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After our Common Hall on 27 January, attended by about 30 members on zoom, the next major event for the Company was the Court and Livery dinner on 2 February. This dinner has been held annually at Cutlers’ Hall for several years, and we were delighted to be back once again. Always a special event, it’s the one occasion in the year where personal guests are not invited, and so represents a very good time to meet Liverymen and Freemen of the company new and old.

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50 members of the Company attended, and we were treated to a demonstration of ale conning by our very own Liveryman and Ale Conner, Christine Rigden. For those unversed in the art, the Ale Connor puts on a pair of leather trousers and determines the quality of the product by sitting on a wooden chair which has been liberally anointed with ale. There are just four Ale Conners appointed in the City, and Christine is the first female Ale Conner in over 700 years. I am pleased to report that our ale passed its test!

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Earlier that day, I was honoured to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Royal Navy, confirming our new affiliation with HMS Magpie. The MOU was co-signed by Lt Cmdr Hywel Morgan, Commanding Officer, who also accepted our invitation to speak after dinner.

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Following the Commanding Officer’s fascinating explanation of the work of the ship and its crew, we exchanged armorial plaques to celebrate our new relationship. The Tylers and Bricklayers armorials will be prominently displayed on board, and I look forward to visiting the ship with a small party of members of the Company later in the year.

Our wonderful meal was prepared by the Cutlers’ Beadle David Hasler and his wife, and I am hugely grateful to them for their hard work. Together with great company and excellent wines, it was a most convivial evening.

On 16 January, the Mistress and I travelled up to Hereford to participate in the zoom Craft event at Andy Rowlands roofing.

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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.

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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.

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Some outstanding brickwork was on show, including this curved external staircase, known locally as the “snail stairs”.

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Remarkable geometric floors are a common feature in Venice, such as this one in Santa Maria de la Salute.

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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!

 

After a restful Christmas and New Year period with our families, the City year has restarted again in earnest.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

2022 Blog Dec4 1 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.
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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.