Thursday, 27 January 2011


Past Master Trevor Eldrid died after a lengthy illness on 7 January.  Trevor was admitted to the Company by patrimony in 1938, he was the last surviving member of Court who joined the Company before the Second World War.  Master in 1976/1977, the Silver Jubilee Year of HM Queen Elizabeth, he hosted her visit to the Hall that year.

Born in Cricklewood on 7 September 1916.  It was a momentous time when the First World War was reaching its peak of destruction. A month in which the Somme offensive was grimly being pressed on by Field Marshal Haig and the Battle of Verdun was reaching its climax with a French counter-attack imminent.

He was educated at Haberdasher Aske's School then located nearby - it did not move to Elstree until 1961.   He then went on to spend his professional life at the Prudential.  During the war he served in Egypt and ended up countering Axis propaganda by broadcasting to the British forces.

After the war and back at the Pru he met Pam.  She was a New Zealander working in London.  Their first meeting was at the Prudential's Amateur Dramatic Society which seems to have been a major focus of Prudential social activity at the time.

The Eldrids have been members of the Company since 1818 and Trevor was the fifth generation.  The first four generations are all recorded on Boyd's List of Drapers as saddlers' ironmongers.  Trevor broke away from that calling by going to work in the City, doubtless because the world of the saddlers' ironmonger was declining rapidly because of the motor vehicle. 

He was elected to the Court as Junior Warden in 1967 and was finally Renter Warden in 1982.  He also played a leading part in the Drapers' relationship with the City and Guilds of London Art School and was a governor of Howell's School, Denbigh in the days when the Drapers were still trustees.  He gave much of his free time to the Company and was a great supporter of a wide range of our activities.

He is survived by Pam and his daughter, Freeman Josephine Eldrid, by his first wife Nathalie (nee Walker - she is the aunt of Master Warden Tony Walker - and formerly the Duchess of St Albans).

The funeral was held on 25 January at Walton on Thames.  It was attended by a good number of friends as well as Past Masters Bob Borradaile, John Stitt, Master Warden Tony Walker and Assistant Robert Strick.

We plan to hold a memorial service at St Michael's Cornhilll on 20 April to commemorate Trevor's work for and contribution to the Company. 

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Royal Freeman HM King Harald V of Norway
Although making claims in the world of the London livery companies is a dangerous enterprise I think we are currently the only Company that has two reigning monarchs as freemen: HM the Queen and HM King Harald V of Norway.

King Harald is the third generation of his family to be free of the Company.  His grandfather, Prince Carl of Denmark, was admitted to the Company in 1896 when he married Princess Maud, the youngest daughter of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.  Prince Carl went on to become Haakon VII,  the first king of the modern Kingdom of Norway when it peacefully separated from Sweden in 1905.  His son Olaf was, in his turn, free of the Company and his son, now Harald V, was admitted in November 1960.

Six degrees below and the Royal Palace, Oslo is surrounded by a light dusting of snow.  Unlike royal palaces in Britain you can walk right up to the front door.
This resulted in a party of four, Master Warden Tony Walker, Renter Warden Christian Williams, our Clerk, Alastair Ross, and myself having an audience with the king on Friday 21 January at the Royal Palace in Oslo to present a humble address marking the fiftieth anniversary of his admission.

The Humble Address illuminated on vellum commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of King Harald V of Norway being free of the Company.  This work was beautifully and most skillfully carried out by Timothy Noad.
The humble address on vellum contained the following wording agreed by the Court:

'The Master, Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Worshipful Company of Drapers of the City of London send fraternal greetings to His Majesty King Harald V of Norway and offer the Company's warmest congratulations on his fiftieth anniversary as a Freeman of the Company.

The Company is deeply proud of its continuous association with the Royal Family of Norway since 1896 when His Majesty's Grandfather His Majesty King Haakon VII (As His Royal Highness Prince Carl of Denmark) became a Freeman of the Company and we trust and hope this long association may long continue.

It is our fervent wish that we will have the opportunity of welcoming His Majesty back to Drapers' Hall before too long.'

In the Bird Room of the Palace which is the ante-room to the King's Study and entirely painted with styilised mountain scenes abounding with bird life.  From left to right Christian Williams, Tony Walker, myself and Alastair Ross.  Not the best shot, I think we are all giving the king's ADC instructions how to use the camera.  But it is the only one he took.
We had a most enjoyable audience and discussed a wide number of topics and I shall be able to report back to the Court that our links remain strong with the Royal House of Norway.

