On 16 January, the Mistress and I travelled up to Hereford to participate in the zoom Craft event at Andy Rowlands roofing.
We were welcomed by Andy Rowlands and his staff and had a very interesting tour of his CORE training facility, the Centre of Roofing Excellence.
At 6pm, we went live on zoom, and I was put through my paces on guessing the country of origin of various roof slates (not as easy as it sounds), nailing battens, and placing and nailing various roof slates and tiles. It brought home to me how skilled roof tilers need to be, and that good tuition and good tools are vital. I am very grateful to Andy Rowlands and his team for their hospitality, and to our cameraman Bob Preston. A one hour video of the event is available on request!
I also want to thank Court Assistant David White, Chairman of the Craft Committee for setting up this event and for championing our new bursary scheme for young craftsmen.
The day after the zoom Craft event, Helen and I took the opportunity to slip away to Venice for a few days. The highlight of our trip was a private visit to St Mark’s Basilica by night, which was quite spellbinding, and we were also able to have a behind-the-scenes visit to the Doge’s palace. Venice is largely built of brick, so there is something of interest wherever you look.
Some outstanding brickwork was on show, including this curved external staircase, known locally as the “snail stairs”.
Remarkable geometric floors are a common feature in Venice, such as this one in Santa Maria de la Salute.
Venice is clearly a popular destination at this time of year, and on Sunday 21 January the Mistress and I had dinner with the Master and Mistress Apothecary, Dr Jonathan Holliday and Dr Gwen Lewis (centre), the Master Barber, Dr Mary Heber and her consort Dr Tom Taylor (on the adjacent table just out of view) and several other livery friends. Note the peach Bellini cocktails!
The City New Year Service is an important marker of the beginning of the year, attended this year by the Sheriffs, Ward Aldermen and the Governor of the Bank of England, as well as many Masters and Clerks of the 110 Livery companies. It takes place annually in the Church of St. Michael Cornhill, which is known to have been in existence before the Norman Conquest. During the reign of King Henry VII (1485-1509), patronage was transferred to the Drapers’ Company, and the Church, with the exception of the tower, was completely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The present Church was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren between 1669 and 1672.
The church was packed and the service uplifting, particularly the anthem “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” by Thomas Weelkes. After lessons read by the Aldermanic Sheriff and the Governor of the Bank of England, the sermon given by Mr Simon Pilcher, the Chief Executive Officer of USS Financial Management. In a fascinating and thoughtful address, he considered the modern day relevance and parallels of the Holy birth, and shone a moral and spiritual light on the principle of investment.
After the service, the Drapers’ Company kindly organised a reception and buffet lunch for over 200 churchgoers at nearby Drapers’ Hall. It was a very convivial occasion in spectacular surroundings. So large is the hall, it is still possible to find a quiet spot when needed!
The Company will be returning here later this year for our Annual Banquet on Thursday 11 May, and the Mistress and I are looking forward to this very much.
My last formal event of 2022 was to attend the Lord Mayor’s carol service at St James’ Garlickhythe on Wednesday 21 December.
‘Hythe’ is the Saxon word for landing place. Garlic was landed somewhere between Queenhythe and nearby Vintners Hall and then sold on Garlic Hill. Hence, Garlickhythe. According to tradition, St James ‘The Great’ preached the Gospel in Spain and, following his martyrdom in Jerusalem in the year AD44, his body was taken to Santiago de Compostella where it remained undiscovered for almost 800 years.
The carol service was attended by the Lord Mayor Alderman Nicholas Lyons, the Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs and their Consorts, and Masters and Mistresses from a range of Companies. As well as carols and readings, we were delighted by the wonderful singing of a Ukrainian choir, with Alderman Dr Sir Andrew Parmley at the organ. The Priest in Charge, Fr Tim Handley SSC gave a thoughtful address, and after the service we enjoyed wine and mince pies. It was a lovely occasion, and a fitting occasion to mark the final run up to Christmas.
Helen and I wish you all a very Happy New Year.
After a restful Christmas and New Year period with our families, the City year has restarted again in earnest.
This week, the Clerk and I had the honour of being invited to the Epiphany Court luncheon of the Worshipful Company of Masons. We were made most welcome at this select luncheon attended by about 30 members of the Company and guests in the wonderful surroundings of Mercers’ Hall. Excellent food, wine and company! I had the good fortune to be seated next to our own Liveryman, Dr Christine Ridgen, Past Master Mason, Past Master Constructor, Ale-conner and former Sheriff. The Master, Mr Alistair Wood LVO MBE (seen in the photograph through the glass darkly) gave a stimulating address on the charitable and educational activities of the Company. The guest of honour Lt Col Giles Stibbe OBE, Director of Trustees of the Household Cavalry Foundation (standing), spoke passionately about this charity’s activities, caring for soldiers, casualties, veterans, horses and heritage of the British Army’s most senior regiments.
Later that day, I was delighted to join representatives of over 70 livery Companies as guests of the Master and Wardens of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers at their Masters’ and Clerks’ dinner, held at Plaisterers’ Hall, in the largest livery hall in the City of London. The Master, Mr Stephen Gilbert, welcomed the huge number of guests (over 200 members and guests were present) and gave a fascinating insight into the work of the Company, and the vagaries of sharing an apartment on London Wall with the Clerk. The guest of honour, Mr Harry Parshal, Master of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, spoke amusingly on his Company’s well-known friendly rivalry with the Worshipful Company of Skinners which leaves them “at sixes and sevens”. Colonel Garth Manger OBE RM, the Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers, also spoke highlighting the role of the many Livery company clerks in the City, and his own view of cohabitation with the Master! A splendid occasion in a quite remarkable setting, and as you can see the spectacular plasterwork was rather theatrically highlighted in bright red!
Carol service and supper, Thursday 15 December 2022
St Margaret Lothbury looked spectacular with its Christmas tree and crib and, as always, we were made very welcome by the Rector, the Reverend Prebendary Jeremy Crossley. The church was radiant with infrared heaters, as the boiler had decided that enough was enough. Despite the snow laying round about, deep and crisp and even, the church was filled with warm music courtesy of the wonderful Lothbury singers and the congregation. The Company and guests packed the church and there were some wonderful moments. A Ukrainian folk song “Carol of the Bells (Little Swallow)” with a setting by honorary Freeman Richard Townend, and a hauntingly beautiful Stille Nacht were just two. There followed a thoughtful and uplifting address by the Company’s Chaplain, the Venerable Dr Jonathan Smith, with a theme of the baby, vulnerability, trust and love. A spectacular service, and one I will long remember.
We then had a short walk to Armourers’ Hall for the reception and buffet supper in the remarkable surroundings of the Livery Hall. Fine food, fine wine and fine conversation flowed, and it was a wonderfully relaxed and warming event. I was able to introduce two new Freeman to the assembled company, and we also clothed six freemen in the livery during the Court meeting earlier in the day.
It was so nice to catch up with many members of the Company old and new, and to meet their guests at this special festive occasion. I was delighted that so many people had made the effort to come to the carol service and supper, despite the adverse weather conditions and the train strikes, and I hope that those who attended enjoyed the evening as much as Helen and I did.
It now just remains for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!