Masters are advised by their Clerks and by Past Masters that September will be a very busy month. The City returns from well earned holidays in late July and August and there are a wide range of Livery lunches, dinners, lectures and visits to look forward to, as well as the installation of the new Sheriffs and the election of the next Lord Mayor at Common Hall on the last Thursday of the month.
I was not surprised therefore that my diary for September was full, with the month starting with a Court meeting and Lunch at Watermen’s Hall on 1 September (see the report in the event reports on the website) and the Glasgow In London dinner at Plaisterers’ Hall on 6 September.
The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
I was in London on the afternoon of 8 September at a meeting of the organising committee for the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch 2023. Sheriff Nicholas Lyons (Lord Mayor for 2022-23, subject to election) announced at the start of the meeting that a medical bulletin had been issued from Balmoral and he asked the committee to join him in sending best wishes to HM the Queen. I went from the LMBCL committee meeting to the Old Bailey where the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust were to host a lecture. We were gathering for a pre-lecture drink when an announcement was made that the Queen had died and that the lecture would, of course, be cancelled. The news was sudden, shocking, numbing and very sad.
One of my first thoughts was how should the Company and the Livery collectively respond to the death of the Queen? What would be expected of the Master? I immediately drafted, and the webmaster posted, a tribute to the Queen on the Company website. I then turned to the guidance from the City Remembrancer to the Livery Companies which is updated each year. There is no formal role for the Livery Companies following the death of a monarch although Masters were invited by the Lord Mayor to join him at Mansion House, gowned and badged, for the proclamation of the new King which took place on the morning of Saturday 10 September. I was in Rome for the weekend (a long-planned family trip) and was therefore unable to attend this brief ceremony.
All City and Livery events in the period of National Mourning were cancelled. I travelled into London during this period and signed the Book of Condolence established by the Corporation at Guildhall on behalf of the Company.
The Craft Visit to Shropshire
The funeral of the late Queen took place on Monday 19 September, and we were therefore able to go ahead with the Craft visit to Shropshire on 20-21 September.
A party of 22 members and guests visited Craven Dunnill, the renowned tile manufacturer, on Tuesday 20 September. The Company is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and has manufactured tiles at its factory in Jackfield, in the Ironbridge Gorge, since 1874.
We were welcomed by Liverymen Adrian Blundell and Chris Cox. Chris explained the history of the Company and gave a fascinating tour of the site. We then split into two groups for a tour of the floor and wall tile manufacturing facilities. Much of the process would be instantly recognisable to the founders of the firm but with the introduction of modern techniques, such as 3-D scanning, to enable tiles to be matched and molds created for restoration projects remarkably quickly. After lunch we had an opportunity to make an encaustic tile and to visit the wonderful Jackfield Tile Museum which contains the astonishing and eclectic collection of John Scott, an Honorary Liveryman until his death a few years ago.
Tiles from the John Scott collection in the Jackfield Tile Museum
We spent the night at the Lion and Pheasant Hotel in Shrewsbury. We enjoyed a lively dinner, to which we welcomed Liverymen Adrian Blundell, Chris Cox and Simon Howells and their partners. Simon is the MD of Craven Dunnill and the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the business since his great-great-grandfather became a shareholder in the early 20th century. It was a memorable evening of good food and wine and the happy sound of conversation between old friends and new acquaintances.
On Wednesday 21 September we travelled back to Ironbridge for a fascinating introduction to the site and the famous Iron Bridge, before moving on to Blists Hill. Blists Hill is a 52 acre open-air museum on a former 19th century industrial site which recreates the sights, sounds and smells of a Shropshire town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A full report of this interesting and enjoyable craft visit will appear in the events section of the website shortly.
Sheep Drive over London Bridge
Every candidate to join the Company is surely told at interview that when they become a Freeman of the City of London, they will have the right to drive sheep over London Bridge. Once a year, the Worshipful Company of Woolmen give Freemen of the City an opportunity to exercise this ancient right and privilege.
