A new year but the spectre of covid continues to have an adverse impact on work and social life and make event planning at best uncertain. Fortunately, January is generally a quiet month in the Livery world and therefore there have been fewer occasions when I have had to ask “is the event going ahead?” or consider “should I take the risk and attend this event?”.
City New Year Service – St Michael’s, Cornhill – 7 January 2022
The streets of the City were eerily empty – perhaps in part because some people were still on holiday at the end of the first week in January but mainly, I suspect, because of the covid “work from home” order. The City New Year service is usually overflowing, with late arrivals crammed in behind pillars. But not this year – St Michael’s Cornhill was, at best, only half full, with the congregation masked. The Lord Mayor and the Governor of the Bank of England read the lessons, the choir sang beautifully and the highlight for the congregation was a rousing, if muffled, rendition of “I Vow to thee my Country”. The sermon was given by Jeremy Marshall, the former CEO of Hoare & Co and first non-family member to hold the post. Mr Marshall spoke movingly of a terminal cancer diagnosis 8 years ago and his simple, yet profound faith so that he does not fear death. A very powerful and thought-provoking testimony.
Sadly, the reception at Drapers’ Hall that usually follows the New Year service was cancelled but there was an opportunity to greet fellow Masters and their Clerks on the steps of the church after the service.
Brickskill lecture and demonstration – Monday 10 January 2022
The Brickskill lecture and demonstration was given by Master Bricklayer and Liveryman Dr Gerard Lynch, assisted by Master Bricklayer Elect and Liveryman John Gorman, from Gerard’s workshop at his home in Woburn Sands.
The lecture covered traditional lime-based mortars and a demonstration of four traditional pointing techniques. There is a full report and some excellent photographs in the event reports section of the Company website. I was invited to observe the demonstration at first hand and to attempt some of the pointing techniques that Gerard and John had executed. I can report that it is much than it looks and I now have an even greater respect for the skills, stamina and technical expertise of the craftsmen and women who execute these skills to a high standard on site.
We had always planned to hold this event on Zoom to enable all members of the Company to watch the lecture and demonstration in a way that would not have been possible if we had met in person. The filming of the lecture and demonstration was undertaken by Gerard’s son, Liam, also a craftsman bricklayer, who expertly used two cameras to capture the presentation and to provide close ups of the detailed work. I must also thank Gerard’s wife Fiona, and Liam’s partner, Ellie, who kept the team in the workshop refreshed.
Gerard and John demonstrating pointing techniques
It is undoubtedly one of the few positives to emerge from the pandemic that we can film and present a lecture and practical demonstration in this way to more than 30 people, watching live from their homes all over the country and abroad, in a way that would not have been envisaged before the first lockdown in March 2020. I hope that this is an initiative that we can maintain and extend to demonstrations of our other crafts. We should also investigate whether we can open up such lectures to members of other Companies in the Construction Group of Livery Companies.
Back to the City for lunch and dinner – 10 January 2022
No functions in the City for nearly a month and then two in the same day!
I was invited to attend the Worshipful Company of Masons Epiphany Court Luncheon held at Mercers’ Hall. This was a relaxed and happy occasion with just two other visiting Masters: the Master Plumber and Master Chartered Surveyor. The principal guest was Dr William Ricketts, a lung cancer specialist from Barts, who has been on the covid frontline for the last 22 months. Dr Ricketts spoke eloquently and thoughtfully about the strain on NHS staff of dealing with covid patients, especially in the early months when treatment techniques had not been developed and deaths were common. He also offered a glimmer of hope that the omicron variant does not appear to cause such severe illness and that the number of hospital admissions were starting to fall.
In the evening, our Clerk, Heather Smith, and I attended the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers Masters and Clerks dinner. The Plaisterers generously invite all the Masters and Clerks of the other City Livery Companies to attend and more than half were present. The seating plan must be a work of great skill and diplomacy, not least as there had inevitably been some last-minute cancellations and dropouts. It was a splendid occasion in the magnificent Plaisterers’ Hall.
The principal guest was Sir Robert Buckland, former Lord Chancellor and Minister of Justice. It was interesting to compare and contrast Sir Robert’s recollections of his time in office with those of David Gauke, who was the principal guest at my Installation Lunch at the end of September 2021. By convention, the Clerk to the Plaisterers’ Company replies on behalf of the Clerks to the Master’s speech of welcome and her gentle teasing. Both speeches were suitably restrained and well done.
