Thursday, 23 December 2010

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

The reef at Sharm el Sheikh and not a shark in sight - or is there a menacing shadow just off the left of the picture?.
Early tomorrow morning Rosemary, Grace and myself are off to Gatwick to (hopefully) catch a flight to Sharm el Sheikh for a few days' sun.  It will also be an opportunity to look at the pyramids and visit Cairo.
A remarkably uncluttered view of the pyramids.  But not quite as desecrated as they were at the height of the British Empire in the late nineteenth century when one of them bore a huge painted advertisement for a well known brand of patent medicine.
I was last in Cairo in 1950 when my father was stationed at Ismalia on the Canal Zone.  Apparently I bounced about in the back of my parent's Morris Oxford as we drove round the pyramids on the desert sand.  This is probably not possible any more as Egypt is a much more crowded place these days.

Anyway the purpose of this blog is twofold.  To sign off for 2010 and wish all those who read this blog a very merry Christmas. 

Back in England 2 January 2011.

ST JOHN AMBULANCE: A NEW DRAPER AFFILIATION

Nicholas Anstee, the last Lord Mayor, suggested that livery companies might wish to adopt St John Ambulance Cadet Units, see www.sja.org.uk/ for further information.  Because of our increasing involvement with the Harold Hill community it has been agreed that the Company's name be linked to to the Harold Hill Division. Also the division will be more closely associated with Drapers' Academy.

Freeman Jeremy Bromfield MBE, who is exceptionally well known to generations of Bancroftians as he was at the school from 1978 until recently - and still hasn't really left - will act a Company liaison.

Incidentally, he is also working on a new version of the history of Bancroft's School.  This follows on from the late liveryman Kevin Wing's book of some thirty years ago.  He is aiming to publish in time for the school's 275th anniversary in 2012.   Quite a challenge but I am sure Jeremy will rise to it.

Past Master Stephen Foakes, who among many other voluntary commitments, is St John Ambulance Area President for North East London, has been keeping a close watch on the project.

To complete the picture his son, liveryman Tom Foakes, is curator of the recently opened Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell.  It has started well.  Go and see www.museumstjohn.org.uk/ where you may wish to note the very positive review by the Evening Standard of earlier this month.

DRAPERS' ACADEMY: END OF THE FIRST TERM

We have now come to the end of the first term of Drapers' Academy.  It has been a busy, demanding but successful fourteen weeks. 

Matthew Slater and his team have rapidly and effectively introduced new standards of discipline and self-respect.  Work has started on further developing teaching quality to make sure every child has the best chance to do well academically.   New staff have generally settled in well, although one or two found it a lot more stretching than they imagined.

On the last Friday of the term (17 December) Year Eleven visited the Hall.  The journey down from Harold Hill was much disrupted by a sudden snowfall, that even after a fortnight of similar incidents still brought the A12 to a standstill.  It was a truncated visit but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

A very good start but next year will probably be the most challenging as the new-build starts and the pressure of GCSEs for the current Year Elevens mounts.

Incidentally the website is being rapidly improved so visit http://www.drapersacademy.com/ if you want to follow progress.

DECEMBER COURT DINNER; FATHERS' AND SONS': 15 DECEMBER

The last Court Dinner of the calendar year bears the traditional and somewhat Dickensian title of Fathers and Sons.  This conjures up the image of a Yuletide-bedecked, snow-bound Hall where proud fathers, leading citizens of the City, trudging in from their counting houses in Mincing Lane to introduce to the Company yet another boy from their burgeoning family. 

Times change.  Since Lord Luke was Master, some ten years ago, the dinner has not been restricted to fathers and sons and this year there were as many, if not more daughters than sons.

I took Grace to her first dinner at the Hall.  To give her some moral support she came with a slightly older cousin, Poppy Stevens.   Both of them had been bridesmaids at Poppy's sister's wedding earlier in the year.  I think Grace enjoyed herself  .

The evening closed with a selection of Gilbert and Sullivan songs.  The first two were performed by Past Master Antony Woodall,  an experienced and attractive sounding light tenor.  He sang Nanki Poo's Tit Willow, or the Suicide's Grave, from the Mikado wearing a most fetching oriental jacket.  Other songs including I am the very Model of a Modern Major General - possibly some reference to myself - and He is the Captain of the Pinafore -again possibly some reference to the Clerk - were sung by members of the Royal College of Music.

An enjoyable evening and there was snow outside.

EDMANSON'S CHRISTMAS DINNER: 10 DECEMBER

Out on the rush hour train from Liverpool Street to Bruce Grove for the Edmanson's Almshouse Christmas Dinner with Alastair Ross and his wife Judy - Rosemary could not make it as Grace was coming back from school that afternoon. 

As always thie evening was expertly run by Dot and her team with support from Lesley Flynn.  More than half the residents could make the party and we had a great three course menu.

This was followed by some great dancing to a versatile singer who knew many of the great songs of the fifties and sixties in all their tuneful banality.  This gave us all an opportunity for a quick dance or two and Alastair showed a really nifty pair of heels.

A modified white fiver, reused some sixty-one years after issue.  Amongst other improvements I have included my name as Chief Cashier.  Thanks to Jen Dennell for the artwork.
My Christmas greetings was in the form of a slightly amended white fiver.  This of course brought back many memories.  It was always a most romantic note.  It had black copperplate writing on one side only and a very complex wattermark.  It was printed on thin paper that made a distinctive metallic sound when handled.  However it was extensively forged, most effectively by the Germans in the Second World war, so was much distrusted by retailers.  My parents always used to take any they got straight to the bank. 

Eileen, wife of Eric Standen who was the beadle before John Freestone, remembered their wedding where three carefully folded white fivers kept by her father for any exceptional expenditure were inadvertently mistaken for waste paper and thrown away.

A great evening and it was good to see so many of the residents in good heart.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

LORD MAYOR'S CHRISTMAS TREE: A JOB FOR THE FIFTH WARDEN

Our fifth warden?  The Drapers' Bear about to depart from the Hall in full regalia to do duty in the Mansion House for the rest of the mayoral year.  I will try and not fall victim to Ruskin's 'pathetic fallacy' that humans project their own emotions onto animals or, even worse, fluffy little representations of animals.  Nevertheless he looks a little despondent, either because he is leaving the Hall or because of the huge weight of representational responsibility that now lies on his narrow and furry shoulders.
Photograph thanks to Penny Fussell 
Each year the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs choose charities.  This year they are Coram the children's charity, see www.coram.org.uk/  and RedR the international disaster and humanitarian relief group, see  www.redr.org.uk/

As part of the fund raising effort the Lord Mayor, Michael Bear, is pursuing a bear theme throughout the year.  Part of this is a Christmas tree in the Mansion House that will be decorated with furry little teddy bears.  Each bear will have a sponsor and all 108 livery companies have been invited to participate. 

We decided that the basic red jumper bearing the title Drapers' Bear did not do full justice to the Company and, anyway, red is not a Company colour.  Penny Fussell therefore made a beautiful set of warden's clothing, including hat, for him to wear.  The result is that we now have a 'fifth warden.'

Once the Christmas Tree is taken down the bears will spend the rest of the year in the Lord Mayor's office before being returned to their owners.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

NEW WEBSITE ACTIVE: 6 DECEMBER

For the past four months or so a lot of work has gone on to overhaul our website.  From Monday it is on-line.

The first Company website was set up ten years ago.  Since then there has been a huge improvement in technology and the way in which content can be made much more responsive to user needs. I think the new website certainly is a major step forward.