King Haakon is in a select group of Drapers' Royal Freemen who were not in direct line of succession when they joined the Company, although they subsequently became monarchs.  There are two others. William of Orange was admitted to the Company in 1676 while Stadtholder of the Netherlands.  It was a clear indication of the Company supporting a wider City view at the time of their preference for a Protestant, rather than a Catholic, succession.  Finally, King George VI was admitted to the Company when Duke of York in 1919.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Johanna Vardon presenting the John Vardon scroll of Nelson's State Funeral Procession to the Company in the Drawing Room.  Herbert Draper's increasingly well known painting,  Gates of Dawn, painted to symbolise the beginning of the twentieth century in the background.
Following the Court of Wardens, and the admission of Edward Chalk - see previous post, there was a short ceremony to thank Freeman Johanna Vardon MBE for her generous and interesting gift to the Company of a scroll painted by her forebear John Vardon (1796-1869) depicting Admiral Nelson's state funeral. 

Sir William Beechey's portrait of Nelson in the Court Room. This is one of a number that Beechey painted of Nelson at the time.  It is particularly interesting as it shows Nelson in an admiral's uniform late in his career.  The Court paid Beechey 200 guineas for the portrait in 1805.
Nelson is one of the very few individuals who have been made members of the Company honoris causa. This was after the Battle of the Nile 1798 and there is a letter in the archives accepting the offer of freedom.  He describes it as a great honour and promises that he will make it, 'The study of my life to preserve their (the Drapers' Company) good opinion.'
Not a particularly good picture but one that gives a reasonable impression of the work.  Nelson's funeral carriage drawn by six black horses is the large black square on the bottom row on the left.  Also it shows, as was indeed the case, very few sailors in the procession.  For some reason the Army provided most of the escorts. 
Assuming the scroll was painted shortly after Nelson's funeral in 1806 John would have been 9 or 10.  It is a charming procession of carriages, military figures and other participants.  It was probably not painted from life but inspired or copied from one of the many depictions of the funeral procession that appeared at the time.  But our records show that John lived in Gracechurch Street, London at the time so he might have observed the procession that made its way from the Admiralty in Whitehall to St Paul's Cathedral on 9 January 1806.

The Vardons are a family long associated with the Company. It was John Vardon's father, another John, who began the association with the Company in the late eighteenth century.  Johanna noted the two Vardon Court Assistants whose shields are displayed in the decoration of the Court Dining Room when it was remodelled in 1869.  Past Master Sir Peter Bottomley MP and Liveryman Philip Beddows, both Johanna's nephews, also attended.  At present there are twelve members of the Company with Vardon links.

Johanna is well known in the equestrian world for having founded the National Foaling Bank.  Since she started in 1965 her drive and enthusiasm has united thousands of orphan foals with foster mares who have lost their own foal.  Additionally every year hundreds of owners also call the Bank for help and advice on difficult foaling cases, twenty-four hour nursing, and information about colestrum, milk replacements, and special dietary requirements.  For more details go to

On handing over the scroll Johanna recalled that it had been stuffed into a tin in the kitchen for many years and it was a matter of good fortune that it had survived with only minimal damage.

One final anecdote is that amongst other Nelson memorabilia owned by the Vardons was a lump of fossilised soup that had originally been served on HMS Victory on the day of the battle of Trafalgar.  Johanna said she had surreptitiously tasted a flake of it when a child and said that it was still remarkably chewy but rather salty. 

Eventually in 1947 the Vardon family decided to break up the lump with the major chunk being presented to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip as a wedding gift.  Some years later an enquiry to the Palace about the fate of the soup was, perhaps surprisingly, met with a response from the Private Secretary to the Duke of Edinburgh that it could not be found.

Afternote: For further comment on Paul Vardon's painting abilities, the fossilised soup and the almost certain inspiration and purpose of the scroll see a further post of 27 February.


One of my more pleasurable duties as Master is to play a part in the ceremonies when new members are admitted to the Company or promoted to the Livery.

