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!
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!
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.
Off to the Palace!
As Master it is normal that you receive an invitation to attend one of the Garden Parties hosted by Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace.
In the few days preceding the event, we had been studying the weather forecast in the hope that it would be a warm sunny day, sadly this was not to be.
We lunched with Master Glover Rodney Jagelman and his wife Sue, and Master World Trader Edwina Morton and her friend Jill at the Rubens Hotel before heading to the Grosvenor Gate and into the Palace Gardens.
By the time we left the hotel it was raining quite heavily but the garden walls protected us from the elements to a degree and in true British fashion, we just got in with it!! Once into the gardens we walked over to where the Royal party was due to pass, and on our way bumped into several Masters also there for the occasion.
Thankfully there was quite a tall gentleman in front of me who protected me from the chilly wind and fortunately I was able to look between him and his wife to see what was going on. We saw the current PM Theresa May and Archbishop Sentanu arrive at the Royal Tea Tent, along with a number of diplomats and guests in national dress.
The Queen was preceded by Prince Harry in heading to the Royal Tent. I understand there were a number of other members of the Royal Family present but we did not see them.
We then headed to the main tea tent for a refreshing cup of tea and sandwich.
We had a short walk around the gardens, but by this time we were quite cold so headed home for a hot cup of tea!
Freedom of the City for the Upper Warden’s Consort
Our first engagement of the week was to join Maureen Saminaden, Consort of our Upper Warden, for the Ceremony installing her as a Freeman of the City of London. I was delighted to be her first sponsor, and David Cole-Adams her second.
The party included Upper Warden, Michel Saminaden, Renter Warden Simon Martin, Deputy Master David Szymanski and Hilary, and Past Master Ian Grimshaw.
The Ceremony was conducted by Deputy Clerk Laura Miller. No matter how many times I attend this special Ceremony each is different. After swearing the oath, Laura talked about previous American Presidents who had been made Freemen, this was because Donald Trump was on a State Visit at the time, and showed us some of the very ornate certificate holders made for past Freemen. One for Margaret Thatcher had the image of Number 10 on 1 end and Guildhall on the other.
After pausing for photos, we repaired to the Trading House for a most convivial lunch.
A Musical Evening with the Mercers
World renowned Endellion String Quartet along with Guy Johnston (cello) played for the Livery Masters and Consorts in in the marvellously acoustic Livery Hall at Mercers Hall. On their own the Quartet played Haydn’s String Quartet Opus 20 No. 6, and with Guy Johnston Schubert’s Quintet for String Quartet and extra cello. The music was a joy to listen to and fully held the audience’s attention.
Afterwards Mercer’s hosted a supper for the guests and we had the chance to dine with Master Mariner and his consort Liz, and Prime Warden Dyer and his consort Helga. It was a pleasure to meet all as we had not met them before and within a few minutes we were firm friends, discussion on the upcoming Ironbridge weekend and how to put the world to rights made the evening complete!
Partners Visit to Charterhouse
The Charterhouse played host to the 2019 Partners Visit. Originally a cemetery for victims of the Black Death, the Charterhouse became one of the most important monasteries in London until it was dissolved by agents of Henry VIII. A grand mansion was built from the ruin. Suttons Hospital in Charterhouse was established in 1611 to provide a home and care to a community of elderly brethren and schooling for poor scholars which has been doing since. In modern times Charterhouse is a home for elderly people with financial constraints, and provides a community service of full board in some beautiful surroundings.
Ts&Bs will have noted the beautiful Elizabethan brickwork along with monastic stones in all the buildings that make up Charterhouse.
After the visit the group repaired to Carluccio’s for a most convivial lunch.
Masters visit to Ironbridge
All 110 Masters and Consorts are invited to attend the Livery weekend at Ironbridge in Shropshire and on this occasion over 90 Masters attended along with the Lord and Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs and members of Livery Companies from Glasgow, Chester and Shrewsbury.
Although I had visited Ironbridge many times during my working life, we took the decision to drive up to Ironbridge a day early so that we could visit the RAF Museum at Cosford. It turned out that the decision to leave early was correct as many of those driving on the Friday had awful journeys in the rain.
The Group stayed at the Holiday Inn in Telford and were bussed in to Ironbridge over the weekend. On the Friday afternoon the Masters and Consorts attended a work shop intended to talk about the future of the Livery movement in the 21st Century. The workshop came up with a number of ideas for the Livery Committee to take forward which included improved communications with the world outside the Livery Movement via websites, social media etc, inter-livery collaboration, more informality. After the workshop we stayed at Enginuity for dinner before heading back to the hotel.
As we looked out of the window on Saturday morning it was obvious that umbrellas would be the order of the day and no need for the summer clothing either as it was quite cold. Our first port of call of the day was Jackfield Tile Museum, and for yours truly this was very much a pilgrimage to see the beautiful tiles in the Museum and John Scott Collection. After that it was a short visit to the newly restored Iron Bridge and then to Coalbrookdale for the Museum of Iron. Thankfully the rain eased off in the afternoon so we had a short visit in the dry to Blists Hill Village and Coalport. In the evening it was back to Coalbrookdale for the Presidents Dinner.
On the Sunday morning there was a short meeting where the Masters and Consorts agreed two separate Past Masters and Past Consorts organisations to be named Apollo 19 and Saturn respectively to commemorate the 50 years since the first moon landing, and then it was off to the Darby Houses and to see the collection of historic costumes.
One of the joys of attending this weekend is the opportunity to meet Masters and Consorts that we would not necessarily come across during the course of the year, and to make new friends.