MB_Sept2023-1-1.jpgI hope you have all had a pleasant summer break! The Mistress and I together with Bertie, our cocker spaniel, are just back from a delightful week away in Lincolnshire, staying in “The House of Correction”. It is the monumental gatehouse of a former prison built in 1825, now owned by the Landmark Trust. The founder of the Trust insisted that the brick prison wall, taken down in the early 20th century, was reinstated as can be seen in the photograph.

MB_Sept2023_1-2.jpgWe visited Lincoln Cathedral and Southwell Minster as well as Belvoir and Grimsthorpe castles. It was wonderful to get away, even if only for a short time!

MB_Sept_2023-1-3.jpgFinally, through an antique dealer we know, we recently came across a small silver fob seal with the Company’s armorials, hall marked for 1792 (image shown here is reversed). I am very pleased to have now acquired it for the Company. We think it might have been used by the Clerk at the time for sealing Company letters and it remains in remarkably good condition.

MB-Aug2023-2-1.jpgOn 13 August, I was honoured to be invited to the Middlesex & North West London Army Cadet Force annual camp final parade and presentations, this year held in the grounds of the RAF Museum in Hendon

MB-Aug2023-2-2.jpgThe Colonel Commandant, Col Angela Richardson gave a fascinating presentation on the activities of the cadets throughout the past year, in the lecture theatre at the Museum. We then moved to the grass area outside to watch the cadets march on their final parade. I was asked review the Cadets who were all very well presented, confident and polite. We were warned there was “no wet weather alternative”, and indeed there was a short sharp shower, but spirits were not dampened.

MB-Aug2023-2-3.jpgThe four finalists for “Cadet of the Year” had to deliver a message to the Camp Commandant and were judged on presentation and style. After a few tense moments the winner was announced to a great wave of applause from the cadets and spectators. Adult volunteers and staff were also rewarded with medals, and promotions were announced.

MB-Aug2023-2-4.jpgAll in all, it was a most uplifting day, emphasising the value that the Army Cadet Force bring to Society as a whole.

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On Saturday 29 July, for the first time we celebrated our Charter Day at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Taking in 600 years of history, our tour included the spectacular Chapel and the Painted Hall and we finished off in the Royal Observatory.

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The Old Royal Naval College is built on the site of the Palace of Placentia, where Queen Elizabeth I was born and brought up as a child. Not much of the original brickwork survives, but the brick foundations of the Palace were re-used by Sir Christopher Wren to support the Painted Hall. Recycling is not a new concept – some of the bricks were also used in the construction of the Royal Observatory, and the floors of the Chapel were made from old ships timbers.

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We visited the Victorian skittles alley, one of the few pleasures afforded to the pensioners. The room had previously been a smoking gallery, and for years the floors were white from the fragments of discarded clay pipes.

Following our extensive guided tour of the site, we had a leisurely lunch in the Old Brewhouse, overlooking the Thames, before walking up the hill to the Royal Observatory. Here there are John Harrison’s famous chronometers together with Thomas Tompion’s built-in year-running regulators.

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Finally, a few of us made it to Queen Elizabeth’s Oak, sadly now dead, but allegedly a tree she played in as a child. A new oak was planted on the site by the late HRH Duke of Edinburgh to signify continuity and regeneration. My sincere thanks to the Mistress for organising the event.

August is a quiet month in the city, so little to blog about. However, on Thursday 12 August, 31 members of the Company and their guests met on a sunny day in the courtyard of the Burlington House for a visit to the Royal Academy of Arts annual Summer Exhibition.

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 The Summer Exhibition is the world’s oldest “open submission” exhibition, which means that anyone can enter their work to be considered for inclusion. It has been run every year since 1769, and each year a different Royal Academician coordinates the exhibition, this time 81 yr old David Remfry RA.

As always, there were a huge number of works on display and an eclectic mix of sculpture, painting, textiles and architectural drawings and models, in a wide range of styles from naturalistic to abstract.

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 The artists ranged from well-known Royal Academicians to unknown but talented amateurs. While some were “pleasing to the eye”, others portrayed challenging and thought-provoking subjects. A plastic packing case on the gallery floor, which appeared to be left over from transporting an exhibit, turned out to be a work of art itself.

After an hour and a half we gathered again in the courtyard of Burlington House to make our way to the Reform Club.

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 A ten minute leisurely walk later we reached the Reform Club, founded in 1836 and immortalised in Jules Verne’s “Around the world in 80 days”. The clubhouse, based on the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, was designed by architect Sir Charles Barry. It was intended to be the largest and most spectacular in London and was completed in 1841.

Once up the steps into the Saloon we entered the “Strangers’ Room”, for many years the only place in the Club where members could entertain non-members. With its red and gold walls, it is a warm room overlooking Pall Mall and now used by members for a light lunch. It is closed to members during August, so we had this spacious private dining room to ourselves.

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After lunch, the party was divided into two groups for a tour of the Club, led by the Master and Mistress, both of whom are members of the Club. The tour included some history of the formation of the Club as a break-away group of more radical Liberals and Whigs from the traditional members of the party who favoured Brooks’s Club.

The day concluded with tea and coffee in the saloon, and a welcome rest after going “Around the Club in 80 minutes”.

MB_July_2023_2-1.jpgOn Friday 7 July, the Mistress and I were delighted to be invited to Builders Merchants’ Summer reception at Apothecaries’ Hall. This was a rather special event mainly held in the courtyard with a tour of the Hall thrown in! Outstanding musical entertainment was supplied by several students of the Royal College of Music. The Master Builders’ Merchant, Richard Hill (centre), who was a guest at our Masters and Clerks luncheon in the same hall only a few weeks ago, made us very welcome.

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Then on Monday 10 July, I was very pleased to be invited to the Freedom of the City ceremony for Freeman Kim Walker at Guildhall. The entrance to the North building was unexpectedly closed because of a falling roof tile (how appropriate), so the party of Tylers and Bricklayers entered via the West entrance and had a brief backstage tour!

In the anteroom, Kim signed his Freedom papers before we were led into the Courtroom by the new beadle, Theo. The Clerk to the Chamberlain’s Court, Laura Miller, greeted us and explained the ceremony. Kim read the oath without hesitation, repetition, or deviation and then signed the Register of Freemen.

After a tour of the courtroom and its many treasures, it was time for photographs with his framed Freedom certificate in hand! Kim was supported by his wife Fiona, seen above, as well as his son in law and Deputy Master Simon Martin.

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After lunch with some friends at the Reform Club, I set off to meet the Mistress for the Vintry and Dowgate Ward Club summer reception. This annual event has been held for many years on the roof terrace of the Nomura building overlooking the Thames, with a backdrop of Tower Bridge and the Shard.

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There was a strong contingent from the Company, including Ian Mitchell Grimshaw, Jeff and Catherine Fuller, Michel and Maureen Saminaden, David and Jan White, Diana Malzer and Brenda Upton Kemp. It was lovely to see so many old friends, and to make few more!