My first admission this year was to admit Edward Chalk to the Freedom.  His father, David, and grandfather, Philip, are both Drapers.  Also both are members of the Court.  Past Master Philip Chalk is an emeritus member and David Chalk is an Assistant.

Edward was admitted by patrimony.  That is to say he is eligible to join the Company because was born when his father was a member of the Company.  One purpose of the ceremony is to establish whether patrimonial rules have been met.  This usually relies on the testimony of the father and one other witness; in this case Edward's grandfather.

After the ceremony we moved on to a further event in the Drawing Room: see next post. 

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


John Thornton's early map of North America at a time when Britain and France were staking out their claims on the north east corner of the continent and the various Briish settlements and colonies that are now the states of the United States or the provinces of Canada were beginning to emerge.  I like the way that Thornton has patriotically written Nova Britania (sic) over New France in much larger letters. On the western side of the map the description of the west side of Hudson's Bay as New South Wales and New North Wales has luckily not survived into modern times otherwise significant confusion would have been caused.  With acknowledgement to Lawrence of Crewkerne sale catalogue of 17 January 1ot 551 (see )
Lawrence of Crewkerne on Monday 17 January sold a most interesting map of North America for the stonking sum of £203,150.  This against a pre-sale estimate of £80,000.  It is hand coloured on vellum depicting an area south from the Hudson Straight and includes James Bay, Greenland, Labrador Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New England and New York.   It was made by John Thornton at the Signe of the Platt in the Minories and is dated 1699. 

This map is a reminder of an interesting episode in the seventeenth century when a group of London's leading cartographers sought the protection of the Drapers' Company. They are an important part of our early cartographic history and are today known as the Thames School of Chartmakers. 

John Thornton (1641-1708) hydrographer plattmaker (i.e. chart) engraver and publisher was apprenticed to John Burston of the Drapers' Company from 1656 and made a freeman in 1664/5.  Other members of the Company include their leader Nicholas Comberford - flourished 1612-20.  He was preceded by John Daniel who seems to have started the whole thing by becoming a freemen in 1590.  He died in 1649.  Thornton's pupil, freeman Joel Gascoyne, produced a series of well known maps of English counties.

Thornton was appointed hydrographer to both the Hudson's Bay and East India Companies. Printed maps of North America by Thornton appear in the Atlas Maritimus of c. 1685 and vol 4 of The English Pilot 1689 and later editions though none are identical to this map. The latter was a very important work as it was a set of accurate charts of the whole world that revolutionised the availability of nautical information for seafarers.

A number of Drapers, including Liveryman Lord Patten of Wincanton, brought this interesting map to Penny Fussell's, our archivist, attention.  We do not hold any examples of work by the Draper's mapmakers - except for some of Joel Gascoyne's county maps - but we decided that, entirely on grounds of cost, this was not for our archives.  If some of the less rare material appears, for instance maps of the East Indies are more commonly encountered on the market, I think it would be worth acquiring as a memorial of an important part played by our Company in an area completely unrelated to drapery.


Past Master Venetia Howes at the Guildhall with the Marketor's royal charter handed over to the Company at a memorable dinner.
Tonight I have had to amend my welcome notes on the right hand side of this blog.  This is because Venetia Howes, the Master Marketor for 2010, has handed over her responsibilities.

When I started this blog I thought that I was establishing a first but it turned out that the Master Marketor was six months ahead of me.  Like many I have followed her blog with interest.  This most particularly so because it could be thought that all masters' blogs would be alike as two peas.  In fact I think we have provided comment, even when posting about the same events, that brings out the very different personalities of both the master and the company he or she leads for the year.

Venetia has clearly had a good year, the highlight of which was undoubtedly the Royal Charter ceremony presided over by HRH Duke of Edinburgh at the Guildhall on 19 October (see my post of 24 October).  As she says she now looks forward to achieving the 'honourable estate' of past master.

I am pleased that Master Jim Surguy, the new Master Marketor, will be continuing the blog.


Coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of the Cutlers of Hallamshire
The morning of Tuesday 18 January was the London launch of the Global Manufacturing Festival: Sheffield  (for more information go to ) at the Engineering Employers Federation offices near Westminster.

The Festival aims to reaffirm the UK's position as a global leader in advanced engineering and manufacturing innovation.  It will be hosted in the Sheffield region and specifically link the region's world famous expertise in high-precision engineering, metals and alloys production to its capacity to play a leading role in these areas across the world.

