The influence of the Thames on the City

The City of London Corporation invited me to 'The turning tide: the City and the River' a lecture by Professor Jeremy Black, MBE, Professor of History, University of Exeter. Having always had a fascination for history I did not hesitate to accept. The lecture took place in the Old Library, one of the beautiful Pugin style rooms at Guildhall.  

I have to say this was one of the most interesting lectures I have been to during the year. Professor Black took the listeners through the weaving history of the Thames with only occasional reference to notes to read out a quotation or some statistics. 

I had not appreciated that London is one of the few capital cities in the world that was both a government capital and a trading and manufacturing as well. All because of the geographical location of the City on the Thames. 

The only loss to the City was the problem of the Unions in post-war London when their behaviour caused the London based docks to lose out to Hamburg and Rotterdam.


Off to the House of Lords 

The next morning saw some 40 Masters and Consorts head to the Palace of Westminster for a tour of the House of Lords followed by lunch arranged by Master Framework Knitter and hosted by PM Farmer Baroness Byford, and the opportunity to sit in the Lords when they were working through the Questions for the day. 

There is so much history attached to the Palace of Westminster that it sometimes difficult to take it all in. It was a pleasure to walk over the encaustic tiles made by Craven Dunnill in the Central Lobby for the restoration of the Palace, and to see the inner workings of the House of Lords. It is such an ornate area of the Palace, and worthy of the major ongoing restoration process. We were told that the restoration programme will run to 2026 with both Houses moving out of the Palace for work to continue in their areas. 

After lunch in the Cholmondley Room over looking the river, we went, in groups into the House of Lords to listen to questions on D-Day landing memorials, rural post offices, calorie labelling of food for diabetics and the criminal exploitation of children. 

Walking the City Churches 

The Worshipful Companies of Constructors and Plumbers arrange an annual walk around a number of churches in the City of London. 86 churches had been burnt down during the Great Fire and the office of Christopher Wren rebuilt some 50. Most were damaged or destroyed during WW2 and some were never rebuilt but remain as gardens. 

Our day started in the crypt of St Pauls Cathedral for coffee and a bacon roll and then we made our way to St Vedast alias Foster, the roof garden at One New Change, St Mary Aldermary, St Mary Le Bow, St Lawrence Jewry, St Stephen Walbrook, St Mary Woolnoth, St Mary Abchurch, St Magnus the Martyr, St Mary at Hill and the garden of St Dunstan in the East, before finishing at All Hallows at the Tower, and a very welcome cup of tea! 

We were led by two City of London Guides who taught us a great deal about the history of the City Churches, including the Sword Rests, which I will have to look for everytime I visit a church in the city. 

After the walk finished I walked back toward London Bridge and on the way, took time to watch one of the London Barges make its stately way down the Thames and under the opened Tower Bridge.


Speech Day for St Pauls Cathedral 

It was an early start for yours truly as I had to be seated by 9 a.m. in St Pauls Cathedral for the School’s Speech Day. 

St Pauls Cathedral School is for children between 3 and 13, and the visiting Masters all admired the pre-prep children who sat quietly (well almost) for the duration of the Ceremony and speeches.  

Whilst we waited for the ceremony to begin the year 7 String Quartet played for us; I just wish I had just one ounce of their talent!  The Cathedral Choristers sang the beautiful Laudate Pueri, and their angelic voices filled the beautiful cathedral, and after the Ceremony Pre-prep pupils sang Amani Utupe and Year 8 “And so it goes” by Billy Joel. 

A legacy from Past Master John Martin allows the Company to give prizes to the school, and seven prizes were awarded to students at this Ceremony, and they are all to be congratulated.

Inter-Livery Cooperation?

A number of Livery Companies who represent sectors of UK PLC cooperate on projects of common interest and the construction livery companies are no exception.

Today’s meeting of the Construction Livery Group was chaired by PM Constructor Tony Ward and hosted by the Paviours Company and was arranged to consider new initiatives for the Group and a brain storming session. As well as attendees from Livery Companies we were joined by Tom Glover from the Construction Youth Trust.

CLG has been actively engaged in a Master Craftsmen Scheme for a number of years. This awards Master Craftsmen in various trades with certificates at an annual event in March. There is little publicity about the Event and it was agreed that how to market the event to the Livery Movement and Outslde world should be considered.

