Ironbridge Gorge is described as the birth place of the Industrial Revolution. Each June, the Livery Masters and their consorts pay an annual pilgrimage to this beautiful part of Staffordshire. It is a highlight of every Master’s year and the event was well attended with 95 Masters. As anticipated, the week-end proved an excellent opportunity for Caroline and I to get to know many more of our fellow Masters and Mistresses.
After arriving on the Friday afternoon, we were all entertained to a dinner in The Covered Bays at Coalbrook. Next morning, we were taken by coach on tours to the Iron Bridge itself, spanning the gorge, the Blists Hill Victorian Town and the Jackfield Tile Museum. This fascinating museum, which the Company’s Craft Trust supports with an annual donation, features gas-lit galleries in period room settings, showing the many different places that were decorated with tiles once made at Jackfield.
In the evening we were joined by The Lord Mayor, The Lady Mayoress, both Sheriffs and their partners, for The Presidents Summer Ball at Enginuity in the Engine Shop and Museum at Coalbrookdale. It was great fun. The following morning, and in accordance with tradition, a light-hearted meeting of Masters took place as we formed our Pastmasters’ Association, with the name of the Phoenix (it being of course the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London) and Master Pewterer was elected our chairman.
A fortnight later and we were reunited as the Masters processed into Guildhall for the Election of Sheriffs at Common Hall. We dutifully elected (North Korean style!) two Aldermanic Sheriffs for the coming year: Peter Estlin –- Alderman and International Banker; and William Russell - Alderman and Haberdasher.
A quick lunch and I was back in Guildhall Yard for Armed Forces Flag Day. The Lord Mayor, accompanied by the Sheriffs, took the salute at the raising of the Armed Forces flag. Rear Admiral Nicholas Hine, Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, joined the Lord Mayor on the saluting dais. The Band of the Grenadier Guards provided the musical accompaniment.
The following week I attended with Past Masters Nicholas Carter and Julyan Gordon and their wives at the Service of Thanksgiving, in Cucklington, Somerset, for Past Master Christopher Grellier. Nicholas Carter gave one of the eulogies and spoke movingly of Chris’s contribution to the Company over many years. As you will know from the book "They Built London," the Grellier family have played an active part in the activities of the Company for over two centuries.
Next, on 30th June, was the Building Crafts College Exhibition and End of Year Show at Carpenters’ Hall, where I was the guest of Master Carpenter. The level of skill shown by the students of the College in Stratford was highly impressive.
The Lord Mayor’s Service of Thanksgiving at St Stephen Walbrook at the beginning of July has become an annual event in recent years with the investiture of The Lord Mayor as an honorary Warden. It was well attended. The Intercessions were given by Rev Sally Muggeridge, the Assistant Curate, and the wife of Liveryman David Williams. It is a fascinating church with its large, carved stone altar by Henry Moore situated in the centre, with the circular pews spanning outwards from it.
I have always wanted to visit Innholders’ Hall in College Street; I pass it daily on my way to work. The opportunity came with invitations to the Clerk and myself from Master Cook to their Livery Luncheon. The hall was rebuilt after the Great Fire, damaged in World War 1, severely damaged in World War 2 and fully restored in 1950. Being one of the smaller halls, it has a feeling of intimacy. Needless to say, the food and wine at the lunch were superb.
That evening a group of 20 from the Company met at the Monument for one of the guided walks organised by Master Chartered Architect. We traced part of the route of the Great Fire down to Blackfriars on what was a rare, barmy evening. This enjoyable tour is reported more fully on the Events page.
My last event in July was a dinner and tour of the Old Bailey, when Caroline and I were the guests of Sheriff Dr Christine Rigden and Stephen Rigden. We were joined by Master Pewterer and his wife and Master Framework Knitter. On a sweltering evening and after a full tour, including the cells, our thirst was slaked by champagne served in the flutes given by the Company from bottles opened by sword by the Sheriff. She has clearly not wasted her year!
April and May have been my busiest months yet as Master, with our 600th anniversary celebrations as the focus. I thought the concert and reception at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama was a huge success, with both Sheriffs and over 50 Livery Masters present. The student musicians were superb. The Exhibition of the Company’s Treasures and the Annual Guest Dinner were similarly of the highest quality. Seeing the famous ‘Breeches’ Bible’ and the Company’s archival records from the 16th and 17th centuries were a particular treat for me. These events have raised our profile in the City considerably.
April began though with the New Members’ informal dinner at Davy’s Wine Bar in Piccadilly. This is a new initiative by the Communications Committee and will be repeated new year. In convivial surroundings, the Upper Warden, the Clerk, the Communications Committee Chairman and I and 8 of our members who joined in 2011-12 each had the chance to get to know each other rather better and to discuss the ways of the Company.