You may have reached this blog through the Drapers' website but if not give http://www.thedrapers.co.uk/ a visit.  Try the video tour of the Hall and the imaginative video that shows the Livery Hall being prepared for a major dinner.

My thanks to Priya Ponnaiyah, who, slightly outside her normal responsibilities as Company Secretary, led the change team and to other members of the Company who have contributed a wide range of material for the new site .

WELL BEING OF WOMEN CITY CHRISTMAS FAIR: 6 DECEMBER

Each year The Company donates the Hall for a day to be the venue for the City Christmas Fair held to benefit Well Being of Women.  This is a charity that aims to improve women's health through research, training and education.  This includes funding for medical research for better treatments, specialist training for medical practitioners and the wider education for women so that they can stay well.  For further details go to www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk/

The major rooms are packed with stalls selling every possible thing you might possibly want for Christmas.  When I walked around at midday it was crowded and clearly doing very well.  I was told afterwards that footfall was the highest ever and hopefully this should translate into higher sales and more revenue for Well Being of Women and the businesses that supported the fair.

This is an annual and very successful event.  Not only does it raise a significant sum but it also gives prominence to Well Being of Women's work in the City.

If you want to see some good pictures of the day go to Liveryman Herry Lawford's excellent Herry's Journal http://www.herrylaw.blogspot.com/ 

KING'S FUND LUNCH: 2 DECEMBER


The King's Fund is a highly influential organisation in the field of medicine and health care.  With the major reorganisation of the National Health Service currently underway they are playing a key role in advising and influencing this huge and complex change programme.  Further details are at www.kingsfund.org.uk/  Incidentally I fully approve that the Home Page of this site leads on to a blog written by members of the senior management team.

The Drapers' Company has had a long association with the King's Fund stretching back over a century.  This is recognised by the fact that the King's Fund holds one of its meetings at the Hall each December and then has luncheon with the Court of Wardens. 

This year we welcomed both a new Chair and Chief Executive, Sir Christopher Kelly and Chris Ham.

In my short speech of welcome I mentioned that we were proud to be associated with the Fund and recognised the vital role they had to play as a 'critical friend' of the National Health Service as it underwent massive change.

BROAD STREET WARD CLUB ANNUAL LUNCHEON: 29 NOVEMBER

Badge of the Broad Street Ward Club
The Company's Hall is located in Broad Street Ward.  This is one of the twenty-five administrative sub-divisions of the City of London that have existed since medieval times. In common with all City wards squeezed into the 'square mile' it is a small area.  The Hall and the Company's Throgmorton Street, Austin Friars, Drapers' Gardens site is situated in the south-west corner of the ward.  Although I may be wrong, as one never knows the full complexity of City landownership, I am fairly certain that the Company's freehold is the biggest in the ward.

Each ward has a Ward Club that brings together people who work in the ward.  Broad Street almost certainly has no permanent residents.  The only people who regularly spend a night in the ward are the various security staff in the offices and myself in the Master's flat perched under the eaves of the Hall.  Details of the Ward Club are at www.broadstreetwardclub.org/ but at the time I posted this it states it is under construction.

I was invited to the Annual Luncheon of the Ward Club on Monday 29 November. It was held in the Guildhall Crypt.  In a City where there are so many interesting and historic spaces to meet the Crypt has a special atmosphere. 

One of the two principal rooms of the Guildhall Crypt
The Club entertained us very well and Elizabeth McMahon, the Chairman of the Ward Club kindly mentioned the Drapers, Carpenters and Furniture Makers, the three Companies who have Halls in the Ward playing an essential part in the life of the area.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

FIRST AID NURSING YEOMANRY RECEPTION: 24 NOVEMBER

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps) is an organisation that has changed much in its hundred and three year long history. 

Initially raised as a women's only auxiliary during the expansion of the Territorial Army before the First World.  The website  www.fany.org.uk/ gives more history of the Corps and describes its current role.  Our links with it are through one of our sponsored units 71 Yeomanry Signal Regiment.  More details of the regiment, courtesy of that great institution the Army Rumour Service, are included at http://www.arrse.co.uk/wiki/71_(Yeomanry)_Signal_Regiment_(V

During World War Two it carried out a variety of roles, one of them being a source of volunteers for the Special Operations Executive.  One of Rosemary's aunts was in the FANY and worked as a radio operator in Trincomanlee, Ceylon communicating daily with an individual - she was never allowed to know names or locations - somewhere behind Japanese lines in South East Asia.  The reason for this one-to-one relationship is that users of morse code each has a distinctive 'voice' that is impossible to replicate.  This made it effectively impossible for anyone trying to try and impersonate either the agent or operator.

Despite the anonymity and the total professionalism of the organisation she says that when an agent failed to report in and was presumed captured or killed absolute despondency reigned.  On the brighter side human nature being what it is agent and operator did on occasion meet up and lived happily ever after.

Today it has a role to support Civil and Military authorities within the United Kingdom during any major event, incident, or in planning, so as to protect life and relieve human suffering.

The reception on Wednesday 24 November was to mark the move of the FANY Headquarters from Horseferry Road, where it has been based at the former London Scottish drill hall to a new site at Rochester Row.

HRH the Princess Royal is Commandant-in-Chief of the corps attended and, with a dexterity that always impresses me, managed to talk to all the two hundred or so guests invited, plus members of the Corps.

The FANY is an enthusiastic and public-spirited team.  They put a great deal into what they do and, despite the present changes taking place in Defence and government generally, are clearly strongly supported.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

COMPANY OF ACTUARIES: 22 NOVEMBER

On the evening of 22 November I went to Staple Inn Hall, just south of High Holborn.  It is the attractive Hall of the Worshipful Company of Actuaries. 

For more details about the Company go to http://www.actuariescompany.co.uk/  The Actuaries are entirely composed of those who are associates or fellows of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and collectively represent a highly important profession within the business City.

The purpose of the evening was to hear Lord Phillips of Worth Maltravers, President of the Supreme Court, give a talk on the development of the Supreme Court.

I went for two reasons. 

The first that Lord Phillips is always an interesting and engaging speaker and he was talking on a very interesting subject.  The Supreme Court (see www.supremecourt.gov.uk/ ) came into being just over a year ago.  It is a fundamental change in the top structure of our legal system, the full implications of which, I am certain, are not yet fully understood. 

The second is that Lord Phillips is a Liveryman of the Drapers' Company.  In common with many senior judges this is because the Master of the Rolls - he held this appointment 2000-2005 - is also President of Queen Elizabeth College, the Company's almshouse in Greenwich.  This is a linkage that goes back to the wishes of William Lambarde (see page), the founder of the almshouse in the late sixteenth century.  It remains an unbroken tradition to this day and Masters of the Rolls have in living memory always accepted the invitation to become members of the Company.

After a short introduction by Graham Clay, the Master Actuary, Lord Phillips reviewed the somewhat confusing genesis of the Supreme Court and the way in which had started operating.  I will not even attempt to summarise Lord Phillips' very concise and cogent arguments, except to say that his tone was optimistic and it was clear that the new Supreme Court had started well. 

All-in-all we were generously entertained by the Actuaries and heard a really worthwhile talk from the President of the Supreme Court that certainly left me considerably better informed.

ROYAL COLLEGE OF DEFENCE STUDIES VISIT: 19 NOVEMBER


The Royal College of Defence Studies is located in Seaford House on the south-east corner of Belgrave Square. 
The Royal College of Defence Studies has, since 1922, provided training for senior officers and officials both from United Kingdom and other countries and future leaders from the private and public sectors for high responsibilities in their respective organisations.  Its mission statement promises to develop analytical powers as well as widening  knowledge of defence and international security.  More details are at www.mod.uk/rcds

Meeting up before lunch in the Drawing Room
I am not entirely sure I measured up to these very high aspirations.  Nevertheless, I attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in Belgrave Square in 1995.   Alastair Ross, the Clerk, also attended as a naval officer a few years earlier.