On Sunday 25 September, I went to London Bridge with my wife, Jenny, and other members of my family, and drove a small flock of rather docile sheep a short way across the Bridge. It is a symbolic act but great fun. There was a small street fair, with several Livery Companies running stalls to sell related craft goods, and demonstrations of shearing and weaving. It was an enjoyable event, well organised (no sheep escaped!) and raises a substantial sum for charity. Definitely recommended for every Liveryman at least once and added incentive for every Freeman to apply to the Chamberlain’s Court to be admitted as a Freeman of the City of London.
The Master nervously waiting with his flock
Proof of a successful crossing!
Time to say Goodbye
This is my final Master’s Blog. I have had a wonderful, varied and hugely enjoyable year as the 440th Master of the Worshipful Company of the Tylers and Bricklayers. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as Master of this great Company but I am ready now to hand on the Master’s badge, gown and responsibilities to the Master Elect, John Schofield, at the Installation on 6 October.
Thank you for reading these blogs and for your support over the last 12 months.
August is always a quiet month in the City with no Livery events planned. The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs take a well-earned holiday and the Masters, Wardens and Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers should do likewise, before the usually busy month of September with the final events of the Master’s year and the preparation for the installation of the new Master in early October.
August is also the month when the Army Cadet units go on summer camp and it is customary for representatives from organisations which have links with the cadets to be invited to spend a day with the cadets, observing their activities.
The Company and the Corps of Royal Engineers (“RE”) have had a relationship for many years and a formal affiliation since 2000. The RE affiliation with the Company is only one of three with Livery Companies, the Masons and the Engineers being the other two. In 2008, the Lord Mayor asked the Livery Companies to adopt and support youth organisations. The Company adopted the RE Cadets in the Greater London region, thereby further strengthening the relationship and ties between the Company and RE. At the Craft Awards Lunch held in March each year, we give prizes to the best cadet and adult instructor from the RE Cadets in the Greater London region.
I was invited to join a party of guests, including Masters or other senior representatives of eight other Livery Companies, visiting the Middlesex and NW London Army Cadets at their summer camp on Salisbury Plain on Tuesday 23 August.
We were greeted by the Colonel Commandant who gave an overview of the Army Cadet Force and the Middlesex and NW London sector which is based in White City but covers an area from Fulham and Hammersmith in the west to Barnet and Tottenham in the north. The Army Cadet Force offers opportunities to young people aged 12 to 18 years, of all abilities and backgrounds physically and mentally, improving self-confidence, teamwork, friendship, leadership and community spirit through a wide range of military themed activities as well as recognised vocational qualifications such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and BTEC Diplomas. The ACF motto is “To inspire to achieve”.
Cadets on exercise, Salisbury Plain
There are currently about 450 cadets in the Middlesex and NW London sector, with 284 on the summer camp. Numbers fell during lockdown but are now picking up again. This was the first camp since 2019 and, for many cadets, a first experience of an extended period away from home. I was able to speak to many of the cadets and was impressed by their enthusiasm, interest and genuine engagement with the wide range of activities that are offered. The cadets are lead and instructed by ACF officers, adult volunteers (some of whom have come through the cadets) and soldiers from the regular Army (in this case the Irish Guards).
Briefing for a night attack
We were able to observe range shooting, fieldcraft, a briefing for a night exercise and a simulated medical evacuation. We were given lunch “in the field” and were also allowed to have a go on the paint ball range, shooting at fixed targets, and with no one shooting back!
The Master preparing for the next Court meeting
The Army Cadet Force is not part of the recruiting process for the Armed Forces but the ACF will provide assistance to any cadet who expresses an interest in joining the Armed Forces later in life. All in all, an enjoyable and uplifting day out.
June is always a busy month for the Master with several important City events and the annual Livery weekend for Masters and Prime Wardens, in addition to Company events, functions and visits. This year we have also celebrated the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen with a four-day bank holiday weekend.
The Masters and Prime Wardens of the City Livery Companies were not directly involved in the Jubilee celebrations so we decided to pay our own tribute and mark the Queen’s remarkable 70 years of dedicated and selfless service to the nation at our Masters & Clerks Lunch at Armourers’ Hall on 9 June.