Where is the connection with a London-based livery company such as the Drapers?  The link is principally because a sister livery company the Company of Cutlers of Hallamshire, led by their current Master, Professor William Spiers, is playing a leading role in ensuring a dynamic and effective programme of events and activities.  For more about the Company go to

We value our links with the Cutlers of Hallamshire and the Drapers strongly support science and mathematics based activity, principally in the area of education, that is the bedrock in giving the right skills to people who can deliver innovation and success - see my post on our support of the Textile Textiles Awards of 24 November.

The London launch attracted a number of leading speakers in support.  These included Mark Prisk MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise.  He gave a most supportive talk and got the pulse of Sheffield just right by saying that 'Sheffield and quality go hand in hand.'

A great start with a livery company playing a major part in a key industrial initiative.  Fine words and meetings do not in themselves solve problems and stimulate success but they can play a big part in creating the right conditions for these to be achieved.

Monday, 17 January 2011


On its way to be a smash hit.
I have not yet been to see it but clearly The King's Speech is on its way to be a smash hit.  Readers of this blog will want to know that Drapers' Hall substitutes for Buckingham Palace, as it has done in a number of other films.  There is an agreable symmetry in this as George VI was an honorary freeman of the Company. 

The filming was quite recent and only took a weekend with a follow-up day to tidy up loose ends.

Some publicity material for Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London
Another recent film was Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.  Try Wikipedia if you want a resume of the plot but in summary it is about a 15 year old who joins the CIA and has adventures.   In Cody Banks 2 the Livery Hall is the locale for a great dinner - the finale of the film. A huge number of extras were dressed as ambassadors, generals, clergymen.  The sight of actors in their full costume taking a surreptitious fag in Throgmorton Avenue was an arresting sight.

Probably one of the most interesting developments in recent times has been the search by Bollywood for locations outside India.  Those who have sat for hours on buses in India with a worn out video screeching away will recall that twenty years ago Kashmir or Kerala were deemed highly exotic locations.  Today Bollywood reflects a much more widely travelled Indian public and also the realities of worldwide distribution. 

Locations in Britain are now popular.  Loch Lomond is apparently at the top of the list but the Hall has also featured.  Quite how the plots are structured remains a mystery.  Most are largely episodic with the hero and heroine singing a duet to be joined by a mass of singers and dancers that is followed by yet another unexplained scene change with more singing and dancing.  Great escapist stuff. 

One of the recent Bollywood films that used the Hall was Veer, the Epic Story of a Warrior which was memorably described by Frank Lovece in Film Journal International on the lines that 'Bollywood fans more accustomed to modern-day musical romances or stylish crime thrillers will be pleasantly surprised to find a period piece that's more Xena: Warrior Princess than A Passage to India.' Go enjoy!

Back to The King's Speech, I hope it will do well at the Oscars shortly.


Although not a Drapers' Company event the New Year Service at St Michael's Cornhill is a secure part of the Company year and our first event of the New Year.

The Master and Wardens along with the Alderman of Cornhill Ward, Sir David Howard Bt, play a part in the service.

The church was packed.  Rev Peter Mullen put on a really good service including great hymns and beautiful singing by the choir.  This was complemented by a former Army colleague of mine, Major General Tim Cross, who in addition to a distinguished military and academic career is also a Church of England lay reader.

He gave an arresting address.  This started from the Army's identification that there was a moral component of military effectiveness that was equal to having the right kit and the right plans.  If the moral component was not right the best kit and best plans would not produce success.  He then went on to challenge whether we had a sufficient moral component in our broader national life.  His address will shortly be on

It was then on to the Hall for a buffet lunch.  It was good to see members of the Company, masters and clerks of many other livery companies and members of the congregation all mingling together.

PS if you want to see another report why not visit Liveryman Herry Lawford's excellent Herry's Journal - it is one of the links of this blog.


Coat of arms of the Woolmen.
Alastair Ross and myself were invited to the Woolmen's Alms Court dinner on Wednesday.  It was held at Cutlers' Hall, an attractive building near St Pauls with a wonderful display of memorabilia from the cutlery industry.  Go to to find out more.