Two wonderful events in the same day which ended any vague of hope of a dry January or a New Year diet!
For many people, the build up to Christmas from Advent until 25 December, with the anticipation of time with family and friends, of giving and receiving presents and of Christmas parties, carols, food and drink, is as enjoyable as Christmas Day itself. This year, however, the days leading up to Christmas were overshadowed by the rapid spread of the omicron COVID variant and dire warnings from the media of the risk of being stuck in isolation over Christmas or, even worse, another Christmas lockdown.
The Carol service - 16 December 2021
We were due to hold the annual carol service and Christmas supper on Thursday 16 December, preceded by the last Court meeting of the year. The messages from the Government were confusing and somewhat contradictory: we should work from home if possible (should we therefore move the Court meeting to Zoom?) but church services and Christmas parties could go ahead without restrictions, other than the wearing of masks in church, except when singing. On top of this, the Government's scientific advisors gave clear guidance that people should limit social contact to minimise risk. Against this backdrop, we decided, with a heavy heart, to cancel the Christmas supper but we went ahead with the Court meeting and carol service.
The carol service was as special as always with wonderful singing from the choir and the familiar readings in the beautiful setting of St Margaret Lothbury. Sadly, there were only about 30 of us in the church as many people made the entirely understandable decision not to travel into London with the risk of catching COVID just over a week before Christmas. The carol service was also the last occasion when our Honorary Chaplain, John Cook, preached to the Company. John has been our Honorary Chaplain for more than 20 years and over that time has served us well and faithfully and with great kindness. John has guided us, instructed us, given comfort and become a good friend to many in the Company. I was pleased to have the opportunity during the carol service to thank John for his service to the Company and to present him with an inscribed silver dish. John will remains in the Company as a Liveryman and I hope that we will therefore see John and his wife, Camilla, at Company events and functions for many years to come.
John and Penny Brooks
A few days before Christmas, Past Masters Lesley Day and Michel Saminaden, Upper Warden John Schofield and I visited John and Penny Brooks at home. We were delighted to find them both fit and well and on good form. The principal reason for the visit was to present John with an inscribed silver dish and a cheque to mark his retirement last year after 10 years as Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers. The presentation was long overdue but previous attempts to arrange a date had been thwarted by various lockdowns and medical appointments. I hope that we will see John and Penny at a Company function in 2022.
The New Year in the Livery world begins with the City New Year service at St Michael Cornhill in early January. The Government has just announced that no additional Covid restrictions will be introduced in England before New Years Eve and there appears to be some cautious optimism that the NHS will be able to cope with the level of hospital admissions. Let us hope that this remains the case and we can all look forward to a full calendar of events in the early months of the New Year.
Simon Martin, Master
It was a great honour and privilege to be installed as the 440thMaster of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayerson 30 September 2021. When I talk to people outside the Company about the Tylers & Bricklayers, I nearly alwaysrefer first to the past – to the granting of our Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1568 and to our first recorded Master in 1416. This long history is important. To put it in context, the first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole served from 1721 to 1742 and the United States did not have a President until George Washington in 1789. I was very aware of this long legacy when I took the Master’s oath at the Installation.
The Installation, Annual Service and Installation Lunch
The Installation took place in St Margaret Lothbury by kind permission of our old friend, Rector Jeremy Crossley. Past Master Michel Saminaden passed the Master’s gown and badge to me after two eventful and memorable years. John Schofield was installed as Upper Warden and Chris Causer as Renter Warden. I was delighted to present Michel with the Moreland Medal which Michel will wear as Immediate Past Master for the next 12 months.
The Annual service follows the Installation, with barely a pause to draw breath. We were honoured that the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally agreed to give the address in the Annual Service which was lead by our Honorary Chaplain, John Cook. The music was magnificent as always, with the Lothbury Singers directed by Honorary Freeman Richard Townend.
The Installation Lunch was held at Carpenters’ Hall. The principal guest was the Right Honourable David Gauke, who was Lord Chancellor and Minister for Justice in Theresa May’s Government. I have known David since we worked together at Macfarlanes in the early 2000s before David was first elected to Parliament in 2005. David made an excellent and amusing speech replying to the toast to the guests given by Court Assistant Jenny Rolls.