The lunch had a royal theme. The Master, Wardens, the principal guest, the Clerk and the Chaplain processed into the Hall accompanied by Honorary Freeman Richard Townend playing “Zadok the Priest” on the piano. We then enjoyed a Royal themed lunch including salmon and sole Balmoral, Crown of Lancashire lamb and a Queen’s duo of puddings. Perhaps the strangest royal connection was the Dubonnet jelly, served with the Windsor red cheese, the Queen’s preferred drink being gin and Dubonnet! The principal guest was Hugo Vickers, the renowned writer, broadcaster and royal biographer who reflected on the Queen’s remarkable reign and told several interesting and amusing anecdotes.
I was delighted to welcome the Masters and Clerks of eight Companies in the Construction Group of Livery Companies to the lunch. The visiting Masters were:
• Architects -Philip Cooper (Clerk: Cheryl Reid )
• Plumbers – Nick Jones (Clerk: Adrian Mumford)
• Constructors – Arthur Seymour (Clerk: Kim Tyrrell)
• Masons – Martin Low (Clerk: Maj Giles Clapp)
• Paviors – Neil Sandberg (Clerk: Jennifer Athill)
• Painter-Stainers – Lewis Cohen (Clerk: Christopher Twyman)
• Glaziers – Phil Fortey (Clerk – Liz Wicksteed)
• Joiner-Ceilers – Christopher Chivers (Clerk – Tanyia Ingham)
I commented in my speech welcoming the guests on the fact that the eight visiting Masters were all male which is surprising in a year when 20 per cent of the current Masters of the 110 Livery Companies are women. Perhaps this says more about the nature of the Construction Group of Livery Companies than it does about the increasing and welcome diversity of the Livery movement.
The Master and Wardens with 7 of the 8 visiting Masters
On the day after our Masters & Clerks lunch, the Masters and Prime Wardens of the Livery Companies and their consorts went to Sheffield for the annual Livery weekend. The Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs and the members of the Livery Committee also joined the party, as did the Masters of comparable livery companies from other cities around the UK. The weekend was generously hosted and superbly organized by the Master and Clerk of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.
On Friday evening there was a welcome reception and buffet supper in the Millennium Galleries where I had an opportunity to greet old friends and meet Masters who I had not come across so far in my year or who are newly appointed. The Cutlers had organized a full programme of visits for the Saturday, showcasing the history and heritage of Sheffield and its metalworking industries and also showing how industry has adapted and evolved to meet the challenges and requirements of the 21st century. We also had an opportunity to see several craftsmen and women in action and to visit the workshop of an award-winning silversmith. On Saturday evening, we were guests of the Cutlers’ Company for a black tie dinner in the magnificent Cutlers’ Hall in the centre of Sheffield. The Master Cutler, James Teare, welcomed the guests, the Lord Mayor spoke in response quoting (I suspect for the first time in his year in office) the lyrics of the Tina Turner song “Simply the Best” (the link being that Tina Turner apparently played her last ever UK gig in Sheffield) and the Master Mercer proposed the toast to the Company of Cutlers.
On Sunday morning, the Masters and Prime Wardens of the 2021-22 year met to decide on the name for our Past Masters Association and to select an organizing committee. Both were easy decisions: the meeting unanimously agreed that our PMA would be called “The Platinums” and the committee was formed by eager volunteers making their way to the front of the conference room as the rest of us headed for the exits.
We then travelled to Wentworth Woodhouse, a grand house about 10 miles north east of Sheffield, for a private tour. Formerly the home of the Fitzwilliam family who made their wealth from the coalfields of south Yorkshire, the house is now owned by a trust which is undertaking a long programme of restoration. The plan is that part of the vast property (which reputedly is the largest house in England, with 365 rooms, more than 1,000 windows and 5 miles of corridors) will become a hotel and there will also be dedicated space for the local community.
It was a very enjoyable weekend and we were so fortunate to be able to come together in this way after two years in which the Masters’ weekends were cancelled due to lockdowns and covid restrictions.