But to return to Drapers and Woolmen.  In traditional trade terms we have a considerable overlap with the Woolmen although the Draper focus was more directed towards the retail part of the industry.  For more information go to

Simon Bailey, the current Master, and the rest of the Company made us both welcome.  Usefully we had the opportunity to discuss the Wool Project that was launched Prince of Wales a year ago.  This aims to publicise the excellence of the British wool industry at a time of intense international competition.  For more information go to and look for the clickdown Campaign for Wool to find out what is going on.  Also I cannot resist asking you to look at the Woolipedia site

We are at present planning a dinner in April to amongst other clothing industry issues to publicise the work of the Wool Project and we look forward to working with members of the Woolmen court and livery who are already playing a part in this.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Arms of the Skinners' Company
On Tuesday it was the Skinners turn to host the Great XII Masters and Clerks.  This is traditionally a lunch party.  A tradition I was informed went back to the Blitz when it was decided to continue with Company functions but to move them to daylight hours to save electricity and avoid the risks of night bombing. Quite plausible as traditions go and if you read this post further you will find another link with the London Blitz of 1940/1.

Roberts leading his column from Kabul to Kandahar in 1880.  The artist has imagined a very neat and tidy Afghanistan with no dust - Roberts' horse looks as though it is on Rotten Row - and not a fly in sight.
As lunch concluded Hugh Carson, the Master Skinner, set us a a collective conundrum by first asking us to link Alexander the Great, British India and the London Livery Companies.  None of us could answer.  He then offered a further clue that the person was one of only two commoners to be granted a lying-in-state in the twentieth century.  At this point someone recognised it was Lord Roberts, or 'Bobs', the archetypal imperial hero of late Victorian Britain. 

Hugh also went on to mention that, along with a plethora of other honours, Bobs was a member of the Fishmongers and Merchant Taylors, thereby creating the London link.  The reference to Alexander the Great was a link to Roberts' march from Kabul to Kandahar in Afghanistan in 1880 where he followed, in part, the great Macedonian's route of 2,210 years earlier.  Kandahar is also a corruption of the Alexander's name. 

Finally to sustain perfect symmetry the day of the lunch was the exact centenary of the first competition for the Roberts of Kandahar Cup.  This has become the blue riband of Swiss downhill race and first took place in Crans-Montana in 1911,

Even today Alexander's march from Kabul to Kandahar starting in September 330BC and lasting through the winter seems almost unbelievable.  Particularly as he is reported to have led 32,000 men through this most inhospitable country with relatively few casualties.
Lord Roberts won a VC during the Indian Mutiny in 1858.  But he came to national prominence as the leader of the column that marched from Kabul to relieve the garrison at Kandahar in 1880 in the Second Afghan War.  An action was fought before this at Maiwand where a British column was severely mauled and had to retreat to Kandahar.  Heroic withdrawals have always been a mainstay of British miltary art and Richard Caton Woodville's well-known painting Saving the Guns at Maiwand is part of this canon (no pun really intended).  I only include this picture as I can remember many years ago being in a unit that received this image from a neighbouring gunner unit as their Christmas card.  Without, as far as I could discern, any trace of irony this scene of mayhem was accompanied by a wish that the recipient should enjoy a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 

We may have concerns about advertising ethics these days but it would hard to beat the chutzpah of Wilson's Beer!  Or is it a sly comment making an intellectual or some other comparison between a bottle of beer and a general?

Hugh also showed one of the treasures of the Company, the George Cross posthumously awarded to Leonard Miles GC for the great gallantry he showed at Ilford, Essex on 21 September 1940. Like many other Londoners at that time he was a part time air raid warden in the street where he lived with his family.  On that evening there was an unexploded bomb in the street.  On hearing about this he left the safety of his shelter to warn others about this.  He was fatally wounded when the device exploded. Leonard worked for the Skinners' Company and his family presented the medal to the Company.

The George Cross was instituted in 1940.  Leonard Miles GC received one of the earliest awards.  Only 161 GCs have been awarded in the last 71 `years.

It was a stimulating lunch.

Monday, 10 January 2011


William wearing the robes and badge of Junior Warden.
I have been meaning to mention that the newest member of the Company's Court, Junior Warden William Charnley has a Twitter account. 