A full report of the Installation, Annual Service and Installation Lunch will appear in an Event Report on the website shortly. For now, I would like to thank the many members of the Company who gave me a warm welcome and such uplifting support at the Installation or who have sent kind messages. I am very grateful.
The First Two Weeks
The Master of a Livery Company has several different roles. Members see the Master most often when he or she sits on the top table at our formal lunches and dinners and makes a speech responding to the Toast to the Company. The Master also leads informal visits and events during his or her year. The Master also presides over Court meetings and works in close harness with the Clerk, the Wardens, the Court and the various committees to ensure that the Company continues to function smoothly, efficiently and within the agreed annual budget for the year. But the most visible external role is as an ambassador, representing the Company at a range of events across the City and beyond.
I have enjoyed a busy and varied first fortnight representing the Company in this way. On the day following the Installation, I attended the annual prize giving of the City of London School for Girls in Guildhall. This year the Noreen Dickins prize fund was shared by thirteen girls from Year 12 with the prize awarded for progress in Mathematics. I met the Master Needlemaker at the reception following the prizegiving. He too had been installed as Master on the previous day but as his installation took place in the afternoon, followed by an Installation Dinner, I was able to claim seniority by all of 6 hours!
I have listened to a lecture given by the Master Plumber on the surprisingly interesting topic of “The Royal Plumbers and Early Water Engineering” at the Royal College of Physicians. I have been to evensong twice at St Paul’s Cathedral. The second occasion was the Musicians’ Company Annual Evensong when all Masters and Clerks are invited to process into St Paul’s and take their seats under the Dome. A wonderful spectacle with beautiful music from the choir and from the string orchestra from the Royal College of Music. There was some good natured confusion before the procession as we assembled in the Crypt: we were told to line up in order of precedence with the Master Draper first in line but most Masters (including me) could not remember which Company came before or after (we follow the Coopers at number 36 but stand in front of the Bowyers at number 37) or, even if they could remember, they had no idea of the identity of the relevant Master.
I have also been to the Installation Dinner of the Master Constructor at Grocers Hall which was a splendid evening in a magnificent room. The Master Constructor is in fact starting his second year in office – he described himself as an environmentally friendly, re-cycled Master!
Perhaps the highlight of the last fortnight has been a Corps Guest Night, hosted by the Chief Royal, Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch, at the Royal Engineers Headquarters Mess at Chatham. This was the first formal dinner for some 20 months because of covid restrictions so the Corps was dining out (saying farewell) to a number of senior officers who have completed their service and also welcoming several batches of new RE subalterns who have joined the Corps. The Tylers & Bricklayers are one of only three Livery Companies that have an affiliation with the Corps of Royal Engineers and it was a great honour to be invited to attend this special evening. I look forward to welcoming several representatives from the Royal Engineers to our Craft Awards Lunch at Trinity House in March next year when we will award the Stokes prizes for the best Class 1 and Class 2 bricklayers training at the Royal School of Mechanical Engineering.
16 October 2021
November is a busy month in the City calendar with the installation of the new Lord Mayor and the Remembrance Day service and parade. It is also a time of competitions and awards ceremonies in our three crafts.
“We will Remember them”
I have been invited to represent the Company at two Remembrance services in the City. The first was the annual Garden of Remembrance Service in St Paul’s Churchyard, held on 8 November. The Masters and Clerks gathered at Plaisterers’ Hall on London Wall. We were lined up in order of precedence and followed the Standards of the Royal British Legion in procession down to St Paul’s where we formed up in ranks of six. Fortunately, it was a bright, crisp morning. Shortly before 11am, the Dean and other Ministers arrived, leading the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs to their places. There was a short service, accompanied by the band of the Grenadier Guards, concluding with the familiar exhortation, the Last Post and a perfectly observed two-minute silence before Reveille was sounded. There then followed the planting of the crosses in the Garden of Remembrance, led by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs, the Dean, representatives of City Schools and emergency services and with the Masters of the Livery Companies approaching in ranks of six. Very moving.
