On Monday 7 November, the Clerk and I attended the Garden of Remembrance service at St Paul’s Cathedral. This special service of remembrance took place outside the cathedral in the churchyard gardens where members of the Livery Companies placed 140 wooden crosses to commemorate lost comrades. A very moving service, led by the new Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, in the presence of the Right Honourable The Lord Mayor Alderman Vincent Keaveny and the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Amanda Keaveny.
We were supported by cadets from the City of London Academy Islington (Honourable Artillery Company) Combined Cadet Force. After the Last Post, two minutes silence and Reveille, the epitaph was delivered by Lieutenant General James Bushell, National President of the Royal Legion. The Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress placed the first crosses, followed by the Sheriffs and representatives of the City, HM forces and other service organisations.
The service was followed by The service was followed by luncheon at Plaisterers’ Hall, and walking past Guildhall we were able to view the Lord Mayor’s carriage fully restored and ready to be used later in the week.
That afternoon, I attended the service of thanksgiving for the Lord Mayor at his “local” church, St Stephen Walbrook. It was conducted by the Priest-in Charge, The Reverend Stephen Baxter together with the Chaplain to the Lord Mayor, Reverend Monsignor James Curry. Together, today’s events represent some of the last official duties of the Lord Mayor prior to the silent ceremony to admit the new Lord Mayor.
Flicking through this week’s Country Life magazine, I found an interesting article entitled “Best in Class – 70 brilliant objects you should own”. Nestling between hair brushes by Kent and hip flasks by Ettinger are handmade tiles by Craven Dunnill Jackfield, as seen in “London’s Garrick Club” and the Central Lobby of the Palace of Westminster. It is very heartening to see encaustic and geometric floor tiles lauded in this way, and brings back fond memories of our recent craft visit in September. We were there to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Craven Dunnill & Co on a visit organised by Chairman of the Craft Committee David White in association with Liverymen Adrian Blundell and Simon Howell of Craven Dunnill, which included a visit to the Jackfield tile museum and the John Scott collection.
On Wednesday 19 October I attended the House of Commons with Chairman of the Craft committee Court Assistant David White for the awards ceremony of Youthbuild UK. The Young Builder of the Year awards celebrate the achievement of young people, often from very difficult backgrounds, who have overcome a range of challenges and barriers. Awards are made in two categories, age 14-18 years in education or apprenticeship and age 19-25 years in construction-based employment. After opening remarks, the YBUK Chairman, Ian Davis introduced the President, the Rt Hon Sir John Hayes MP, who described the importance of these awards and the work of Youthbuild UK in supporting young builders in adversity. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, was also present for the ceremony.
Winner in the 14-18 year old category was Charlie Hill, trainee bricklayer nominated by St Edmunds Society and winner the 19-25 year old category was Dan Boam, assistant site manager nominated by Bromford. We met afterwards with Lorraine Bliss, CEO of St Edmunds Society, who is very grateful for the support given by our Company to the charity.
We want to do more as a Company in this area, and the new bursary scheme is intended to give financial assistance and mentorship to apprentices at an early stage in their career.
On the afternoon of Thursday 20 October, I travelled to Chatham to attend the Corps Guest Dinner at the Officers Mess, RE Headquarters, as guest of the Chief Royal Engineer. I took the opportunity for a swift visit the Tylers and Bricklayers sundial, designed by Past Master Piers Nicholson, at the Royal Engineers Museum nearby.
Guests mustered at Officers’ mess at Brompton Barracks, a wonderful building from around 1812, and I was greeted by a friend of many years, Major General Mungo Melvin. We walked together across the parade ground for pre-dinner drinks at Pasley house at the invitation of Brigadier Guy Boxall, Commandant RSME. We then processed back to the Officers’ mess for a superb five course dinner with around 250 officers and guests.
It is one of the Master’s greatest privileges to be invited attend the Chamberlain’s Court to witness the Freedom of London ceremony for members of the Company. It is a solemn but uplifting occasion, and is required for any Freeman to achieve promotion to Liveryman of the Company.
Earlier this month I accompanied Freeman Wayne Sheppard and his wife Carole to one such ceremony. Wayne read the oath with panache, coping well with the archaic language, and we enjoyed a fascinating tour of the Chamberlain’s Court. Afterwards we had lunch with friends and family at Sweetings, the traditional fish restaurant. We were very well served, and it was a delightful day. It felt very special to be able to enjoy this occasion together.
In days gone by, the Freedom allowed the holder free passage in and out of the City, manifest by the ability to drive sheep over London Bridge. This custom is maintained today by the Woolmens’ Company, who arrange the sheep drive once a year in October. As a special dispensation, if necessary, a Freeman would be hanged with a silk rather than hemp rope. Equally important, Freedom also allowed the bearer of the vellum certificate to be escorted home by the police if found intoxicated in the City, rather than being thrown into jail. It may not be so effective today, but Freedom of The City of London is still a great honour.