Most years my course meets up for a reunion and, because each course includes representatives from at least twenty-five countries, they are held world-wide including Australia, South Africa and the Czech Republic. This year, the fifteenth anniversary of our course, the reunion was back in London.

As part of the series of events in this year's programme we met at the Hall on Friday.  A good number turned up and after a buffet lunch we toured the Hall.  As usual Penny Fussell gave her excellent talk that she seems to to tailor effortlessly to each group of visitors.

The Master's jewel about half size.

I began the visit by wearing my Master's badge which is an impressive jewel containing 365 diamonds, one for each day of the Master's year.  One of the less respectable members of my course suggested on a leap year the 366th should be worn as a nose stud.  I think this idea has little chance of adoption by what I have absolutely no doubt, as far as the male members are concerned, is an unpierced Court.

In the Company's strong room.


Planning now starts for the sixteenth reunion.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

GREAT XII MASTERS AND CLERKS DINNER: 17 NOVEMBER

One of the customs of the Great XII livery companies (see page on this subject) is that over a year each Company entertains the Master, Prime Warden in the case of the Fishmongers and Goldsmiths, and Clerk of the other eleven companies at the Hall.

Of course it would not be admitted there is any inter-company rivalry as to who puts on the best show but it is an event where the team who run the Hall led by Alastair Ross, the Clerk, John Freestone, the Beadle and Gerald Quadros, our new head chef, put both a great deal of thought and energy into the evening.

Every Master labours under the illusion that his year hosts the best party ever but, being as objective as possible, I think we had a great evening.  It was particularly nice to be told how the Company atmosphere in the Hall is particularly welcoming and hospitable.

The Master Mercer, Sir David Clementi, makes a speech on the behalf of the guests, except of course at the Mercers' own dinner.  In his youth he was a noted hurdler and made specific reference to Second Master Warden Lady Victoria Leatham's father, the sixth Marquess of Exeter.  In addition to being a Draper he was a Conservative politician, prominent athlete and sports official. He won the 400 metre hurdles at the 1928 Summer Olympics - a feat famously portrayed in Chariots of Fire.  He was later President of the International Amateur Athletic Federation and Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee. David said it was a matter of personal pride that improved training and equipment had allowed him to beat the 1928 record some forty years later.

He also asked me to put a glowing report of the evening on my blog, but I have probably said enough already.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

FIFTH ANNUAL TECHNICAL TEXTILES AWARDS: 16 NOVEMBER

At the beginning of the Millennium the Company reviewed its connections with the textile industry.  We identified one area where we needed to engage more closely.  That is what is somewhat loosely called technical textiles.  This is a huge area but the key characteristics are the use of conventional textiles to do unconventional things or the converse.  The importance of this sector has increased in recent times as much of our traditional textile manufacturing base has disappeared in the face of competition from countries where production costs are much lower.  However much technical textile development has remained in the United Kingdom harnessing the skills and ingenuity of a wide variety of companies, university research departments and individuals.

I acquired a bit of knowledge about the sector a decade or so ago when I was the owner, in Ministry of Defence jagon, of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency that included the Stores and Clothing Research and Development Establishment at Colchester.  This did a bit of everything from designing ceremonial uniforms to developing body armour.

To stimulate this exciting area of activity the Company entered into a partnership with the Industrial Trust, now merged with the Educational Development Trust http://www.etrust.org.uk/ in 2005.  The partnership aims to enhance the career prospects of young people and enable companies in the technical textiles sector to recruit the talented people they need.  Specific objectives are to:

Educate young people about technical textiles and the stimulating careers that are available in the innovative companies in the sector.

Encourage young people to study subjects relevant to the sector, including the sciences and technology, and to encourage them to take up a career in the field.

Give publicity and exposure to the importance of technical textiles.

The partnership has gone well.  It has brought a large number of technical textile companies and other organisations into the project as hosts and partners.  There have been thousands of school visits to firms and visits by firms to schools.  There has been an annual competition and the results of the fifth one were on display in the Hall on the afternoon of 16 November when well over two hundred people connected in some way with the world of technical textiles came to the Hall.

There were broadly three levels of entry for this year's awards: Key Stage 4 about to take GCSEs, sixth formers and university students.  All the prizes included not only a cash element provided by the Company but also work experience and mentoring for the older students.   There were lots of good ideas a robot man simulator and baby clothes that provided a warning if they got too cold were just two of them.

Importantly the awards stress the importance of science and mathematics as a foundation for entering a really innovative and exciting sector and this was reinforced by the guest speaker, Marie-Noelle Barton MBE, a former director of WISE -Women into Science and Engineering.

A number of firms and universities had stands to demonstrate their commitment to technical textiles and the Bloodhound SSC project - see http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/ - that aims to get a ground vehicle to reach 1,000mph was also present.

A  great afternoon and one where the Company was able to demonstrate it is playing a part in promoting British industry and ingenuity.

Friday, 19 November 2010

GRICERS' SPECIAL: RIDE ON NEW S STOCK: 16 NOVEMBER

In acknowledgement to my readers who come through Railway Eye http://www.railwayeye.blogspot.com/ (great blog, I just wonder who writes it. Nigel Harris of Rail - http://www.railmagazine.com/ - says he knows but is not telling.) I thought I should recount my first ride on a S Stock train on the very short run from Pinner to Harrow-on-the-Hill on Tuesday 16 November. 

S Stock train on right heading north at Northwick Park Station on the fast lines.  An A Stock train looking both dowdy and fifty years old on the left.  Photograph by Julian Gajewski and taken with thanks from his Flikr site.

A Metropolitan T Stock driving car converted to line cleaning use at Rickmansworth station.  Before the early 1960s this was as far out from London that the Metropoiltan line was electrified.  Rickmansworth was where trains to and from Aylesbury changed motive power from steam to electric.  Surprisingly I can find no contemporary pictures of T Stock in service.  Perhaps they were such unassuming workhorses that no-one bothered with them.  Photograph by Steve Thoroughgood and taken with thanks from his Flikr site.

New Metropolitan stock is a rare occurence.  As a child of Metroland this is only the third in my 63 year long lifetime.  As with many born before about 1955 I have fond memories of the brown painted compartment T stock: the original BrownRail.  In addition there was the much more glamorous long distance stock hauled on the electrified part of the system by what, as schoolboys, we called 'bugs'.  These were Metropolitan Vickers electric locomotives, all of them bearing names and all painted in a handsome lake livery with gold lettering, but these rarely stopped at Pinner.

The electrification out to Amersham and Chesham and the four tracking between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Moor Park were the death knell for the brown stock.  It was followed by the then very advanced A60 silver stock in the early 1960s that, I think contrary to all predictions, lasted fifty years.  T stock only managed thirty or so.

On first encounter I am not entirely enthusiatic about S class.  A big plus is that it is lighter and airier than its predecessors.  The Hong Kong MTR type all through corridor also adds to this.  However the negatives are a very noisy air-conditioning system and a suprisingly rough ride - I know that the track is not in peak condition these days but I had expected better.  I do not want to make invidious comparisons between this Bombardier product and the Siemens Class 444 Desiros, but I do think the latter have a much better ride.

