Thursday, 28 October 2010


Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry is part of Queen Mary University of London (see 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 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.


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

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


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 and also go to the Master Marketor's blog 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.


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 and 

A general view of the market hall. This, and the picture below, taken from 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


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

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.


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   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


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.

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


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 or email Mike direct on

Sunday, 10 October 2010


The Goldsmiths' Fair takes over Goldsmiths' Hall for two weeks at this time of the year. Over a hundred and fifty makers from around the country, set up stalls in the Hall to present their latest collections.

Rosemary and I, along with Alastair Ross and his wife Judy, were invited by Michael Galsworthy, the Goldsmith's Prime Warden, on Wednesday to a reception and a chance to view the Fair.  The Fair is open to the public and for the fortnight the jewelry and other objects in gold, silver, platinum and precious and semi-precious stones quite eclipse the grandeur of the Hall.

The Goldsmiths' Company plays a major role in the trade today.  For further details, including the fascinating story of our national hallmarking system - still a major responsibility of the Company, see   It is also impressive to see the way the Company encourages really imaginative design and superlative craftsmanship.   Also the support of the Goldsmiths' company allows, in relative terms of course, prices to be sustained at a reasonable level.

The publicity for the Fair says what is on offer is irresistible, for once the publicity is quite right.  Make a note to go next year. Oh, and if you are wondering, we did buy something.


I was privileged to be invited to the Lightmongers' Company Masters' and Clerks' luncheon held at Tallow Chandlers' Hall on Friday and further asked to respond on behalf of the guests at the end of the meal.

A company with close links with the electrical and lighting industries (for more details go to ) the Company probably has the most interesting, and unique, way of deciding how to define its livery.  When it was originally first established in the fifties, even before it was a guild its membership was limited to 110, the voltage in London at that date.  When the Company became liveried in 1984 it increased to 240, keeping up with London voltage changes.  I could not resist pointing out in my speech of thanks that since 2008 voltage has dropped to 230 across London and in addition there is quite a large variance (207-253 for those who might be interested in such matters).  Keeping the livery in line with such variance is quite a challenge.  I understand that three phase 440 volt is an option already considered but further tentatively suggested the Underground's 630 volt standard offered huge opportunity.

The Tallow Chandlers' was a company with a prior right to insist that, as electric light was a successor to tallow chandling, they could, if they had been so minded, attempted to block the development of the Lightmongers.  Of course they did nothing of the sort and gave unstinting support to the creation of the new Company.  In turn the Lightmongers look upon the elegant Tallow Chandlers' Hall as their home hall.  For further details see

Master Lightmonger, Hugh Ogus, master for the second time, was a most considerate host and it was good to exchange ideas with a Company that in particular takes an especial interest in using modern technologies as part of their charitable activities.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


I went to Drapers' Academy on Monday evening to sign the contract  relating to the new buildings for Drapers' Academy and also to be present at the second open evening for the Academy for those wanting to come to enter for September 2011 - more of this in a moment.

Although the actual contracts had been signed last week this was the symbolic conclusion of a complex process that had, as they say, 'gone to the wire.'  The contract is quite complicated in that London Borough of Havering, using a Partnerships for Schools  framework, contract with Kier to build the new academy and once completed it is handed over to us.

Unfortunately the five week delay in July/August (see a number of previous tense blogs about this period) made for a very tight timetable.  Especially as the framework agreement under which we are procuring the academy has been replaced with a different arrangement.  Our framework agreement expired on 30 September so if we had not signed the contract by then it would have been back to start the whole process over again.  Nothing like a bit of presure to raise the tension.

Inevitably there were the last minute hitches as documents had to go through a four way shuttle in various permutations between Partnerships for Schools, Kier, London Borough of Havering and ourselves.  Patrick Thompson at Havering's legal department and Stephen Beeson, Director of Finance Drapers' Academy, both did a really great job to ensure that the machinery was unjammed on the number of occasions when yet another last-minute difficulty had arisen.  At 4.30pm on 30 September, with only seven and a half hours to go, everything was in order and the new-build is now a certainty.  Work begins in earnest on site after half term.

Handing over the pen to Professor Mike Watkinson.  From the left: Professor Mike Watkinson, myself, the Mayor of Havering
Photograph by David Tomlinson

All dressed up with a contract to sign.  Professor Mike Watkinson, myself and the Mayor of Havering taking turns to sign the ceremonial new-build contract.
Photograph by David Tomlinson

At the beginning of the Open Evening we held a small ceremony where the Mayor of Havering, Councillor Pamela Light, Professor Mike Watkinson - incidentally congratulations on his academic elevation of three days ago - one of the Queen Mary governors and myself signed a contract before a large crowd of Harold Hill residents.  As can be seen from the photographs we decided this auspicious occasion was one for full ceremonial dress.  Andrew Ireland, Director of Children's Services Havering, and David Tomlinson, Director Future Schools, Havering who have both done so much to support the project were also present.