I am pretty sure that this is a Company first but if any reader of this blog knows better I would like to hear.  is quite a specialist Twitter site and deals with William's adventures with fine wine and food.  I am a follower but do not think I can add a great deal to the erudite debate of chateaux and vintages that seems to comprise most of its content.

But Capitalist in City AM  is certainly impressed.  On 19 October he wrote.  'Wine lovers usually pay good money for expert advice on which vintages to pair with different foods, so Mayer Brown corporate lawyer William Charnley deserves a mention for one of the most informative Twitter feeds The Capitalist has seen in a while. Charnley, tweeting as @WC7, is a fount of knowledge on vino, updating the feed regularly with suggestions for fellow wine lovers.'

Speculation is rife on who will be next Court member to go electronic.


I thought I would head this up with the coat of arms of the Merchant Taylors' Company.  At Merchant Taylors we wore it on our blazers in the summer.  I think I still have mine in a draw somewhere.
This post is nearly a month out of sequence.  This is because I mislaid the dinner card containing so much useful information that I had to have it by me before embarking on describing an excellent evening at Merchant Taylors' Hall shortly before Christmas.   I have now tracked it down so on with the blog.
An aerial view of the Merchant Taylors' School buildings looking roughly north.  Perhaps unconsciously the design around quadrangles had an influence on the building plan for Drapers' Academy (see Drapers' Academy: We Get Through 6 August post).  Photograph thanks to 
Those who have read my biographical details will have noted that I attended Merchant Taylors' school in the early sixties.  My time there was not successfully spent and it ended when I gave up on the sixth form and enlisted in the Army.   However I made some lifelong friends at the school and recollect that I was taught by some extremely intelligent masters who, on mature reflection, had very interesting things to say.  Nevertheless I am not a particularly enthusiastic old boy and have not had much to do with the school for the last forty-five years.

This was rectified at the Merchant Taylors' Company Doctors' Dinner which, as our Education Dinner in March of each year, is a coming together of all the educational establishments linked with the Company.  Two of the Court members, Christopher Keville and Peter Watkins, are my exact contemporaries at school.  We all arrived on the same day and I am certain that we were in the same form to begin with.

Mr Stephen King, Headmaster of Merchant Taylors' School.  Photograph courtesy of
I found myself seated between Christopher and the current Headmaster of Merchant Taylors' School, Stephen Wright.  He was most kind to me as the returning prodigal and did not enquire too deeply about my lack of academic success. 

The Master Merchant Taylor, Dr Julian Oram, gave a very good speech.  It included a review of outstanding headmasters of Merchant Taylors' School over the last four centuries.  I was convinced that the somewhat austere headmaster of my time at the school, Hugh Elder, would not be mentioned.  He was but only as the victim of an elaborate practical joke that involved toilet rolls unrolling from apertures in the Great Hall ceiling in the middle of a major school ceremony.  A great deal of ingenuity had been involved in setting this up.  My only regret is that this was a year or so before I arrived so I only knew of it by repute.

A lovely evening and one where I met a lot of people I knew directly or by reputation.

Thursday, 6 January 2011


London streets seem to be eerily empty in the mid 1950s, but perhaps it is early in the morning.  Here a trolleybus turns northwards into City Road from the Finsbury Square turning circle.  Unfortunately for this and the next three photographs I cannot now find the website from which they are taken.  My apologies therefore for not acknowledging some excellent pictures.
2011 is the fiftieth anniversary of the removal of the trolleybuses from the City of London.  They lingered on for a few more months in places such as Kingston, Shepherds Bush and Edgware but for all intents and purposes they were now part of London's transport history.

One of the shorter routes into Moorgate (as Finsbury Square was optimistically called) was the 611 from Highgate Village.  Here two trolleybuses, modified with special emergency brakes in case anything went wrong on Highgate Hill, wait over before going back into the City. In these pictures there often seem to be lot more uniformed staff in evidence than one sees today
Between the late 1930s and the beginning of the sixties London had the biggest trolleybus network in the world.  By 1939 it had largely replaced trams north of the Thames and on the outskirts of the southern suburbs. It was thus a slightly oddly organised network.  For reasons of history - the City and West End saw trams as transport for the working class and thus undesirable - all the central trolleybus termini remained on the former tram sites on the fringes of the City and West End leaving commuters to walk in from such locations as Finsbury Square, Smithfield and a location a couple of hundred yards of Holborn Station called Bloomsbury.