But the big deficiency is the relative lack of seats.  Many of those that are provided face inwards. Beyond Finchley Road and out to the Chilterns there is lot to see but one is now reduced to trying to read the opposite passenger's newspaper.  Also any seat on the run to the outer suburbs is welcome, especially as the Metropolitan line is much slower than it was thirty years ago.

Sorry that my first gricer section in this blog is such a gum-bumper.  I shall try and find something else more positive next time I write a blog using the Gricing label, but don't get me started on Circle Line signalling or the earthbound limbo that is the Baker Street flat junction.

LYNN PAINTER STAINERS PRIZE AWARDS: 15 NOVEMBER

On Monday evening I attended ceremomy at Painter Stainers' Hall where the winners of the Sixth Lynn Foundation and the Painter Stainers' Prize awards were announced.  The prize aims to showcase outstanding contemporay portraiture, landscape and still life from artists throughout the United Kingdom.

For more information about the prize, including illustrations of the 67 short-listed paintings, out of the nearly 800 submitted, in this year's competition go to  lps@parkerharris.co.uk  I would have liked to have reproduced some of the ones that caught my attention but I think that the site does not encourage copying.  For details about the Painter Stainers' company go to http://www.paintershall.co.uk/

This is an extremely generous competition with prizes totalling £22,500.  The £15,000 top prize was won by Rachel Levitas with an intriguing picture of two urban foxes in a London street.  On receiving the prize she revealed that recent shortage of funds had meant that she had given up her studio but now she was back in business.

The pictures were an interesting snapshot of up and coming artistic styles in England today.  I hesitate to charcterise but there was a lot of hyper and magical realism with a big emphasis on painterly skills.  It is nice to see that it has received a good coverage in, of all places, the Evening Standard's City Spy column - most recently on 18 November.

General Sir Roger Wheeler, who was Chief of General Staff in the late nineties, is this year's Master Painter Stainer and presided over a most enjoyable evening.

Do, at very least, skim through the slide show at lps@parkerharris.co.uk  I think you will find it interesting.

LORD MAYOR'S SHOW FLOTILLA 2010: 13 NOVEMBER

Getting ready at St Katherine's Dock the Company barge in the foreground.  Tower Bridge framing the scene nicely. Photograph by Janice Thomson. 

 
Not quite heading upstream, a tricky manoeuvre to get back on station.  Left to right Gill Durdal, John Borradaile, Andrew Finlay -as the Wiffler at the bow - Robin Blandy, Alastair Ross and Andrew Oborne. Richard Norton's hat just visible at bottom of picture.  Photograph by Janice Thomson.
 
Things probably not best to wear on the Thames.  I am wearing the Master's fetching hat and gown over a life jacket and some warm clothing.  Rosemary is much more elegantly dressed.  Photograph by Janice Thomson

For the first time in many years the Lord Mayor had asked for a flotilla to row upstream from St Katherine's Dock just beyond Tower Bridge to Waterloo Bridge.  He would acknowledge the flotilla and it would arrive shortly before his fireworks display.

Originally the Lord Mayor's procession had been based on the Thames and had only moved on land in the mid-nineteenth century.  The reasons for this are a matter of some debate.  Two favourite themes emerge.  The first that the whole enterprise had become a chaotic shambles and second the extremely unsanitary conditions of the Thames, it was in effect an open sewer serving a rapidly growing city, were so unpleasant that no-one wanted to take part in or observe the event.  Probably it was the combination of both.

Whatever the true story a hundred and fifty years later we were re-creating history.  Twenty rowing boats of various types took part and we set off from St Katherine's Dock at 3.40pm into a steadily darkening late autumn evening. The Royal Thamesis, the Company's barge (see more details on an earlier post of  29 September), was crewed by stalwarts of the Company including:  Andrew Thomson, Cox and Bargemaster, Andrew Finlay, Wiffler - at the bow, John Borradaile, Robin Blandy, Richard Norton, Gilll Dirdal, Andrew Oborne, and Alastair Ross. Rosemary and I along with our daughter Grace, Janice Thomson and Sue Borradaile sat in relative luxury under the awning.

From the outset it was clear that the tide was moving faster than anticipated and we made rapid progress.  But very early on the plans for a tightly marshalled flotilla failed to be achieved although our admirable Whiffler, Andrew Finlay, kept station with the Jubilant - the vessel at the centre of the flotilla, as well he could.  There was an exciting moment when we crossed over a very substantial rope linking two buoys that suddenly appeared in our path.  A following craft, not so expertly handled, got stuck trying to do the same manoeuvre.

There was good turnout along the Embankment and a vociferous crowd of Drapers had come down from the Hall to cheer us on.

 Almost as dusk was falling we passed the Lord Mayor.  I precariously stood up and doffed my cap but I have severe doubts as to whether anyone more than a few yards away saw me.

Our task completed we tied up.  It was a great experience.  It was clear to me that the significant difficulties of organising and maintaining any form of order with a river based display makes a land-based option much more attractive.  This must have been a principal reason for the transfer of the Lord Mayor's Show to the land.

I thank the Drapers' barge team for a really great experience.  I have no doubt that the Lord Mayor's Flotilla will again become a permanent feature of the Lord Mayor's Show in future years.

We than stood on the Victoria Embankment and watched the spectacular fireworks display that concluded the day.

The firework display in its full glory.  St Pauls is lit up in the left distance and the OXO Tower a bit closer on the right.  Photograph BBC News.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

LORD MAYOR'S SHOW 2010: 13 NOVEMBER

The Lord Mayor's splendid coach, escorted by pikemen of the Honourable Artillery Company, on the Lord Mayor's Show parade.  Past Nasterc Stephen Foakes is a leading member of this ancient organisation and marched immediaitely behind the coach.  Unfortunately he is out of sight in this picture.
Saturday was the Lord Mayor's Show, for more details of this lively parade through the streets of the City of London go to http://www.lordmayorsshow.org/

As Master Draper I was not required to be in the show this year as involvement is shared out amongst the Great XII companies.  However I did take part in the Lord Mayor's Show Flotilla later in the afternoon; see next post.

Rosemary and I decided to make it a family outing to London to see the street parade.  Also the Hall was open during the day to allow the Freedom, Livery and those working for the Company to use as a base. Lunch was also laid on.  As the Hall is only a few hundred yards from the Mansion House it is in an ideal position to observe the start and finish of the parade.

Lunch was a great success.  Children were most welcome and it was great to see a rather younger crowd than normal in the Hall.  Also I am certain some future liveryen and freemen, and possibly a future Master, received their first introduction to the Company.

A great day that was both quite mild and more importantly entire free from rain.  At 2.30pm we were off to HMS President at St Katherine's Dock to take part in the flotilla: see next post.

ARMOURERS AND BRASIERS 11 NOVEMBER

The Livery hall of the Armourers and Brasiers showing part of their fine collection of arms and armour.  Picture from the Company website http://www.armourersandbrasiers.co.uk/

On Thursday evening it was a short walk from the Hall with Alastair Ross, the Clerk, to the Armourers' Hall on London Wall and just a bit closer to Moorgate Station than we are. 

The Company is unusual in reflecting the amalgamation of two trades on equal terms.  Regrettably in the days when trading monopolies were seen to bring very great advantage rival guilds could be very hostile towards each other and the stronger dominated, or sometimes eliminated, the weaker. The Armourers and Brasiers own a beautiful hall with a very fine display of armour, predominately from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.   For more details see http://www.armourersandbrasiers.co.uk/

In recent times the Company has established a major presence in encouraging the education in science and to promote materials science both commercially and industrially. 

