Thursday, 23 December 2010


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.


Nicholas Anstee, the last Lord Mayor, suggested that livery companies might wish to adopt St John Ambulance Cadet Units, see 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 where you may wish to note the very positive review by the Evening Standard of earlier this month.


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 if you want to follow progress.


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.


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


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  and RedR the international disaster and humanitarian relief group, see

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


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 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 .


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

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 


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  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.


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 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.