Having endured what felt like one of the longest, wettest winters on record, it was a delight when the sun shone for the 2024 Guest Banquet at Merchant Taylors’ Hall.  


The Merchant Taylors' Company, one of the Great Twelve, began as an association of working tailors, known originally as the Fraternity of St John the Baptist of Tailors and Linen-Armourers. This Fraternity was formally recognised when it received its first royal charter in 1327. It has occupied the same site on Threadneedle Street since at least 1347; the only ancient livery company to remain on its original site.  Some parts of the grade II listed hall date from the late 17th century (having been built after earlier ones were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666) and was restored again after sustaining bomb damage during the Second World War.  The Company’s organ is a source of great pride; it is the only remaining working organ in a livery hall. It is situated high on the east gallery of the Great Hall and it prominently bears two dates having been built in 1966 by Noel Mander but reusing pipes originally from a 1722 Renatus Harris organ.


Master Chris Causer, Upper Warden Jenny Rolls and Renter Warden Alan Dodd welcomed the 180 or so members and guests to the reception, and it was a pleasure for all to sip glasses of champagne and meet friends and fellow Freemen and Liverymen in the warm sunshine of the courtyard which was open to the skies.  Before too long it was time to take our places in the Great Hall for the banquet itself.


Grace was said by the Honorary Chaplain the Venerable Dr Smith and then it was time to enjoy the meal laid on for us.  We began with a salmon and lemon sole terrine accompanied by Roodekrantz Chenin Blanc, followed by rump of lamb accompanied by Chateau du Moulin Rouge 2015, and for dessert glazed lemon tart with dessert wine Chateau Fonmourgues Monbazillac. 


One of the delights of dining with the Tylers and Bricklayers is that until you see the table plan you do not know who you will be seated with.  Malcolm and I were delighted to be seated near the Master’s daughter and son in law, and also Swedish guests Anders Arven and his wife Eva from the Stockholm Guild of Masons.  There followed a fascinating chat with views expressed on a variety of subjects, all with a smile on our faces.

The Sung Grace is a regular feature of formal Livery dinners, but accompanied here with the organ played by Honorary Freeman Richard Townend.  Thankfully for our newer members and Company guests, the words were as usual conveniently placed in the menu card.  After this coffee was served.  There followed the traditional toasts to The King, The Royal Family and The Lord Mayor.

A musical interlude took place on the magnificent organ played by Adrian Mumford.  This included the Grand March from Aida by Giuseppe Verdi, Prelude on Rhosymedre by Ralph Vaughan Williams and the Gibraltar March by Denis Bédard.

In his Toast to the Guests, Court Assistant Martin Reading welcomed all the guests including Ms Judith Cobham-Lowe, Past Prime Warden Goldsmith, Former Lord Mayor of London and now Master Wax Chandler, Dame Fiona Woolf, Tyler and Bricklayer Liveryman now Master Gardener, Mr Nicholas Woolf, Mr Adrian Mumford, Clerk to the Plumbers’ Company and Senior Court Assistant to the Musicians’ Company. Martin went on to welcome a delegation from the Guild of Masons from Stockholm with their Deputy Master Mr Svante Hagman and his partner Ms Monika Hagman and hoped that this will be the start of a long and beneficial relationship between both organisations.

The Tylers and Bricklayers Company have a close relationship with the armed forces and a special welcome was made to Cdr Nick Radue, Commanding Officer of our affiliated ship, HMS Magpie and his partner Alexandra Whitely.   Col Commandant of the Royal Engineers Major General Aidan Smyth and two junior officers, 2nd Lt Jack Crawford and 2nd Lt Bailey Holman were also welcomed.

Our guest speaker for the evening receiving a special welcome was the Very Revd Mark Oakley, Dean of Southwark Cathedral, accompanied by his partner Mr Nicholas Laws.  Finally Martin asked all Company members to stand and raise a glass to all the Company guests.

Tylers_and_Bricklayers_-_May_2024-7295.jpgDr Mark Oakley responded to the toast on behalf of the Guests and spoke of the history of the Cathedral and the work carried out by Thomas Rider, commemorated in a window in the nave.  He went on to speak of time spent in hospital when he realised of the importance of family and relationships, and looking to the future but remembering the past.  He congratulated the Company on its charitable activities and thanked it for the support of the three crafts of roofing, bricklaying and wall and floor tiling.  The Dean asked all to stand and toast the Company and the Master.

In his response, the Master Chris Causer opened by saying a welcome in Swedish to our guests from Stockholm and hoped that there would be a long-term cooperation between the Livery and the Guild.  He also said how much he valued the relationship with Southwark Cathedral and was pleased to present the Dean with a copy of the Company History.  He continued encouraging entries for the 2024 Triennial Awards thanked Adrian Mumford, Richard Townend, the Company Clerk and the Beadle for their involvement in the Banquet.


After the Master and principal guests left the Hall, there was time for some to enjoy a Stirrup Cup whilst others made their departure for home.

It is fair to say that the Guest Banquet in May each year continues to be one of our principal Company events and gives members and guests an opportunity to sample some excellent food and wine in wonderful surroundings.  The 2024 event in Merchant Taylor’s Hall will be remembered for many years to come.

Lesley Day

Past Master