The current Master, Sir Colin Humphreys, is a leading figure in this field.  His research interests include "all aspects of electron microscopy and analysis, semiconductors (particularly gallium nitride), ultra-high temperature aerospace materials and superconductors.  Amongst a remarkably wide range of prestigious appointments he is the Goldsmiths’ Professor of Materials Science at Cambridge University, Professor of Experimental Physics at the Royal Institution in London and a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He was President of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in 2002 and 2003.

The response on behalf of the guests was given by Professor Julia King Vice Chancellor Aston University who made a spirited case for more energy efficient technology as one would expect from the leader of the 2008 eponymous King Review to examine the vehicle and fuel technologies that, over the next 25 years, could help to reduce carbon emissions from road transport.  She has only this month been appointed by the Prime Minister as the UK's Low Carbon Business Ambassador.

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs it is both fascinating and impressive to observe the huge range of City Livery Company interests and the way the movement is involved in so many vital issues that face us both globally and nationally.  The Armourers and Brasiers are right in the forefront in this regard.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

INFORMAL LIVERY DINNER 10 NOVEMBER

The Livery of the Company is approximately 300 strong and is its senior members.  By ancient custom the Livery comes together to dine at the Hall on a number occasions each year.  The other ancient custom where the Livery in its robes - hence the name - paraded through the streets of London on notable festival days has long disappered into history.

There are now three Livery Dinners in the Company year that starts in late July. Two are major events: one in April where the Company entertains the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs.  Although with 108 livery companies and relentless overseas travel commitments we do not always entertain the Lord Mayor these days.  The other is the Election Dinner in July: see some of my earliest posts.

The third is a more low key affair.  Guests are not invited and the Livery dine rather more informally and with a lot less ceremony. This year's Informal Livery Dinner took place on Wednesday 10 November.

The after dinner speeches are also very curtailed and principally include a 'state of the nation' review by the Master of the Company. 

This year I thought I could be particularly positive. 

Drapers' Academy has opened.  Work on the new school buildings is at last underway.  Now we are started there is an opportunity for the Livery and Freedom of the Company to become engaged in a number of ways.  We need to share our success and experience with the Harold Hill community. 

Despite the unsettled and unsettling times our investment portfolio is doing very well and our assets are back at the highest levels we have seen over the last few decades.  A great deal of credit goes to Past Master John Padovan and the Investments Committee - I shall do a post on this vital group shortly - aided by our Director Finance, David Sumner, and Company Secretary, Priya Ponnaiyah.

Finally, I noted that the Almshouse Review Committee, under the leadership of Past Master Graham Zellick, is beginning to define the issues that need to be addressed to make progress.

In response Past Master David Addis, only recently and safely back from the southern Sudan where he was setting up a radio station, gave a most generous vote of thanks.  Its content was such that, as the saying goes, only my mothere would recognise the person described.

It is a pleasant position to be in to report such positive developments and, despite a difficult economic situation the Company is in a position to move forward in so many areas.

MUCH MORE INTERESTING THAN IT SOUNDS: FINANCE AND GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE MEETING

In common with many other charities and businesses the Company has a Finance and General Purposes Committee. meets about eight times to year to cover a whole range of Company activity. 

The major job is to maintain oversight of the Company's finances, both those which are charitable and also what is known in the Company as corporate.  That is the funds for the day to day management of the Company and the Hall, including our substantial catering business.  This part of our activity pays tax but, of course, can contribute surpluses to charity.  Additionally the Committee has oversight of a huge range of other activities.

The Committee has for some years been chaired by Past Master David Handley and its members include Past Masters Peter Bottomley, Graham Zellick, Master Warden Tony Walker, Assistant David Chalk and  Liverymen Philip Beddows, Nigel Maud and Ben Padovan.

The agenda for Wednesday's meeting was typical in its variety.  It included:

An update on Past Master Graham Zellick's Almshouse Review

Rationalising the Company ownership of our share in the Mark Lane island site. Hopefully after many years as a boarded up eyesore near Fenchurch Street Station it is, with a fair wind, about to go forward to substantial redevelopment.  As it is still somewhat speculative the charity share is being bought out by corporate and the charity's share is planned to be invested in a petrol station in Wapping, not quite so glamorous but it brings in a secure income.

Reviewing the Company's risk register and the analysis arising from it.

Taking an overview of the catering operation.  This is a growing business with John Freestone and his team turning over nearly £2million annually.

In summary a lot of useful work done to maintain the Company on an even keel and ensure its successful development.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE ST PAULS: 8 NOVEMBER

The City holds its Garden of Remembrance Service on the Monday before 11 November.  It is an open air event held on the north-eastern side of St Pauls. 

A wide cross section of the City attend led by the Lord Mayor.  This year he was travelling abroad and was represented by Lord Levene of Portsoken.

The current National President of the Royal British Legion is Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely.  When were majors at Staff College thirty years ago we shared a house in a distant suburb of Camberley.  I can recall that he was worried about my getting out of shape prior to the Staff College summer holidays.  In good infantry officer style he took me through some tough 'beastings' to get me toned up.

But to return to the present.  The weather was quite ferocious which was not in any way relieved by the more experienced saying that it never rained at this service.  From the military historical viewpoint we were put through a reasonable replay of final stages of the Third Battle of Ypres - where Haig encountered the worst weather in Flanders for fifty years.

John Kiszely, in a pre-service talk in the St Paul's crypt, told us of the wonderful work that volunteers had done to make this year's poppy appeal a record breaking event.   In a single day a team of highty motivated and meticulously prepared individuals had raised over £250,000.  A great achievement.  For more information go to www.BritishLegion.org.uk

The crosses on the Field of Remembrance were planted by a wide range of City organisations including all 108 livery companies.  Throughout we were accompanied by the Royal British Legion whose flagbearers faced quite a challenge to keep their standards steady in the wind and rain.  The Band of the Scots Guards also did spendidly playing in such difficult circumstances.

A moving ceremony that allowed all of us to demonstrate our gratitude for the commitment of our Services past and present.

Monday, 8 November 2010

MERCHANT ADVENTURERS OF YORK VENISON FEAST 5 NOVEMBER

External view of the Hall; a great survivor from the middle ages.  Picture taken from the Merchant Adventurers' website http://www.theyorkcompany.co.uk/
Despite the opportunity to celebrate Guy Fawkes, one of York's sons,  the Merchant Adventurers of York went ahead and celebrated their annual Venison Feast on Friday.  Incidentally this was yet another oportunity to repeat the old saying that Guy Fawkes was the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions.

The Venison Feast is held in their magnificent medieval hall in the city that has been in continuous use by the Company since its construction in the 1360s.  For more details go to http://www.theyorkcompany.co.uk/

I was one of the London Masters, led by the Master Mercer, Sir David Clementi, attending.  The dinner took its traditional form including a sample of the venison being brought before the Governor, the equivalent title of Master, for his approval.  The Governor, Richard Haynes, gave his unqualified agreement and the venison was the centrepiece of an excellent meal.

David Clementi, as is custom for the Master Mercer, was also admitted as an honorary member of the Merchant Adventurers as the company was principally one of mercers five hundred years ago.  In livery company historical terms this is a mere eyeblink away.

The response to the Governor and the Company was given by Professor David Wormesley, Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford.  I was pleased to note that in his wide-ranging and amusing speech he mentioned he had been a Drapers' Company Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1981.

At the end of the meal we reurned to the undercroft where excellent Yorkshire Bitter was on offer.

