Sunday, 15 August 2010


With Alastair and Rosemary I went to St James's Palace for lunch with the Welsh Guards, our affiliated regular Army unit.  Based in Aldershot the battalion was on guard duties in London and using the facilities provided for the Queen's Guard at St James's Palace.

Colonel Tom Bonas, the Regimental Adjutant and our principal contact with the regiment, met us and guided us through the labyrinth of the palace.

At lunch we were very well looked after by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Antelme DSO, his fellow officers and his charming wife Margaret.  Charles and Margaret are only recently married and back from a honeymoon in Sri Lanka.

It has been a time of a lot of travel as a detachment from the battalion added a distinctive dash of British military colour at the sixty fifth anniversary parade in Moscow to commemorate the end of what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War.  By all accounts the Welsh Guards had been most enthusiatically received.

A particular link beteween the Company and the Regiment is the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal.  Jessica Gable-Smith from the appeal was also present.  Earlier this year in April we provided the Hall for an event to launch this excellent charity which is designed to support, as quickly and unbureaucratically as possible, those Welsh Guardsmen who have been casualties in Afghanistan.  This, of course, includes their families as well.  For more details go to

In recent years a number of non-Guards units have taken their turn on duty.  I was intrigued to see that 23 Pioneer Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps had left their mark.  I was honorary colonel of their TA sister regiment, 168 Pioneer Regiment,  and know that the Pioneers, the Army's equivalent of Ground Force, can turn their hand to anything involving carpentry, bricklaying etc.  Outside in a previously little used patio area they had put up a superb piece of decking well above the Alan Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh standard. 

Links with the Welsh Guards are very much two way and they have invited a number of the Company to fly out to join them on an exercise in Kenya later this year.  A very popular and generous offer that was well oversubscribed.

As a Company we are very proud of our links with the regiment and are honoured to be of some support at a time when there is so much that needs to be done.


The Drapers' Academy team headed up by the Principal (designate) Matthew Slater have since January been working out of a shop in Harold Hill's principal shopping centre.  

Not only has it been a good office space but, as it is right in the centre of the community, it provides a very good focus for individuals and families to drop in and find out more about Drapers' Academy. 

It's also a great place to publicise good news.  To help get the story over that the Academy new-build had the go ahead Barbara Abbott, who acts as Matthew's PA, office manager and general point of contact in the office, went ahead and commissioned a banner to hang across the shop front.

It looks really impressive.  It just goes to show that if you have a good story tell it big!

Incidentally a supportive story in the local press:

The Romford Recorder 

The sign has ben recyced and since early September has been tied to the railings in front of Drapers' Academy South Building.

Sign recycled on front fence of Drapers' Academy
(Photograph Liveeryman Sophie Williams-Thomas)

Friday, 6 August 2010


The Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios architect's Model of the Academy looking from the east.  In the foreground is the all-weather pitch.  The white block is the proposed new building for Pyrgo Priory Primary School.  The Drapers' Academy buildings are to the right.  The design is the traditional quadrangle with a design that allows the maximum number of classroms to look out across the exceptional green-belt site.
(Thanks to Liveryman Sophie Williams Thomas for this photgraph)

I was contacted this morning by our project lead in the Department of Education telling us we were in that small group of academies, 44 in total, that have been given the go ahead to re-start our new-build programme with our original grant. I think she was as pleased as I was with the news.

I was told to wait the formal announcement from Michael Gove and this appeared in a form of a letter around 5.00pm this evening.

This is a huge relief. I was not looking forward to the dispriting work we would have had to do had we been turned down or asked to re-negotiate. Now we can devote our energies entirely to getting things done.

We have, of course, lost a month while the Department has considered our case and moving work rapidly up to speed again in the middle of August is going to take some doing.

However everyone involved is very willing. It is a real boost that our ambition to transform education on Harold Hill can now go ahead as planned. Also as we have all worked together to make the case to keep our project going I think we can all take credit for this success.

Now on to signing the contract for the new-build as soon as possible and opening in September in the old buildings as a temporary home while the new academy is built.


With Alastair Ross, the Clerk, I visited all three of our almhouses on Thursday.

This was principally to tell the residents about the decision of the Court of Assistants to carry out a review and to reassure everyone that their interests would protected. In particular completely unfounded stories that the Company was about to sell off bits of the estate or use Queen Elizabeth College at Greenwich for Olympic accommodation were completely untrue!

I also enjoy visiting the almshouses. All of them are beautiful sites. There is some rivalry between the three so I shall not reveal my favourite. But even more importantly there are some great characters amongst thr residents and a real sense of community.

We were well received and in the Q&A sessions a lot of useful feedback and ideas came out.

A useful and enjoyable day.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Anyone eagerly waiting for news as to whether Drapers' Academy new-build (see a lot of posts below) gets the go ahead will, I regret, have to wait a bit longer.

No news today and we have now been told of the fourth postponement of an announcement until 'late on Friday.'

The internet is awash with rumours about Academies that have unofficially been given the go ahead and ones that have been ditched. I treat all such stories with considerable caution. Waiting for any announcement from Michael Gove has brought work to a halt so there is plenty of time for project teams across the country to hatch conspiracy theories of increasing complexity.

On the more prosaic side Kier who are the preferred bidders, with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios as architects, have continued to work 'at risk.' On Monday we had the last meeting to got our case ready for final planning consent by the Havering planners later this month. We also completed the Final Business Case that, if all were going according to plan, would be the last stage in releasing funds and getting the contract signed to start building.

I am most grateful to Kier and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.  Despite the uncertanty and the prospect that if the project does not go ahead they will have to write off around a million pounds, they remain staunchly committed. Such commitment is good for our morale and minimises delay if the project finally gets the go ahead.

I really hope I shall be able to say something more positive about the Academy in my next post.