of the amazing and eclectic Werner collection of fine objects and art, followed by tea and a glass of champagne at Heathfield House, a short walk away.
Heathfield House was built in 1793 for John Brent, a wealthy shipbuilder based in Rotherhithe. In testament to his success, the National Maritime Museum has a 1797 painting by Pocock, entitled "Portraits of nine ships of war and others, launched from the yards of Messrs. Randall & Brent within the space of one year". Between 1770 and 1803 the Randall & Brent shipyards built a total of at least 64 ships, mainly warships of 74 guns and smaller for the Royal Navy.
The Mistress was very grateful to all who came and helped with serving tea and home-made scones. Our older daughter Emma made banana cake and fudge, and over £370 was raised for the Charitable Trust.
On Thursday 23rd March, the Mistress and I were invited to a special dinner at Mansion house by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Alderman Nicholas and Mrs Felicity Lyons. The Lord Mayor’s bodyguard was provided by the pikemen and musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company. I was offered a musket – these are very heavy indeed!
It is a major event in the Livery Calendar, a dinner when all the Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff of the 110 livery Companies, together with the Court of Aldermen and other City dignitaries, are entertained at Mansion House. A formal “white tie and medals” event, with music from the salon orchestra of the HAC band and the state trumpeters of the Household Cavalry.
There were over 350 guests in the Egyptian Hall, which made it feel almost full! After a delightful dinner and excellent wines, Lord Mayor spoke of the importance of the Livery Companies in the City, and his work in maintaining the city’s global pre-eminence in financial services. The Master Grocer and Master Mercer each responded, supporting the Lord Mayor and his charitable activities. The Lord Mayor then closed with a short but witty story about a nun travelling in a taxi. I will not spoil the joke, but look out for Kevin. After a leisurely stirrup cup, carriages were at 11pm.
Then on Friday 24th March, a fairly early start from home for the United Guilds Service at St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s another major event in the Livery Calendar, also attended by all the Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff. I met with the Wardens, Chris Causer and Jenny Rolls at Carpenters’ Hall where we robed before processing, together with the Master Carpenter and his Clerk, to St Pauls. The Cathedral was packed and I was delighted that we had 30 members of the Company who attended the service (I think this may be a record!). It was great to see so many Tylers and Bricklayers at the service, including Deputy Master Simon Martin and Past Masters David Fuller, Tom Hoffman and David Cole Adams.
A long procession ensues before the service starts, headed by a verger and finishing with the Bishop of London, the Lord Mayor’s Chaplain, the Sargeant-at-Arms, the Swordbearer and finally the Lord Mayor. Wonderful music, rousing hymns, the Bidding by the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverent Andrew Tremlett, a reading by the Lord Mayor, the Sermon by the Dean of Westminster, and the Blessing by the Bishop of London. It was an uplifting and inspirational service, closing with JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D.
The majority stayed for a seated buffet lunch back at Carpenters’ Hall. After a brisk walk in typical London drizzle, we arrived back at Carpenters hall a little damp. The Master Carpenter, Brigadier John Meardon welcomed us warmly to lunch, together with the Plumbers and the Entrepreneurs. The Master Plumber, Air Cdre Paul Nash responded on behalf of the guests, linking senior politicians with television programmes in a most amusing speech. Conversation flowed and it was nearly 3.30pm before we moved out of the Livery hall to make our way home. A full report of the day will be posted shortly in the event reports section of the website, thanks to Liveryman Martin Reading.
On 3 April I was the guest of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects at their annual Milo lecture and reception, held at the Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall. Professor Jan Gehl, the world-famous urban planner, explained how to make cities into places people want to travel into and enjoy, focussing on the spaces between buildings rather than the buildings themselves. He emphasised the importance of the ability to walk and bicycle safely together, avoiding the car-dependent culture, with cheap, efficient, accessible public transport. After the lecture, I had a delightful private dinner in the Coffee room with Past Master David Cole Adams and Mary Cole Adams.
On 5 April I visited Sweetings Restaurant, Queen Victoria Street, and presented the manageress, Sue, with a plaque of the Company’s armorials. For many years, this iconic fish restaurant has been serving the City, in particular many Livery Companies including the Tylers and Bricklayers. Many other Livery Companies’ armorials are already displayed there, and at the suggestion of Liveryman Wayne Sheppard, the Court agreed that ours should join them.
Next, the Mistress and I visited Drapers’ Hall to undergo a rigorous and most demanding menu tasting in preparation for the Annual dinner in May. We were treated like royalty, and met the Head Chef Mark Page, twice a finalist of the UK's most prestigious culinary competition, Chef of the Year, winner of the British Prix Pierre Taittinger, and holder of more than 20 gold medals. Mark explained that with their massive ovens it was more difficult to cook a meal for two than a meal for two hundred. The Mistress and I both scored each dish separately on taste and presentation. It was really difficult to make the final choice as the dishes all scored so highly.
Later that day I attended the Carpenters’ Company Annual Craft lecture and reception at Carpenters Hall. The speaker was Tony Hackney M.B.A. C.Eng, on ‘Building a Sustainable World: see timber in a new light’. He explained the production methods of timber used in construction and extolled the virtues of timber framed buildings. I had to point out there is nothing quite like bricks and tiles!
On Monday 13 March, I attended a webinar on stained glass organised by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass. It was a very interesting talk on the major commissions over the last few years, mainly in buildings such as churches. The window shown above was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as a gift from Members of both Houses of Parliament on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. It was designed and made by British artist John Reyntiens working with a team of experienced draftsmen, painters and technicians in his studio. The window has now been installed as the three central panels of the north window in Westminster Hall.
On Tuesday 14th March I attended a service at St Michael Paternoster Royal to celebrate the life and achievements of Dick Whittington, commemorating the 600th anniversary of his death. The service and presentations were organised by Alderman Alison Gowman.
A wreath was laid in memory of Sir Richard Whittington, who is buried in the church but the precise location of the grave is unknown. As you can see, he was a Mercer and four times Lord Mayor, being a great benefactor of both the City and the Mercer’s Company.
Professor Caroline Barron spoke on the topic "Richard Whittington: The Man behind the Pantomime" and Professor Carolyn Roberts spoke about "Dick Whittington and the 64 holer". Both talks were fascinating – the 64 holer refers to the largest public lavatory at the time, funded by Sir Richard Whittington!
On the theme of stained glass, the church has a window depicting Dick Whittington and his cat, seen high behind me! The service and lectures were followed by light refreshments at the Innholders Hall, just a minutes walk away.
The next day, Wednesday 15th, the Mistress and I were honoured to be invited by the Master Carpenter Brigadier John Meardon and his Mistress Ann, to the Spring Dinner of the Carpenters’ Company. A splendid affair in the presence of His Excellency Mr Karel van Oosterom, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and his wife Anna. We all enjoyed the musical entertainment by four talented saxophonists from the Guildhall School of Music, including favorites by Gershwin. The train strike caused some upset, with quite a few guests arriving late, but the show went on – nothing can stop a good Livery dinner. The food and wines were absolutely exceptional, as was the company!