HRH PRINCE OF WALES' RECEPTION FOR WELSH GUARDS AFGHANISTAN APPEAL 3 NOVEMBER

Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall held a reception at Clarence House on Wednesday to thank all those who had helped get the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal so successfuly started. Despite it being yet another London Underground RMT strike day this did not seem to have prevented anyone invited from attending.  Military initiative had clearly been well exercised in creating successful alternative travel plans.

The Company has, as I reported in an earlier blog (15 August), a most fruitful link with the Welsh Guards and was delighted to contribute Drapers' Company charitable funds to the Appeal and also make the Hall available for a major fund raising dinner earlier this year.

Also in recent years members of the Company have gone on some very challenging exercises with the Regiment in such places as Belize.  Liveryman Caroline Curtis-Dolby has really enjoyed the rigours of the jungle and much impressed the Regiment.  So much so that she has managed to juggle running her jewellery design business (see http://www.ccdjewellery.com/ ) with being a member of the Appeal Committee.

At the close of the evening Prince Charles gathered us alll together in the hall of Clarence House and was most complimentary in his praise of the way in which everyone had played a part in getting this major initiative off the ground not only in London but equally in Wales. 

If you want to know more about the Appeal go to www.welshguardsappeal.com/

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

GLOVERS' COMPANY INSTALLATION LUNCH FOR MASTER 2 NOVEMBER

Early November is the time when the Master Glover is installed and by tradition the lunch for Glovers, their partners and guests, following a service at St Margaret's, Lothbury is held at Drapers' Hall.  I was very kindly invited to attend. It is always a pleasant experience for me to be entertained in my own Hall.  The first reason for this is that I am not in charge, the second is to observe yet again John Freestone, the Beadle, and his team's excellent management of such events and lastly to receive compliments about the Hall and the way we, as a Company, look after our heritage.

Roderick Morris had just been elected Master of the Glovers' Company. For more details of the Company go to http://www.thegloverscompany.org/   It is a Company representing a great British craft tradition but sadly today it is yet another aspect of our manufacturing heritage that is facing stiff competition from overseas.  However as part of the ceremonies I was very generously presented with a superb pair of black leather lined gloves by Chester Jeffries (http://www.chesterjeffries.co.uk/ ) that fit me perfectly and will be just the thing when I am waiting for a delayed First Great Western train service to London at Pewsey station this winter.  I can recommend them to anyone who wants a pair of warm, stylish and comfortable gloves.

While waiting to be introduced to the Master I met Richard Morris a liveryman of the Company who is also an Old Bancroftian- see earlier posts.  He is another survivor of the very rigorous boarding regime at the school before the boarding house was closed in the late seventies.  He reminded me, as all Old Bancroftian boarders do without the slightest prompting, as to the extraordinarily Spartan regime of the time.  Most of the boarders seemed to have lived in a huge open dormitory in the attic of the main building that was baking hot in summer and icily cold in winter.   It seems on retelling like something out Mervyn Peake's fertile imagination and if he had but known about it I am sure it would have been included in the plot of Gormengast.  I have to say that Richard seemed to have survived the experience remarkably well.

Richard told me he had, in his capacity as Secretary of the Loughton and District Historical Society, become a very active local historian.  Earlier this year Pen and Sword had published his book The Man who Ran London about Lieutenant General Sir Francis Lloyd who was the ebullient and forceful General Officer Commanding London Disterict during the First World War.  His north-east London connection was that he lived in Chigwell.  He was an extraordinarly good public speaker and was a great crowd puller at patriotic rallies.  Richard told me he spoke at such events held at Drapers' Hall between 1914 and 1918. 

Around 3.00pm the lunch began to draw to a close.  It had been a most interesting and enjoyable event and I had been looked after very well and received many compliments about the the Company, our Hall and our staff.  The warm glow ensuing was not entirely due the port.

SIR WILLIAM BOREMAN'S FOUNDATION: GOVERNORS' MEETING 2 NOVEMBER

Following my visit to Drapers' Academy, see previous post, I was in attendance at the Goveernors' meeting of the Sir William Boreman Foundation in the Hall.

In 1684 Sir William Boreman bequeathed to the Drapers’ Company the school he had founded in Greenwich, together with adjacent land and property and other property interests, on trust for the endowment of the school.

The school, except for a short period of closure in the late eighteenth century functioned successfully until 1874 when its site was compulsorily acquired for the extension of the South Eastern Railway.

The school reopened as the Greenwich Hospital School and moved to Suffolk in 1927 and is today the Royal Hospital School.  Boreman's charity was changed at the same time to enable the income to be used for granting awards for the education and training of young people under 25 years of age and residing in Greenwich and Lewisham. Preference is still shown towards children of watermen, seamen or fishermen - but it has to be said few present themselves.

The Company makes grants exceeding £1.5million annually to a wide variety of charities and charitable purposes.  In addition it is trustee of three substantial almshouses.  Boremans is one of our smallest charities, it distributes some £65,000 annually.  However it meets a specific need by making the majority of its grants to individuals who need financial help in their education.

The Board of Governors led by Tony Walker, Master Warden, meet three times a year to consider applications for grants from both individuals and organisations.   The Drapers' Governors include Assistant Nicholas Bence-Trower and Liverymen Lucy Barber, Gill Dirdal and Emma House.  There are also representatives from the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham, the University of Greenwich and St Alfege's Church, Greenwich that has long been associated with the charity.  The meeting on 2 November was the first in the Company year that starts in July.

Applications are carefully considered with the focus increasingly being made on granting relatively small annual sums of around £1000 to meet living and associated expenses rather than tutorial fees.  We anticipate this is going to be an area of increasing need as the costs of education bear down more heavily on students and other agencies are unable to provide support.  The Governors also make grants to various organisations and projects in the Greenwich/Lewisham area that have a focus on yoing people.

If you want to know more about the Foundation go to http://www.thedrapers.co.uk/  and follow the links through to Boreman's Foundation.

DRAPERS' ACADEMY: HALF WAY THROUGH THE FIRST TERM

North Building with only a few weeks to go before demolition.  Keir's temporary fencing line will be replaced by something a lot more permanent over the next few days.  Framed by trees in autumnal hues the building looks almost attractive - it is alleged to have won an award in 1952.  But times move on and this building has served its purpose over the last sixty years and will be replaced by something very much better.

The Temporary Science blocks.  They may look a bit basic externally but the do the job and are really well fitted-out inside.

I caught the 'Red-Eye to Romford' from Liverpool Street at 6.30am on 2 November to be at Drapers' Academy in time for morning assembly and discussions with Matthew Slater, the Principal, and Stephen Beeson, Director of Finance, so that I could get back in time for the Sir William Boreman's Foundation meeting at 11.00am (see next post).

Things are moving very fast at the Academy.  The team Matthew leads have put in a huge amount of effort to enrich teaching and establish the basic standards of behaviour are are essential building blocks on which to base academic and personal improvement.  I was really impressed with the progress being made.  I think a really great story is starting.

The temporary accommodation providing both great new science classrooms and a girls changing room where the showers actually work are ready to go.  Late connection to the new electric sub-station is a few days away and while I was there the standby generator was failing lamentably and setting off all sorts of carbon momoxide warnings.  But by Friday this should be a thing of the past.

Kier has temporarily fenced off the North Building site and the huge grounds around the Academy are now a lot smaller.

Drapers' Academy has got off to a good start and by the first half-term a lot has been achieved.  But there is huge amount still do on a whole range of issues: raising academic standards, giving every child at the Academy the best chance possible and creating a new school in outstanding buildings.  Big challenges but everyone seems up for it.