The week ended with a Remembrance Sunday service in St Paul’s Cathedral on 14 November. The Masters, Wardens and Clerks were seated in the south transept, all gowned and badges worn. The Aldermen were seated in the Choir and were joined by the Sheriffs and the new Lord Mayor, Vincent Keaveney, resplendent in his full robes and preceded by the sword and mace. Finally, HRH Prince Michael of Kent, representing the Queen, took his place and the service began. It was a moving service with wonderful singing from the choir. The timing was impeccable. As the last echo of the final note of the Last Post died away, the great bell of St Paul’s struck eleven and there was complete silence. The service ended with a rousing singing of the National Anthem and then the Masters, Wardens and Clerks formed up on the south steps of the Cathedral. We processed up New Change and down Cheapside to the Royal Exchange (fortunately the roads were closed) where there was a wreath laying ceremony at the City of London War Memorial, Royal Exchange opposite the Bank of England. The wreath laying was led by the Lord Mayor and Prince Michael of Kent and accompanied by the band of the Honorable Artillery Company. The ceremony ended with a march past of the band, a detachment of the HAC, a group of Old Comrades and a gaggle of army cadets, scouts, guides and brownies, with the salute taken by the Lord Mayor from the viewing platform at Mansion House.
“And the winner is…”
I was invited as a guest of the NFRC to the UK Roofing Awards 2021, held at the InterContinental London – the O2 on 5 November. The awards were cancelled due to covid in 2020 so there was an air of celebration in the room as nearly 1,000 roofers, sponsors and their guests gathered in the ballroom of the hotel. It was great to witness the quality of the projects that were shortlisted for awards in the Roof Slating and Roof Tiling categories but not surprising to find that Liverymen Andy Rowlands (Roof Slating) and Franke Clarke (Roof Tiling) were on the list, with Frank’s team winning the prize in their category. Liveryman Gerald Emerton’s company also triumphed in the small-scale project category for some fine work on the restoration of a slate covered turret on a village hall.
A few days later, I was the guest of Liveryman Keith Aldis at the Brick Awards dinner at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, organised by the Brick Development Association. The Brick Awards celebrate the use of clay bricks in a wide variety of building projects ranging from individual houses to large public and commercial buildings and from traditional to highly innovative schemes. The judging panel comprised architects, brickmakers, developers and brickwork contractors and included Past Master David Cole-Adams and Liveryman Ian Wilson. The Visitor Centre at St Albans Cathedral, which our Clerk, Heather Smith, commissioned and oversaw in her previous role as Lay Administrator at the Cathedral (using bricks from Liveryman David Armitage’s York Handmade Brick Company), was Highly Commended in the Public buildings category, coming second behind the Lambeth Palace Library – a case perhaps of Archbishop trumps Bishop? I was invited on to the stage to present the award in the Overseas category. The prize was awarded to a community project in China who, perhaps unsurprisingly, had not sent a representative to collect the award. Keith will now have to arrange for the delivery the clay brick trophy to the winners in China!
On 18 November, I went with the Chair of the Craft Committee, David White, to the SkillBuild 2021 National Finals held at the National Construction College at Bircham Newton in Norfolk. In previous years, SkillBuild has been part of WorldSkills UK and held at the NEC but this year the national finals in different categories have been held at different venues around the UK. The roof tiling and slating competition was held at Rowlands Roofing in Hereford in the previous week but the finals in bricklaying and wall and floor tiling were held at the NCC alongside plastering, stonemasonery, painting and decorating, carpentry, furniture and cabinet making and joinery, with apprentices from across the four countries of the UK taking part. The standard of work produced by the young apprentices under the pressure of the competition was astonishing and it was a privilege to have an opportunity to meet and chat to the next generation of master craftsmen. The winners will be announced next week and the winning apprentices in the bricklaying and wall and floor tiling categories, as well as the winning roofing apprentice from the Hereford competition, will be invited to the Craft Awards Lunch next March. The Company sponsored the award in the bricklaying stretch test (a separate competition of speed and accuracy) and I was delighted to present the award to the winning apprentice.
The support given by the Company in various ways to our three crafts is an essential part of what we stand for in the 21st century. It has been wonderful to be able to witness the quality of the craftsmanship at first hand and a privilege to represent the Company at these events. I am grateful to Court Assistant David White for his leadership of the Craft Committee and for his hard work in nurturing and strengthening our relationships with the trade bodies and individuals who represent the crafts.