Last week I was delighted to be invited to attend a reception and Beating Retreat at Brompton Barracks, the home of the Corps of Royal Engineers. The Tylers and Bricklayers greatly values its affiliation with the CRE and events such as these strengthen the bonds of friendship. I was welcomed to the reception by Lieutenant Colonel Guy Cheesman, Commander of the Chatham Station and also met Major Paul Hurst who represented Colonel Cheesman at our Craft Awards Lunch in March and many other RE officers. Also present were Brigadier Guy Boxall, Commandant RSME, and Mrs Rachel Boxall, who attended the Company Annual Guest Dinner last month.
Beating Retreat was performed on the parade ground in the centre of the barracks and was, as always, a faultless display of music and drill on a lovely June evening.
I look forward to returning to Chatham in September 2023 when we will have an opportunity to try some hands-on bricklaying and visit the Royal Engineers museum.
Looking back, looking forward
It is hard to believe that I have now completed three quarters of my year as Master of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers. As we move towards the summer break, this is a good moment to look back on a memorable time as Master of this wonderful Livery Company but also to look forward to my last two months in office before I hand over the Master’s badge, gown and responsibilities to Upper Warden John Schofield at the Installation on 6 October 2022.
It is vitally important that the Master, Wardens and Clerk work together as a team. Indeed, this is essential because no Master can achieve much in his or her year, working alone. A Master may take on a project from a predecessor and move it forward or may start a new initiative but in the knowledge that it is very unlikely to be completed within the twelve-month span of the Master’s year.
We have taken forward some of the initiatives started in Immediate Past Master Michel Saminaden’s second year (implementing the recommendations of the Strategic Review, encouraging members to return to face to face events after 18 months of lockdown and increasing membership after an inevitable hiatus during the pandemic). Some of these initiatives will continue into John’s year and beyond. We have found, for example, that numbers attending events are down by 10-15% on pre-pandemic levels. This is a problem for many Livery Companies. We are looking at the reasons for this and considering what the Company can do to ameliorate the problem and encourage more members to attend events and bring guests.
I am also pleased that we have started a number of initiatives this year which will continue beyond the end of my year as Master. We have joined the Livery Climate Action Group and have made a number of commitments to change the way we operate and organise our events. We have also renewed our commitment to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the Company. You can find our EDI statement on the home page of the Company website. Words are easy and the Membership Committee, under the leadership of Jenny Rolls, are looking at practical steps which we can take.
I have been fortunate to enjoy huge support from my Wardens, John Schofield and Chris Causer, from the Renter Warden in Nomination Jenny Rolls, from the Chairman of the Finance Committee Keith Cawdell and of course from the Clerk. We meet on Zoom at least once a month to review and discuss Company events, issues, work in progress and finances. This enables us to make clear and timely decisions and to agree what matters should be taken to the Court for discussion and approval at the quarterly Court meetings or referred to one of the working Committees.
The Master, Wardens, Father of the Company, the Honorary Chaplain and the principal guest, Hugo Vickers, at the Masters & Clerks Lunch on 9 June 2022
The Master is (and should be) fully engaged in the running of the Company. He or she attends all Committee and Court meetings and is responsible, working with and supporting the Clerk, for the efficient running of the Company. I have not counted the hours but I agree with the assessment of several of my recent predecessors that being Master of a Livery Company feels like a full time job, when you add the time spent on organisation, planning and administration to the more visible role of leading the Company at our events and functions and representing the Company at a wide range of City and Livery events.
But it’s not all work and no play! There have been several memorable events and trips in the last month. On Friday 24 June, I attended Common Hall at Guildhall for the election of the Sheriffs and other City officers for the following year. This is also an occasion when the Masters of the 110 Livery Companies process in gowns, chains and badges of office and have the privilege of sitting at the front of Guildhall, thereby able to observe proceedings closely. Unfortunately, the day fell between two national rail strikes and a handful of Masters were missing from the procession and there were fewer Liverymen in Common Hall than might otherwise have been the case. It was, as always, a dignified and timeless ceremony. There were just two candidates for the two vacancies, and both were elected: the Aldermanic Sheriff for the 2022-23 year will be Alastair King DL and the non-Aldermanic Sheriff will be Andrew Marsden.