TOWER OF LONDON: CONSTABLE'S DINNER 1 NOVEMBER

General Sir Richard Dannatt, who was installed as Constable of HM Tower of London last year, held a dinner in the New Armouries of the Tower of London on Monday night.

An interesting cross section of guests were invited.  There was a strong contingent of military from London District, the various managers of the Tower, led by the Governor, Major General Keith Cima, and the organisations within its walls, the City of London, including the livery companies, and the Ministry of Defence. 

There was a time, of course when the brooding mass of the White Tower and the rest of the fortress as it was built up over the centuries after the Norman Conquest looked down over the City.  Relations between monarch and London have changed a lot since then and not only is the Tower one of the biggest tourist attractions in London but it also plays a full part in City life.

At the end of dinner we watched the Ceremony of the Keys, where the Tower is ceremonially made secure for the night by the military guard and the Yeomen Warders.  Then it was off into the night having experienced a most enjoyable evening.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

BARTS AND THE LONDON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND DENTISTRY: ST LUKES TIDE SERVICE OF DEDICATION 26 OCTOBER

Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry is part of Queen Mary University of London (see www.smd.qmul.ac.uk/ for more information).  Its charitable trust has made a particularly generous offer to Drapers' Academy concerning the potential award of a fully funded medical and dental scholarship in 2014, of which more in a moment.


The highy atmospheric interior of
St Barts the Great
On Tuesday evening the School held its annual St Luke's-tide Service of Dedication in the magnificent church of St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield.  For more details go to www.greatstbarts.com/ The current church is the surviving part of a twelfth century monastery and, despite the depredations of the centuries, still projects an atmosphere of its deep past.

The service complemented this.  The faculty of the school entered the church in their academic gowns and predominant colours of dark blue and claret as the autumn evening drew in gave some small sense as to what the atmosphere would have been like before the Reformation when the building was part of the great Augustinian abbey that occupied the site.

After the service there the commemorative William Harvey dinner followed at Butchers' Hall nearby.  Harvey (1578-1657) was Physician at St Bartholomew's Hospital from1609.  He was one of the great medical pioneers, in particular identifying the true purpose of the heart.  In parallel with William Lambarde, see other posts, he was in a group of Englishmen at the time who used careful observation and analysis to redefine our understanding of the world around us. 

Also to return to the Barts and the London School for Medicine and Dentistry and the new Drapers' Academy.  As co-sponsor of the academy Queen Mary University of London has a programme where under- and post-graduates visit the school and the medical and dental faculties play a part in this. 

Additionally Barts and the London Trust have recently created a medical and dental scholarship that will fully fund a place for five years.  This is awarded once every three years and in 2014 they have said that Drapers' Academy will be given first opportunity to produce a suitable candidate for the award.  This will be a huge challenge for our newly created sixth form.  However if we can get a student from Harold Hill into one of the country's leading medical schools this will be a great achievement for both the individual and the wider community.

VISIT TO COMPANY OF MERCHANTS OF THE CITY OF EDINBURGH: 22/23 OCTOBER

To Scotland for a Friday night Court Dinner of the Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh. The Company plays a major part in Edinburgh business, corporate, educational, it is trustee for three of the leading independent schools in the city, and charitable life.  For more details go to www.mcoe.org.uk/

The Merchants' Hall is a handsome building just off Princes Street.  A contingent of London livery companies attended along with the  masters of livery companies from Richmond, Yorkshire, Sheffield and York. 

Kennedy Dalton, Master, led the Company in giving us a warm welcome and a livery dinner with a Scottish 'twist.'  The Lord Provost, the Rt Hon George Grubb, led the after dinner speakers.

Next morning included a visit to the Scottish Parliament building. It was interesting to see how the interresting range of natural materials used are ageing nicely.

It was good to meet our opposite numbers in Edinburgh and recall that the guild and livery movement is UK wide.

Monday, 25 October 2010

MARKETORS: GRANT OF ROYAL CHARTER 19 OCTOBER

The Marketors held a splendid ceremony at the Guildhall on Tuesday evening to celebrate the granting of the first charter to the Company.   It is 32 years since the Marketors, who represent the marketing profession, became a livery company and they are clearly flourishing.  For more details go to www.marketors.org/ and also go to the Master Marketor's blog http://www.worshipfulcompanyofmarketors.blogspot.com/ for further information.

Although a royal charter is now no longer essential for the operation of a livery company it is nevertheless sought as a recognition of pre-eminence, stability and permanence.  It certainly marks an important step in the growth and development of a company.

I was delighted to be invited, as I can recall first hearing of the Company some twelve years ago when it was, slightly indignantly, brought to my attention that 151 (Greater London) Transport Regiment Royal Logistic Corps had created a link with the Marketors. At that time I was Head of the Corps and was reminded that our rule was that individual units were not allowed to establish links with livery companies and that these had to be on a corps-wide basis. At the time these included the Cooks, Carmen and Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers.
 
I was already a liveryman of both the Drapers and Carmen and felt that, despite our rules, a TA unit based on London should be allowed to establish this sort of affiliation.  In any event it transpired that the link between company and regiment went back to the earliest days of the Marketors.  It was just that we had not found out about it.

Over the years I am pleased to say the the relationship between ‘One Five One’ and Company has developed well.  It was good to see an old colleague Brigadier Richard Rook, in this capacity as honorary colonel of the regiment, and the current commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Adrian Lee, were both present on the top table.

The Master of the Company, Venetia Howes, led the complex ceremonies, involving amongst others HRH Duke of Edinburgh, most elegantly.  Overall it was a solemn yet friendly occasion marking yet another step in the development of the Marketors. 

It was a privilege to be present.

FISHMONGERS' COMPANY: VISIT TO BILLINGSGATE 19 OCTOBER

On 5.50am on Tuesday I was walking down a near deserted King William Street towards Fishmongers’ Hall on the Thames Embankment for a visit at the invitation of Robin Holland-Martin, Prime Warden of the Fishmongers' Company, to Billingsgate fish market.

Ensuring that the quality of fish sold in London has been one of the responsibilities of the Fishmongers’ Company since the middle ages.  For more details see www.fishhall.org.uk/ and http://www.billingsgate-market.org.uk/ 


A general view of the market hall. This, and the picture below, taken from http://www.seafoodtraining.org/ the website for the Seafood Training School run at Billingsgate Market by the Fishmongers' Company and offering a wide range of interesting courses.


A view of the entrance to the market.  Canary Wharf on the left. 
  
The original site a few hundred yards downriver from the Fishmongers’ Hall closed in 1982 and a new market was built at the north end of the Isle of Dogs. I can recollect that at the time New Billingsgate was a novelty and added a distinct splash of colour to the wasteland that then existed round the West India Docks.  Today it is dwarfed by the huge developments in and around Canary Wharf and tangled up in the skein of the ever more complex track layouts of the Docklands Light Railway.

I can also remember the pervasive urban myth at the time of the move that the deep freeze storage in the basement of the old Billingsgate had created a crust of permafrost that kept the building firm on its foundations and that once turned off it would melt slowly into the Thames. Urban myths are usually far more exciting than the reality and the building, restored by Norman Foster, still stands.

Back to Billingsgate.  As we arrived the market was in full swing, it is open betwen 5.00 and 8.30. The Fishmongers maintain, at their own expense, a small team of inspectors to ensure the high quality of seafood sold at New Billingsgate

The Fishmongers’ inspectors took us round the main trading floor. This comprises a over fifty dealers with varying sized stands selling a huge variety of species.  We were initiated into a whole range of useful information.  How to spot a factory farmed turbot from a distance, the way that species of fish differed in detailed colour and texture depending where they are caught and the huge expansion of more exotic species, led by the ubiquitous tilapia, being introduced into the trade.

