Today I was delighted to attend, together with the Learned Clerk, the Blacksmith's Company Epiphany luncheon at the beautiful Trinity House, one of my favourite venues in the City. On arrival we were greeted by a Past Prime Warden and introduced to several other Assistants and Past Prime Wardens with whom we had very interesting conversations whilst taking in some wonderful glasses of champagne.


I was privileged to be invited to process in with the Prime Warden Blacksmith, Dr Nicholas Land, and to be seated to his right hand side as the principal guest. It was indeed a great honour to be sitting between both Dr Lands as the Prime Warden's wife is a GP!


Lunch consisted of a delicious filo pastry tart of wild mushroom with cumin hollandaise sauce followed by an exquisite confit of old Gloucester suckling pig with all the trimmings, and for dessert apple and blackberry crumble with custard sauce and clotted cream ice cream. A veritable feast all accompanied by excellent wines.


The Prime Warden made the loyal and civic toasts and the welcome to the guests was proposed by Court assistant Mr John Richardson. I was privileged to be asked to respond on behalf of the guests, which I was very happy to do.

The Prime Warden made a wonderful final speech to round off a truly excellent Epiphany luncheon. This was a superb way to start of the New Year 2020.

The year commenced with a short but much appreciated break to visit friends in Perth and Melbourne. After a wonderful time in sunny Perth with some very good friends, Maureen and I were delighted to meet up with Liveryman Brenda Upton Kemp in Melbourne, who generously invited us for dinner one evening at her beautiful condominium. Needless to say Brenda was a brilliant host, treating us to a wonderful home-made dinner with plenty of champagne and wine. We had a lovely evening catching up on what Brenda had been doing in Melbourne and planning our activities for the forthcoming year.

The first event of the year was the annual meeting of the Master, Wardens and Clerk, where important items of business planning are discussed covering the current and future years. We met at the Tappit Hen, one of the Davey's Wine Bars, where they were kind enough to let us have a private area downstairs to ourselves. We covered a large agenda of business, with twenty eight items to discuss, including the progress with planning events and venues for the next two years, the strategic review, items to discuss at the forthcoming meeting of Common Hall, the Triennial Awards, the Installation protocols, the Upper Warden's newsletter plus many more items. We had a very pleasant lunch while working through the agenda and all agreed that good progress had been made. A good start to the New Year 2020.

Tonight I was invited to an event at Mansion House, hosted by Clinks and the Lord Mayor. The event was billed as an informative, lively and engaging evening with presentations and demonstrations of life-changing work from those working in criminal justice charities, and we were not disappointed. The evening commenced with a champagne reception with canapés where I was able to mingle with the many other Masters present and the charity volunteers.

Following a welcome by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor and Anne Fox, the Chief Executive of Clinks, we were treated to an amazing session by two actors from No Place Productions in which they simulated a prison visit and the difficulties encountered by couples affected by drugs and violence. It was very life-like and gave the audience a real sense of the problems faced by people in prison and their families. These sessions are played to real inmates and they have a therapeutic effect as they enable the prisoners to talk about their problems through the medium of the actors.

We also saw a wonderful presentation, Turning Pages, by the Shannon Trust, who support prisoners by teaching them to read and write, opening up the world of education and giving them the opportunity to change.

There were also presentations from the Cambridge Women's Resources Centre who provide much needed outreach and wellbeing events to women who street sex work in Peterborough's red light district, and from Project 507 who work with young people whose lives are physically, psychologically or emotionally harmful to themselves and others.

Following the presentations we were able to visit all the wonderful stands from many different charities who work so successfully with serving and released prisoners, charities ranging from small, local volunteer run groups, to large national organisations. This was an exceptional event at which I gained a real insight into what these wonderful charities achieve with very little resource but with a great deal of commitment and determination. Another very worthwhile evening.

The afternoon started with the interview of an applicant for membership of our Worshipful Company. The interviews are conducted by the Master, Wardens and Clerk and are always interesting because they allow an opportunity for the candidates to provide as much information about their careers, aims and aspirations as they feel appropriate. This gives the panel excellent information on which to base their decision about the candidate.

Following the interview, I chaired my first meeting of the Court as Master. We started the meeting with a minute's silence in memory of Past Master Jeremy Stokes who was much loved by us all.

There was a full agenda to get through with lots of essential business, the first of which was the pleasurable installation of a new Court Assistant, Liveryman David White. David pledged his declaration of intent and then took his place at the table. We discussed the Company finances and statements of account, which were the most up to date we have had for many years. Congratulations to Upper Warden Simon Martin for making this happen. There were also, inter alia, reports from the Craft Committee, Communications Committee, and Treasures Committee. An important item of business discussed was the replacement Renter Warden's medal and a way forward was agreed. Thanks to Past Master Roger Westbrook for his wonderful ideas and his work in this connection.

Following the meeting of the Court, we proceeded to the Trading House to join the Mistress and other consorts and partners. The Mistress had organised a lovely pre-Christmas drinks reception for everyone, which was greatly appreciated by all who attended.

There then followed the wonderful Christmas Carol Service at St Margaret Lothbury, by kind permission of the Rector, the Reverend Prebendary Jeremy Crossley and led by our own Chaplain, The Reverend John Cook. This is always the highlight of my Christmas events, with wonderful music and singing by the Lothbury Singers, organised so marvellously by the Director of Music, Honorary Freeman Richard Townend. It is a truly wonderful event that cannot fail to get everyone into the Christmas spirit.

To finish the evening off we all made our way to the Guildhall Club for a delicious Christmas supper of stroganoff of beef and lamb fillet with saffron rice and a selection of vegetables followed by an exquisite Christmas pudding cheesecake, all accompanied by excellent wines chosen by the Wine Committee. A wonderful end to a marvellous day and a great way to start the Christmas period.

A Very Happy Christmas and New Year to all.

Tonight a small group of Tylers and Bricklayers entered the mysterious and ancient world of the City of London for a tour of its medieval alleyways and buildings. The Tour was led by Past Master Mercer, Wing Commander Mike Dudgeon, a highly experienced guide who knew everything there was to know about these fantastic hidden parts of the City

We commenced our tour at the Guildhall Yard where Mike started by showing us parts that none of us had noticed previously, despite having been past this area many times. We examined the grotesques of Dick Whittington, Samuel Pepys and Shakespeare amongst others and were given a brief history of the area and how it has changed over time.The tour proper then commenced with visits to hidden alleyways, ancient churches, monuments and buildings and at each one we stopped for a short time whilst Mike gave us some fascinating information about the history, adventures and scandals that had taken place.

It was very interesting to learn some of the little known facts and visit the coffee houses where trading first began, each coffee house dealing in its own speciality of trade.


It was also an eye opener for us as Mike pointed to many different carvings and statues on walls of many buildings, explaining the meaning of each in great detail. As a Past Master Mercer, Mike was particularly proud to point out the Mercers’ Maidens which can easily be overlooked as part of the “hidden in plain sight” aspect of the City of London’s history. Quite who the Mercer Maiden is, is unknown, but she has been a symbol for one of the City of London’s livery companies since at least 1425, and her bust appears on many buildings in the City.


Some of the ancient and unused churches proved to be the most intriguing aspects of the tour, as were the hidden gardens which provide a haven of peace for lunchtime relaxation for those in the know.

 

We spent a wonderful couple of hours visiting these most ancient and hidden sites, after which we retired to a lovely pub for a nice warming supper and drinks.

 

We all thanked Mike sincerely for such an interesting and informative tour, another great evening in our great City of London.