Tom Glover talked about the work of the CYT and all agreed that it was a good channel for providing volunteers to help promote construction in schools in the greater London area, ensuring that the Livery Schools Link were also involved.

It will be interesting to watch the changes within the CLG under the chairmanship of Tony Ward.

Meeting up with a forthcoming guest speaker

After the CLG it was a short walk to the offices of Build UK, the lead body for the construction industry to meet Suzie Nichol the CEO and guest speaker at the last Dinner of my year as Master.

I had the pleasure of working with Suzie for a number of years and I was delighted when she accepted my invitation to speak.

If you wish to know what Suzie will talk about you will have to book your tickets for the dinner!

City of London Freeman’s School Speech Day

Thanks to a very generous donation from Noreen Dickins the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers are able to give a goodly sum to each of the City Schools for prizes each year.

On a sunny day I drove over to Ashtead to join other prize giving Masters for Speech Day. As I arrived a little early I was able to take a look at the Interhouse Cooking Competition (Master Chef eat your heart out) and an amusing dramatic Italianesque comedy piece in the Italian Garden. I just wish I had had those opportunities when I was at School!

Then, it was off to the School Hall to see the following win Tylers and Bricklayers Prizes:

Amy Stainbank
Isabel Webb
Jakob Wilton
Abigail Dopson
James Freeman
Sarah Matthews
Francesca Flynn
Ffion Haffenden
Natalya Robinson

Congratulations to all!

Celebrating the Chief Commoner’s Year

Today we marked a special occasion in the history of the Company as we celebrated a Tyler and Bricklayer becoming Chief Commoner of the City of London! Past Master Tom Hoffman MBE joined the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers in 1979 and was admitted to the Court in 1999. He became Master in 2006.

In his time as Master Tom called for the Company to support Christ’s Hospital School and as a result of contributions made our first Presentee, Onyinye, progressed through the School and has just completed her final exams at Kings College London. Our second presentee, Mohammed Rahman starts at Christs Hospital in September and we wish him well.

In 2002 Tom was elected to represent the Ward of Vintry on the Court of Common Council and has since served on almost all the major Corporation committees. In October 2018 the Aldermen and Councilmen of the City elected him to the office of Chief Commoner for the year beginning April 2019.

The office of Chief Commoner, first established in 1444, is unique in that it is the only role now directly elected by the whole Court of Common Council and serves to recognise the contribution the office holder is likely to have made to the City Corporation over a number of years. The Chief Commoner is the foremost representative of the elected councillors with regard to their rights and privileges - but equally, seeks to uphold the discipline and integrity of the Court.

The Ts&Bs are immensely proud of what Tom has achieved in the City and on behalf of the Tylers and Bricklayers and to mark the occasion presented Tom with an engraved decanter and glasses and some rather splendid Lafon Rochet 2002, Branaire Ducru 1985 and Croix de Beaucaillou 2009.

The Master’s Visit to Hampshire – Bricks and Water!

 It is fair to say that this June has not exactly been “flamin” in fact it has been downright wet and so Malcolm and I made sure we had plenty of wet weather clothing and umbrellas packed for the visit.

Given the beauty and brick work of New Place Hotel which incorpates a magnificent interior designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens it had been an easy choice to book the group into this hotel. The Hotel also had 32 acres of Hampshire countryside a gym, swimming pool, tennis courts, croquet lawn and a woodland trail, however the weather got in the way of any enjoyment of the outside areas.

On our first day we visited Fort Nelson, one of five defensive forts built on the summit of Portsdown Hill in the 1860s, overlooking the important naval base of Portsmouth. It is now part of the Royal Armouries, housing their collection of artillery, and a Grade I Listed Building. Our guided tour extended far past the one-hour allocation was fascinating! There were bricks aplenty as over 4 million had been included in the building programme.

Our second day began with a visit to Burlsedon Brickworks Museum. Bursledon Brickworks Industrial Museum is thought to be the last Victorian steam-driven brickworks left in the UK and is a recipient of regular grants from the Tylers and Bricklayers Craft Trust. We were met by Carolyne Haynes, Project Manager and members of the Trustees and were given a fully guided tour which included seeing the steam driven machinery in full swing!