Afterwards it was back up river to Fishmongers' Hall by the commuter catamaran for a breakfast that, of course, included a good, fishy kedgeree.

Monday, 18 October 2010

OLD BANCROFTIANS' 104th DINNER 15 OCTOBER

On Friday evening I was at the Great Hall of Bancroft's School at Woodford for the annual dinner of the Old Bancroftians, an event now well set into its second century.   Details of the Old Bancroftians are at http://www.bancroftians.net/

I have not been to every Old Bancroftians' Dinner since I became associated with the school some ten years ago but I think that the turn out was as large, if not larger, than ever and what was also good to see was that there was a large contingent of recent school leavers.  In fact I came across one guest who was still at the school.

Jim Williams is this year's President.  He was one of the last boarders at the school. From its foundation Bancroft's had been a boys school with boarders.  However it had to go through a major change in the mid-seventies when the then Labour government arbitrarily removed direct-grant status from the school.  Because of this the governors, with the full support of the Drapers' Company, made the decision that Bancroft's should become a fully independent co-educational day school.  He gave an amusing speech that included reminiscences of boarding at Bancroft's in its last years.

Jeremy Bromfield, who started teaching at the school in 1973, and is still working part time as well as trying to sort out the archives  and write a further update of the school's history - Jeremy never slows down - also spoke.  He was associated with the boarding house from his earliest time at Bancroft's so could, to an extent, corroborate Jim's stories.

Every speaker mentioned the close links between the Drapers' Company and the the school as being one of the essential reasons for its success.  This, of course, is always gratifying for a Master Draper to hear.   But, having been Chairman of Governors, I am more than aware that a succession of very able Heads, dedicated teachers, as well as the work of the Drapers and non-Drapers governors, have also been essential to the great success of the school over the years.

It was good to see the Old Bancroftians, of all generations, in good heart. With the words of Floreat Bancroftia sung the evening drew to a close.  Yet another event organised and enjoyed by a flourishing and forward looking Association.

MUSICIANS' DINNER: 13 OCTOBER

When starting this blog I sort of made a personal rule that I would probably not comment on every dinner and lunch, particularly where I did not speak.  On reflection I think this rule should be broken as I went to the Musicians' Company dinner at Salters' Hall on Wednesday.

It was an interesting evening spent with a creative and imaginative Company that culminated with Professor Stephen Goss, who, in his response on behalf of the guests, managed to link Hans Werner Henze, one of the grand, yet angry, men of post war European music, with Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Creation.  As he concluded he challenged us to construct our own heterotopias, I felt this was quite a stiff demand after a good meal.  Such an evening should not go unreported.

The Musicians' Company play a large part in the musical life of London.  Further details are at http://www.wcom.org.uk/   The current Master, Maurice Summerfield, has a distinguished musical writing and publishing career with a strong emphasis on the classical guitar and the speaker on behalf of the guests, Professor Stephen Goss, is a noted composer for the instrument. 

However the musical element of the evening was a short piano recital of Schubert, Liszt and Rachmaninov performed beautifully by Grace Yeo, a winner of the Company's Beethoven Medal.

Returning to the subject of heterotopias, it is a concept of  Michel Foucault, who uses the idea of a mirror as a metaphor for the duality and contradictions, the reality and the unreality of utopian projects. A mirror is metaphor for utopia because the image that you see in it does not exist, but it is also a heterotopia because the mirror is a real object that shapes the way you relate to your own image.  (I got this bit from Wikipedia so it must be true) I think most of my readers can agree this is quite an interesting set of ideas; one of the enjoyable serendipities of Mastership are the completely unexpected ideas and experiences that are encountered amongst the diverse liveries of the City.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

DRAPERS' ACADEMY: VISIT TO KEW GARDENS 13 OCTOBER

A view of the famous pagoda at Kew.  We have a great landscaping opportunity at Drapers' Academy, in part to revive a 190 year old landscaping scheme by Humphry Repton (1752-1818).  But this pagoda is probably just a little too ambitious for our budget.

A group of us working on Drapers' Academy, including representatives from Kier, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Cormac Fanning from the Academy, visited Kew Gardens yesterday to discuss how we are going to plant and operate the biome that will play a big part in stimulating the science syllabus as well as being an arresting part of the building's design.

The biome, a two storey glass box with a 1000 square foot footprint, will be built on the south side of the science block and be visible immediately on entering the Academy.  It will be in three segments.  The centre will contain a full size tree, on the eastern side there will be an enclosed arid, hot environment and on the west side, alongside the main corridor, we had originally intended to create a wet tropical environment but after discussion with Kew yesterday we will probably creater a slightly cooler space but one that will grow temperate plants that do would not survive outside in England.  We are creating probably the largest biome at any school in Britain (but I recognise that such records can be easily broken) and a facility that will have a huge ranges of uses.

Discussions with the Kew team, who were really helpful and enthusiastic, were very fruitful, no pun intended, and we came away with lots of ideas and a much clearer idea of the timing and nature of of the various decision points in during the Academy building programme.
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The Kew Gardens team have a great knowledge of the sort of plants that appeal to children and carnivorous plants are right at the top of the list.  This is a Pitcher Plan. It is designed so that  insects fall into the plant into a broth of very powerful enzymes and are digested.  Interesting the little lid on top is not not designed to trap the insect but rather to stop rain entering inside the stem and diluting the strength of the liquids inside. Also the Kew Gardens team told us that after some school visits they have to remove a variety of objects that have been fed to the Venus Fly Traps, rubbers, rulers and sweet wrappers are some of the more commonly found untasty objects. 

Monday, 11 October 2010

LADY GROVER FUND: A WELL KEPT SECRET?

Nothing to do with the Drapers' Company or the City but the following might be of interest to any readers of this blog who are serving or have served as officers in the armed forces.

Some four years ago I took over chairmanship of the Lady Grover’s Fund. This somewhat oddly named friendly society is uniquely established to benefit the wives and children of Service officers, both serving and retired.  Its existence is surprisingly little known amongst many of its target membership. With 3000 members it probably only covers 5% of those eligible to join.

Lady Grover offers a really great deal. For an annual premium of £35 your wife is covered for post-operative care and home help to a total of £6,300 in any one year. We are not aware of any other friendly society offering anything like these levels of cover. Widows can also retain membership and can even join, providing their husbands were eligible for membership.

But equally importantly we are very Service oriented in both senses of the word. We understand the stress that illnesses can bring and we go out of our way to meet claims as quickly, confidentially and sensitively as possible. The few difficult cases that arise are always dealt with by the Council in a positive and we hope generous manner. We pride ourselves on understanding and responding to our members’ needs in the way that a larger and more impersonal organisation would not find so easy.

Also the fact that we are collocated with the Officers’ Association in Victoria means that we can often refer problems very quickly elsewhere if this seems appropriate and if the member agrees.

Lady Grover, the wife of a CinC India before the First World War, set up the society in 1911. Although advances in medicine since then have been considerable and the way we live has changed considerably the need for medical aftercare still exists and for a small premium we can provided hassle-free cover that often does not exist with other health policies.

As we approach our centenary we would like to increase our membership so, if you are eligible, why not join? If you have more than five years' commissioned service and your wife is under 55, Colonel Mike Vickery OBE, the Secretary and Administrator would be delighted to hear from you.

For more details either go to our website http://www.ladygrover.org.uk/ or email Mike direct on ladyg@oaed.org.uk.