The Smithfield terminus that skirted round the meat market.  The 679, here on a short working to Edmonton, normally went out to the fringes of London at Waltham Cross and was one of the longer routes.
Trolleybuses drew power from wires hanging above the street.  They were large, quiet and needed little maintenance.  Their principal problems were the queues that built up if anything went wrong with the power supply and the tendency for the collecting poles, the trollies, to spring off the wires.  The sight of a conductor with a long bamboo rod manoeuvering the trolley pole back on was a commonplace and endlessley absorbing occurrence in my childhoood.

By the 1950s buses seemed much more flexible.  Although slightly more expensive to run this was offset by the costs of re-wiring streets as an increasing number of one-way systems were introduced. The decision was made to scrap the system. 

The nearest termini to the Hall were Finsbury Circus from where long distance routes ran to the northern edge of London, principally Edgware and Enfield, and Liverpool Street that reached out into the East End.  Starting in 1959 the routes were gradually withdrawn and during 1961 the last services were replaced by buses.  The Moorgate and Holborn termini closed in November 1961, the last ones to remain open serving the City.

A 641 from Enfield on the City Road just short of Finsbury Square
The charm of trolleybuses was that they were a mundane form of transport that cheaply, quietly and cleanly moved thousands of commuters each day.  Also they were a very distinctive part of the London scene in the fifties and the pictures recall a less complex and a down at heel city that had yet to change into our world.

Finsbury Square late autumn 1961 and for a few days brand new Routemaster buses bear trolleybus route numbers; in this case as a 609 to Barnet.  A 641 arrives in from Enfield. Photograph courtesy Geoff Bannister.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


Roger in countryman mode.  In addition to his huge charitable commitments he is a great expert on trees and aboriculture in general.  This picture is courtesy of the Woodland Trust 
Along with the New Year Honours List, see previous post, it has also come to my notice that Liveryman Roger Jefcoate CBE has recently been appointed Serving Brother of the Order of St John. 

This is for his tremendous support in fundraising and training volunteers for St John Ambulance in his home county of Buckinghamshire. 

Roger is probably better known for his work on control systems for severely disabled people and his involvement in a wide range of charities that help the severely disabled. Some of his most recent ventures have been to co-found ME Research UK ( ) in 1999 and Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs ( ) in 2007. The breadth of his activities and committed involvement is quite amazing. 

At the same time he provides assistance and advice to the Drapers' Company charitable effort as well as running seminars for charities to assist them in making grant applications.

An indefatigable human being with a passion for helping others.  His most recent award is richly deserved.


I was delighted to see that there were three Drapers in the New Year Honours List.

Past Master Sir Peter Bottomley MP who has contributed a huge amount to the Company over the past two decades including being Master in 2002/3.  But of course he is much better known as an effective parliamentarian with a wide range of interests and concerns always promoted with great enthusiasm and humour.

Freeman Sir Adrian Smith who became involved with the Company when he was Principal of Queen Mary College where he had a most successful ten year tenure.  Since leaving Queen Mary in 2008 he has been a Director General for Science and Research at the Department of Innovation, University and Skills, now the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  Recent departmental reorganisations mean that his job is getting bigger.

Freeman Barry Laden MBE, appointed for services to the fashion industry.  He is best known for his creation of The Laden Showroom.  Based in London's Brick Lane it is the UK's largest independent showroom and retail space used for the promotion of small independent fashion designers.  This award is particularly noteworthy as I am certain this is first time that a Draper connected with the the clothing industry has been mentioned in an honours list in recent times.


We are back from Egypt which was both relaxing, instructive and at times a little gruelling all in equal measure.  I am now almost half way through my year as Master.  It has been great fun up to now and I am sure that this will continue.

Many of this blog's readers will have received the Christmas card Rosemary designed for me as Master. As with most Christmas card commissions this was painted in mid-summer.  Nevertheless this snow-scene turned out to be most prescient.  Entitled Drapers Ram and Ewe it depicts two Wiltshire Horn sheep on the Marlborough Downs.  Purists may object that Wiltshire Horn are primarily a meat producing sheep but they were painted because they seem so sturdy and English.  For more pictures in this series go to   
Can I take this opportunity to wish all those who read this blog a Happy and Prosperous New Year.