The final element of our visit was an evening tour and dinner at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth. I am sure most of us, who are old enough, could remember the ship being lifted from the depths of Portsmouth Harbour but nothing could have prepared us for this magnificent Museum. On one side of the centre was the tilted Mary Rose, and on the other, in alignment with what would have been the cabins and areas on the ship were artefacts taken from the ship. Bricks were shown to be part of the cooking area.

Our guided visit only lasted one hour, and we all agreed we could have taken much longer, however dinner overlooking the ship beckoned and was most enjoyable.

After breakfast on the next morning it was time to leave, and not surprisingly, the sun came out!


Electing Sheriffs

Common Hall for the election of Sheriffs for the ensuing year has been taking place for hundreds of years and as I sat in Guildhall I was reminded of the history of this event.   The Sheriffs were originally appointed by the King to keep order, but times changed and it is now the Livery who elect the Sheriffs.

This year’s election was contested. Alderman Michael Mainelli, World Trader, had been nominated by the Aldermen, and for the non-Aldermanic Sheriffs Chris Haywood and Erica Starry were competing for the position. Electioneering had started many months before with claims of over 1000 supporters for Chris Haywood and over 700 for Erica Starry.

As it turned out, Alderman Mainelli was elected along with Chris Haywood, and they will now start planning their year at the Bailey.

Armed Forces Flag Week

After a rushed post-election lunch it was time to head back to Guildhall for the ceremony of the raising of the flag commemorating Armed Forces Week. Guildhall Yard was filled with representatives from the Navy, RAF and Army, and Royal British Legion with music played by the Marines Band.

Lord Mayor in locum tenens Sir Andrew Parmley took the salute and he was joined by senior members of each of the Armed Forces.

Charitable Trust

All Livery Companies will play an active role in helping others and the Tylers and Bricklayers are no exception. The Charitable Trust, chaired by PM Ian Mitchell Grimshaw, have a very difficult task of choosing which charities to support with, what is always, a limited budget. Over the course of the year the Hon. Secretary receives many requests for charitable grants and the Trustees face the task, on this occasion, of picking just five to assist. The five will receive a payment over a three year period.

The Meeting also welcomed the Almoner and Charity Steward who both play an active role in the Company.

Celebrating 400 years charter anniversary with the Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders

After the Charitable Trust meeting it was a quick dash to Temple Church to commemorate 400 years since the Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders received their Charter from King James 1.

This was my first visit to this church set up by the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages and I was struck by the simple design of the church, and the beautiful stained glass windows over the Alter, made even more beautiful by the evening sunshine.

After the evensong the guests walked to Middle Temple Hall to continue the celebrations. Again this was a first time for me and I was struck by the beauty of the interior of the hall.

The Company presented each guest with some snuff as a gift and I hope that I don’t sneeze too much when I follow the instructions on the box!

The Treasures Committee

I attended the second meeting of the Treasures Committee and it is already apparent that this will be a most valuable (pardon the pun) committee within the Company.

Policies are now in place for purchasing items that may come up for auction with connections to the Tylers and Bricklayers, and storage arrangements for certain items stored in the vaults at Carpenters Hall that are no longer used, are now in place.

Court Meeting, Masters and Clerks Lunch, Brewers Hall

Court meetings of the Company provide Committee Chairmen with opportunities of updating the Court on their recent activities, and are all of particular interest and value.

I was delighted to be able to install Kate Oldridge as a Freeman, and John Gorman and Robin Harvey as Liverymen of the Company.

As soon as the Meeting was over, Liveryman Clare Banks set up a small photographic studio to take photos of the officers and court assistants so that the “Rogues Gallery” on the website can be updated.

At lunch we were joined by Masters Mason, Plaisterer, Paviour and Framework Knitter, along with their Clerks for a “beer” related lunch. It had been great fun arranging the menu and given the un-June like rain outside, the beef & mushroom pie in an India Pale Ale sauce was most welcome!

Wine Committee

Next morning there was short journey to Davy’s Vaults at Greenwich, a former brewery and now home to the offices, part warehouse, and restaurant of our wine suppliers.

This particular meeting was concerned with the selection of red wines to forward buy and updating the selection of white wines, port and champagne to have on the list of wines available to buy for events during the Master Elect’s year.