Later that week, the Renter Warden in Nomination and I went to The Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch at Guildhall in aid of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. There were over 1200 present, which meant there was bit of a queue for food! But I much enjoyed seeing many of my fellow Masters and meeting those involved in the charity. HRH Prince Harry was the Royal Guest of Honour and we were addressed by General Sir Mike Jackson, the Charity’s President. The event once again raised vital funds for soldiers and veterans affected by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Next day, I was a guest at the Chartered Architects Company’s Building of the Year Award. The Leadenhall Building, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour and developed by British Land and Oxford Properties, was the winner. The Lord Mayor presented the award and unveiled a plaque, which regrettably fell off the wall at his first attempt!
A week later and I was a guest again of the Chartered Architects’ Company, this time at their lecture at Staple Inn on the effects of the IRA bombings on architectural design in the City. It was fascinating to have the move towards high-rise, iconic buildings explained. And there are several more such buildings planned for the coming years.
The Festival Service of the Sons of the Clergy at St Paul’s Cathedral is a central part of the civic year and always a great occasion. It was a huge honour to process with my fellow Masters at an event attended by the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, Alderman and Bishops. I greatly enjoyed having a near front row seat and it was a privilege to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury preach.
The following evening and I was at the Barts View Day. It began with Evensong in St Bartholomew the Great, attended by The Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs, many Masters and senior figures from the NHS Trust. The Bishop of London gave an insightful and amusing address. It was my first visit to this magnificent 12th century Priory church and I fully intend to return for a proper look.
The weekend brought a complete change of scene, when Caroline and I were the guests of Bob and Christine Howard at The Tile Association Annual Awards Dinner at St John’s Hotel and Conference Centre in Solihull. Bob is a past Chairman of the TTA and one of its leading lights. The evening had a Rio Carnival theme. It kicked off with a floor show from Brazilian Fantasy. The female dancers wearing large ostrich feather headdresses but very little else certainly caught their audience’s attention as they performed an energetic samba! I had the pleasure of presenting the Employee of the Year award, Bafta style.
A few days’ later and another change of scene. This time, it was the Buckingham Palace Garden Party. It was a Rider family occasion as Caroline and I were able to bring our sons, Christopher and William, with us. We greatly enjoyed walking around the Palace gardens. Immediately before it, we lunched at the Goring Hotel, where we bumped into several Masters and their wives, and then joined the queue for entry into the Palace, only to find the Dean of St Paul’s immediately behind us. He well recalled being our guest of honour at the Annual Guests Dinner at Goldsmiths Hall two years before.
The following week, I attended the Veterans Aid reception at Trinity House. I was hugely impressed by this charity, which provides help, often emergency-style assistance, for ex-servicemen and women in crisis.
Next was Christ’s Hospital Speech Day. Caroline and I had the pleasure of seeing Onyinye, our Presentee, receive two prizes from The Lord Mayor, and of being introduced by her to her parents. This is an amazing and hugely successful school, with two thirds of its 900 pupils supported by the City Livery Movement. Onyinye finishes at the school this summer and has plainly loved her time there. She awaits her IB results but is confident she will secure enough points to take up her place at King’s College in the autumn.
This busy but highly enjoyable two months ended with Deputy Master David Cole-Adams and I presenting the Company’s History to The Lord Mayor in a private meeting at Mansion House on 1st June. The Lord Mayor wrote a Foreword to the book. He warmly congratulated the Company on the book and on the 600th anniversary of our first recorded Master.
The period in my year as your Master between mid November and end January has been no less fascinating and varied than the opening month and a half.
It began with the swearing in on 13 November of the new Lord Mayor, Jeffrey Mountevans, the 4th Baron Mountevans, at the Silent Ceremony in Guildhall, a most impressive and ancient event. Immediately after it, I had the enormous pleasure of leading a delegation of the Company at the Presentation of Addresses in Guildhall Library, where we presented Sheriff Dr Christine Rigden with a gift of 12 champagne flutes engraved with the Company’s badge. The Lord Mayor and the two Sheriffs each received gifts from their respective Livery companies in what was a formal but intimate and light-hearted occasion.
The pace has certainly picked up during February and March. Shrove Tuesday saw me taking part in the inter-livery Pancake Races in Guildhall Yard, always a fun and well run event. The Company continued its success of recent years. James Hockley was our star, winning the coveted frying pan in the novelty race. The team much appreciated the members and friends who turned up to support the runners, and thanks to generous sponsorship around £750 was raised for the Company's charities, which is really pleasing.
I am honoured to be your new Master. I greatly appreciated your expressions of support at my Installation on 1st October and at the luncheon afterwards. Many thanks; they helped to settle my nerves! I thought Grocers’ Hall was a wonderful location and they made us most welcome. I was extremely grateful to Bishop Knowles, my guest of honour, for his clever and amusing reply on behalf of the guests.