I extend warm Summer greetings to you all and I hope that everyone continues to be fit and well.
September has been an explosive month in terms of events and city functions. I feel that things are now back to almost normal in the Livery world and that of the Mayoralty.
Starting with the Covid-19 situation, there was good news as vaccination booster shots were agreed by the Government, on the advice of the JCVI, and the rollout has already started for the over 50s. Also, schools are preparing to arrange vaccinations for 12 to 15 year-olds. Although the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 is increasing, the good news is that the number of people with serious illness is not rising in line with infections – proof that the vaccines are having an impact.
The other wonderful news for this month was Emma Raducanu’s amazing win at the US Women’s Single Open – it gladdened the Nation’s hearts to see such a lovely young person achieve this well-deserved success.
Turning to the City and all matters Livery, what a month it has been! The month started brilliantly with a lovely lunch at Bakers Hall, as a guest of the Master of the Worshipful Company of Bakers, on the very first day of the month. This was followed, the next day with our fabulous Triennial Awards and luncheon at Apothecaries’ Hall. The presentation of the of the awards took place in the beautiful Parlour in front of all the winners and invited guests. Court Assistant David White had done a superb job of organising the event and making the presentations so successful, and I was really pleased to have Vicky Russell as my Principal Guest for the presentations as well as for lunch. What a fabulous event this was.
On Monday 6th I took part in a wonderful Zoom event in which City Guide Katie Wignall took us on a very interesting tour of Holborn, and the next day I attended a wonderful service at the Church of St Vedast-alias-Foster to celebrate the 650th Anniversary of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers. It was so nice to be able to don the Master’s Gown and Chain of Office to process in to the Church with my fellow Masters.
The very next day Maureen and I were delighted to attend the Summer Festival of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers at Salters’ Hall. This was a black-tie dinner with all the formalities of a lovely City event, wonderful.
And on Friday 10th we were guests of the Tile Association at their amazing Gala Awards Dinner. This took place in a huge marquee in the grounds of the Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel and Country Club, and was a dazzling musical event. I had the pleasure of presenting one of the Awards, which was the icing on the cake. The Tile Association were wonderful hosts, putting us up at the hotel for the night. A delightful evening.
Following a short rest at the weekend, we were straight into more events. On Monday 13th I was at the first face to face meeting of my Past Masters’ Association, the Zoomers. Again, it was so nice to be able to see my fellow Committee Members properly for the first time rather than on a small screen. The meeting was followed by a super lunch at Ironmongers’ Hall.
The next day we made our way to Herefordshire for our long-awaited Craft Visit to Rowlands Roofing, followed by the delightful Banquet at Liveryman Brenda Upton-Kemp’s home. This was such a fantastic trip, three wonderful days of learning about one of our crafts, hands on experience, and great fellowship. What more could anyone want?
And the pace continued the following week! On Monday 20th Maureen and I were happy to join a small group of fellow Liverymen to carry out the annual silver cleaning at Carpenters’ Hall. This was organised by Silver Steward Martin Reading and we all worked hard to ensure a beautiful display of our Company Silver at the forthcoming Installation service. The cleaning was followed by a very nice lunch.
The next day, Tuesday 21st, I was up early and made my way to the Guildhall Yard where I had been invited to attend a photocall with the Lord Mayor to celebrate City Giving Day. It was so nice to see lots of people all dressed in red, celebrating this wonderful charitable event. At lunchtime I joined a small group of Tylers and Bricklayers and a number of Merchant Taylors for a guided City walk. It was fascinating to be taken around the upper walkways of the Barbican and to hear about the history of the area. In the evening I was at a Black-Tie event with the Lord Mayor at Mansion House, celebrating the huge success of the Big Curry Lunch, in the presence of TRH the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
On Thursday 23rd I was guest of the Master of the Worshipful Company of Masons for a wonderful luncheon at Cutlers’ Hall and on Friday I had the privilege of visiting one of the Triennial Award Winners to personally hand over the prize.
This week I have my final event, Common Hall, for the election of the Lord Mayor at Guildhall followed by lunch, which I am very much looking forward to. I hope to be able to process in to the Guildhall with all my fellow Masters for one last time.