I went directly from Common Hall to Birmingham by car to the Tile Association Awards where my hosts for the evening were Liveryman Bob Howard MBE and his wife, Christine. Bob is a Past Chairman of the Tile Association. I was also pleased to meet a number of other Liverymen who are directors or executives of the Tile Association including Brian Newall MBE, Ian Kershaw and Kay Porter. Paul Luff, the Chairman of the TTA, kindly mentioned in his speech of welcome that the Company had awarded Master Craftsmen status to Mark Exley at the Craft Awards Lunch in March. The relationship between the Company and the Tile Association is very important and occasions such as this splendid awards dinner are a good opportunity to strengthen and build on this.
The Master’s trip to Northern Ireland took place over three days at the end of June and was a great success! The party conclusively proved that Guinness tastes better on the island of Ireland and learned a great deal about the origins, causes and legacy of the Troubles. There is a full report on the Company website.
Some of the Tylers and Bricklayers at the Giants Causeway
Finally, I must mention the generosity of the Leathersellers’ Company who invited many Masters and Clerks to dinner on 7 July. Leathersellers’ Hall is in St Helen’s Place, off Bishopsgate. The Hall is magnificent. It was completed in 2016 and is the seventh Hall in the Company’s history. I believe that the freehold of the building, including the offices above, are owned by the Company – the site was acquired in 1543 when St Helens Priory, a Benedictine convent, was closed by Henry VIII in the reformation. The Hall itself is below ground and reached by an elegant spiral staircase. The main feature in the Dining Hall is a forty-metre-long tapestry designed by Victoria Crowe, which took three years to weave. The tapestry features images and references to the Leathersellers’ Company’s long and illustrious history. The food and wines were superb and included a Vieux Chateau Certan Pomerol 2004, a Chateau Coutet 1er Cru Sauternes Barsac 2005 and a Grahams 1997 Port. Fortunately, I had arranged for a car to take me home!
Stained glass window in Leathersellers’ Hall
It is an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as Master of a Livery Company for a year. There are many different aspects to the Master’s role and responsibilities and the events which I have attended in the past week gives a good illustration of this.
Thursday 5 May: Christ’s Hospital Appeal Committee meeting (on Zoom)
The Christ’s Hospital Appeal Committee was formed in September 2021 to oversee the appeal to raise funds to send another child from a disadvantaged background to Christ’s Hospital School. I launched the appeal at the start of my year as Master. The target was £36,600 but we have already raised nearly £47,000 to date, including matched funding from the Company of £18,000. This is a staggering achievement for a Company of fewer than 200 members. I am sure that one of the reasons that so many people have responded so generously to the appeal is that we can see a direct connection between our charity and the outcome – a life changing education for a young person.
And there is more to come. Past Master David Szymanski and his good friend Mark Vose will be cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats, setting off on 22 May. David has kindly offered to seek sponsorship for this epic ride from family, friends and business associates. At the time of writing this blog, David has already raised over £10,000. You can follow David and Mark via a link on the T&B home page.
Thursday 5 May: dinner with the Court Leet of the King’s Manor in Southwark at the Old Bailey
I was invited by Liveryman Ernest Smart to be the principal guest at this dinner held in the Judges’ Dining Room at the Old Bailey. The Court Leet trace their origins back to Alfred the Great in 871, with their first Royal Charter being awarded in 1327 and a second charter by Edward VI in 1550. This is a much longer lineage than most Livery Companies and certainly predates the Tylers and Bricklayers – we received our Royal Charter from Elizabeth I in 1568. Ernest is the Hon Clerk and Archivist of the Court.
I was pleased to find that no fewer than seven of the 24 Jurors on the Court Leet are also members of the Tylers and Bricklayers so I was amongst friends. The honour of being principal guest almost always carries with it the requirement to make a speech on behalf of the guests but Ernest had instructed me that it should be brief! A memorable evening.
