Tuesday, 30 November 2010


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.