Matthew Slater, the Principal, then moved on to the main purpose of the evening which was to present the Academy.  This was primarily for children, and their families, who are thinking of entering next September, but it was clear that the evening had attracted wider interest.  Matthew gave a robust and powerful talk about the Academy vision and two Year 10s (14-15 year olds) gave very positive and confident responses to his questions about such diverse issues as teaching methods, discipline and uniform.  A large number of staff had come in to demonstrate various subjects and the kitchens were open to demonstrate the revised menu.  The prefects also did a great job as guides.

It was a big change from last year.  At that time we had no Principal, or any other staff, no deal signed to establish the Academy and no absolute certainty of new buildings.  What a difference a year makes!


Friday saw the first visit of a Drapers' Academy year group to the Hall.  This takes up a custom that most of the Drapers' schools, particularly those closer to London, arrange an annual visit for their entry year class to see the Hall and learn something about the Company's history, traditions and current work.

As many will recall Friday was a particularly wet day and the Drapers' Academy visitors got a little disorientated in the maze of alleys that surround the Hall.  Eventally a bedtraggled, but still remarkably cheerful bunch of eleven year olds, led by Mr Cormac Fanning, Assistant Vice Principal in charge of Year 7s (11 to 12 year olds who are just starting off in the Academy), entered the Hall having toured Copthall Avenue, Throgmorton Avenue - a near miss- Austin Friars and Old Broad Street.

I am the only one not waving and not sure why!  Lunch in the Court Dining Room.
Photgraph by Penny Fussell
They were met by me in full regalia and quickly ushered upstairs to the Court Dining Room for a fish and chip lunch.  Alastair Ross, the Clerk and Penny Fussell, the Archivist, also acted as hosts.

As I have mentioned before, see my post on London Open House of 23 September, it is all too easy for those of us involved with the Hall on a day to day basis and aware of the maintenance tasks and so on, to lose sight of the fact that it is a magnificent building.  The Year 7's were a great bunch of enthusiatic eleven year olds and there was a torrent of questions. 

'Did I have to pay to keep the Hall going?' - fortunately not.

'How much did the chandeliers - Pavlenko's portrait of HM the Queen - and many other things in the room - cost?'  - I havev to admit to have made up a few sums based on the formula 'a lot.'

Was the portrait of Sir Ernest Pooley me?'  - He may be distinguished but I hope I do not look quite as old.

The fish and chips provided by Jon Perkins, and his team went down extremely well and the prospect of tables getting extra portions of chips in turn was very popular.

The meal ended and Penny Fussell showed the children round the Hall then it was back on the coaches waiting at London Wall and back to Harold Hill.  It was a great day and during the rest of the term Years 8 to 11 will also pay a visit.  It was the start of a great tradition.

Drapers' Academy year 7s heading off up Throgmorton Avenue and through the Drapers' gates to meet the coach at London Wall.  It is raining and the new Drapers' Gardens block looks most attractive with its pallette of greys that works very well in London.
Photograph by Penny Fussell

Saturday, 2 October 2010


On Wednesday evening the Fuellers' Company held their sixth Annual Energy Lecture at Drapers' Hall. Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, had been invited to speak to the challenging topic of The Future of UK Energy to the Fuellers, many of whom are leading experts and practitioners in this field, and their guests, including myself. The Minister faced a crowded Livery Hall.

The future of UK energy faces a wide range of big challenges: ensuring there is sufficient generating capacity for the future, national security issues as well as the huge challenge of achieving renewables and sustainabilty targets that are commercially viable. Charles Hendry tackled all these topics with gusto. It was clear that he was enthused by the topic and had already acquired a thorough knowledge of it. These perceptions were reinforced by a lively question and answer session where he made it clear that there were difficult decisions ahead that needed to be made. In his response of thanks Neil Upton of Greenberg Traurig Maher, who had generously sponsored the evening, reflected the consensus in the room that the Minister had given probably the best overview of our energy policies that he had ever heard from a politician. This was echoed by the Master Fueller, John Bainbridge, as he closed the formal part of the meeting.

Although the Minister has said that he would leave shortly after he had finished speaking it was clear that he much enjoyed the opportunity to meet such a wide range of energy experts and practitioners and stayed on to continue the debate for a further hour or so.

An informative evening where the Fuellers' Company had created an environment for a most interesting debate.  We have links with the Fuellers both through our shared us of St Michael's, Cornhill and that they use our Hall for functions.  We were delighted that the Hall was the venue for this successful event.