Tuesday 10 May: Craft Committee meeting
The Company relies on the often-unseen work of members contributing to various Committees for its efficient and effective administration. The Craft Committee, chaired by Court Assistant David White, is one of these committees. The Craft Committee has responsibility for overseeing the Company’s support for and relationships with relevant bodies and individuals associated with our three crafts: bricklaying, roof tiling and slating and wall and floor tiling. Most members of the Committee are men and women with craft backgrounds and the Master sits on the Committee in his or her year in office. As I do not have a craft background, this has been a most welcome opportunity to learn more about all aspects of the Company’s support for the three crafts.
The two main items for discussion were a proposal that the Company should seek to support three young men and women to undertake an apprenticeship in one of our related crafts. Our support would take the form of funding and mentoring. There are some significant questions to consider including how will we find deserving candidates, how will we raise the funds needed, how can we best support the apprentices during and perhaps after their training and what relationship will the apprentices have with the Company? The other major discussion was around a proposal from the Court that we should introduce a new award in the Company’s Triennial Awards for the best environmentally sustainable scheme. The Craft Committee discussed the feasibility, form and criteria for such an award which, if introduced, would first be awarded at the next Triennial Awards in 2024.
Wednesday 11 May: View Day at St Bartholomew’s Hospital
One of the great joys of serving as Master is the opportunity to participate in services, ceremonies and visits in and around the City. St Bartholomew’s Hospital is a great City institution, founded in 1123 by Rahere, Henry I’s Court Jester. The View Day was first held in 1551 and was an occasion for the City authorities to inspect the Hospital. View Day now provides an opportunity for supporters to visit the Hospital, to learn about the extraordinary work that is undertaken and to hear about plans for the future.
The programme included Choral Evensong in the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great and a Reception in the Great Hall. The Priory Church was also founded in 1123 and is London’s oldest church. It is well worth a visit and will be familiar to many people as the venue for the last wedding in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The service was simple but moving, with lovely singing by the choir.
The Reception in the Great Hall was well attended and I had the chance to catch up with many Masters of other Companies as well as hearing more about the Hospital’s plans to mark its 900th anniversary in 2023.
Thursday 12 May: Annual Livery Dinner at Haberdashers Hall
The Annual Livery Dinner is one of the main events in any Master’s year. The Dinner was held this year at Haberdashers’ Hall. The Hall was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2002 and won a Tylers & Bricklayers Brickwork Award in the 2005 Triennial Awards. The judges noted the “supreme craftsmanship in both exterior and interior face brickwork, with lovely detailing” so it was an appropriate venue for the Tylers and Bricklayers annual dinner. There were 120 members and guests present at the dinner.
My principal guest was Professor Dame Carol Black. Dame Carol has had a long and distinguished career in medicine and in public service. She is currently an independent adviser to the Government on illicit drugs and chairs the Boards of the British Library, the Centre for Ageing Better and Think Ahead, the Government’s fast-stream training programme for Mental Health Social Workers. Dame Carol made an interesting and thought-provoking speech on the mental health challenges faced by many who work in the construction industry.
It was a wonderful evening which I greatly enjoyed (particularly after I had given my speech in response to the toast to the Company!).
Friday 13 May: Worshipful Company of Educators’ Military Education Lecture, HMS President
Many Livery Companies hold lectures during the course of the year to which Masters, Wardens and sometimes members of other Companies are invited. I was invited to the Worshipful Company of Educators’ annual military education lecture. This was held at HMS President, a Royal Naval Reserve and sea cadet training centre in St Katherine Docks, which was very apt as the subject of the lecture was “The impact and value of the military cadet forces of the UK”. Although topic of the lecture appeared somewhat dry, the lecture was very interesting, reporting on research undertaken by a team from the University of Northampton which has been able to demonstrate that children from disadvantaged backgrounds who participate as cadets achieve better outcomes at school and in life than those who do not. This was supported by inspiring personal testimonies from two former cadets, both of whom now serve as adult volunteers. The lecture was followed by a drinks reception on the deck outside HMS President with a wonderful view up river to Tower Bridge and a chance to tour a sail training ship, T/S Royalist, which was tied up alongside.
A great end to a busy and interesting week.