Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Coat of arms of the Constructors' Company
Thursday evening it was off to Merchant Taylors' Hall to be a guest at the Constructors' Royal Charter Banquet.  Receiving a first Royal Charter is a very important rite of passage for a livery company.  It is only authorised by the Privy Council after exhaustive enquiries and can take some years to negotiate.  Once authorised it acts as the constitution of the Company and, unless amended by the Privy Council, provides the  framework for its subsequent existence and operation.

The Royal Charter had been received a year earlier.  However it is custom and practice that the charter is handed over by a member of the royal family.  This was the purpose of the evening and HRH Duke of Gloucester officiated.

The Duke was the ideal choice for the Constructors.  It is a Company that covers all aspects of the building world - for more details go to www.constructorscompany.co.uk  The Duke is a qualified architect and has a considerable interest in what is now called the built environment.

The Royal Charter was formally handed over at the beginning of dinner.  The conclusion of the dinner witnessed four excellent speeches. 

Court Assistant Victoria Russell managed to welcome all the guests, over thirty of them, in a most entertaining way.  This I can say from both observation and personal experience takes some doing.  She challenged me about my blog and wondered what would be post.  Victoria, now you know!

Piers Gough CBE, the noted architect, gave a lyrical evocation of architecture and its impact on both individuals and society.  Alderman Sir David Howard Bt responded on behalf of the City and finally Master Patricia Newton brought the proceedings to an excellent close.

Only the week before Patricia Newton had been admitted to the Drapers' Company by redemption so it was good to see one of the newest Drapers so much at the centre of affairs of another Company.

It was a memorable evening.


Coat of Arms of the Upholders' Company
On Wednesday the Upholders held their Installation Court and Banquet at the Hall.  The Hall, I believe, is a frequent choice by the Upholders for this key event in their Company year. This year they were kind enough to invite both myself and Alastair Ross, the Clerk, to be guests at the banquet..

Upholder is an archaic term for upholsterer and the Company has for centuries been closely involved with the furnishing trade.  Initially of course maintaining the guild monopoly in London and later more generally supporting the trade both inside and outside the City.  For more details go to http://www.upholder.co.uk/  

Additionally the Upholders are part of the informal Liveries Wood Group that carries out joint projects with the Carpenters, Furniture Makers, Joiners and Ceilers and Turners.  For more details go to http://www.branching-out.co.uk/

It was most stimulating talking to members of the Company in the Hall.  Many of them are eminent and leading personalities in the furnishing industry.  Their reaction to the furnishings and decoration of the Hall was very interesting and most informative.  It was also flattering to be told on a number of occasions how well the Hall was maintained.

The newly elected Master, James Kelly, and the Wardens made us most welcome and we had a most enjoyable dinner.  As I entered the Livery Hall I found a copy of Featherbedds and Flock Bedds, the Early History of the Worshipful Company of Upholders of the City of London by JF Houston at my place.  I have only had time to glance at it but it is clearly a well written and informative history, featherbedding takes on a sterner meaning.. 

One of those evenings where I was well looked after and learnt a little more about the furnishings of the Hall.  But equally importantly I was yet again as Master to hear the considerable admiration for the excellent service our Beadle, John Freestone, Head Chef, Gerald Quadros and the rest of the Hall catering team provide.  On this particular night Jon Perkins, the Butler, led the event.

Monday, 18 April 2011


One certain indication that spring has arrived is the tea party that is put on at the Hall for the almshouse residents and staff.  It takes place in the Livery Hall which is laid out in tables of twelve.  The Master and Wardens act as hosts and other members of the Company attend including members of the Friends of Drapers' Almshouses (FODAH) team. 

There is the ever popular piano playing by Philip Godfrey who plays medleys of tunes and any requests.  For more details about Philip go to www.philipgodfrey.co.uk/   I regret that we have yet to hear any selections from his recent musical Casanova.

We had a good turn-out but it probably had a smidgen less glamour than last year when Royal Freeman HRH Duchess of Gloucester attended and really charmed the alshouse residents. 

It was a glorious sunny day and the Philip's rendition of popular tunes from the forties and fifties added a distinct touch of jollity as the cream teas were served.


I rather like this bird's eye view of the main campus.  It shows the huge amount of development that has taken place on the site over the last twenty years.   The original part of the site, shown as Queen's Building, is illustrated as the People's Palace at the foot of this blog. 
Friday morning started with the now traditional, I think it has been going in some form or other for fifteen years, breakfast with Queen Mary, University of London. In recent years it has taken place at Queen Mary's main campus on the Mile End Road.

The Company's links with the College go right back to its foundations.  In fact the core of the site is the original location of the Francis Bancroft school and almshouses founded in 1736.  The almshouses have long gone but the school still flourishes a bit further up the Central Line in Woodford.

The Drapers' team included the Master and Wardens and the two members of the Queen Mary Council that are nominated by the Company.  Liveryman Jocelin Harris is Vice-president of the Council and chairs the Finance and General Purposes Committee and Master Warden Anthony Walker is Chair of QMSU Services Ltd the trading business of the university.  Jocelin's father, Past Master Martin Harris, was a much respected President of Council for many years.

Professor Simon Gaskell and three vice principals, Professors Susan Dilly, Philip Ogden and Morag Shiach hosted us on behalf of Queen Mary.  Our links are even more intertwined these days as we are jointly sponsoring Drapers' Academy, Morag Shiach, Susan Dilly and myself are all governors.

We had a most useful review of issues of joint concern and then had an opportunity to visit the new history building - name has yet to be revealed - that now creates an impressive facade along the Mile End Road.

The original People's Palace. The Company donated a significant sum towards initial building costs of the technical wing of the Palace and contributed for many years towards the running costs of the institution.


On Thursday evening the Royal Northern College of Music put on a London Showcase concert with three of their star students performing Boccherini, Schubert, Ravel and Faure. 

The location was 22 Mansfield Street a charming and interesting location at in Fitzrovia.  The very large apartment is owned by Bob and Elisabeth Boas.  Its substantial rooms are the perfect place to display a very interesting range of modern British artists such as Royal Academicians Ruskin Spear and Ken Howard as well as to provide a comfortable setting for a chamber concert.

Sophie Rosa, violin, and the brother and sister, Mikhail Nemtsov, cello, and Elena Nemtsova, piano, were clearly performers of a high standard and gave great performances. 

Professor Jonty Stockdale Principal gave an informative overview of the College's activities and the inevitable need or funds to sustain the extraordinarily intensive training required to create top flight musicians.

The Company's links with music are, in the main, directed towards the London conservatoires but we are pleased to be linked with the College through the de Turckheim Vocal Scholarships scheme.

Saturday, 9 April 2011


Quen Elizabeth College looking from the north.  In the centre is the chapel and around it are the one bedroom cottages originally built in 1818 and subsequently extended some thirty five years ago.  The trees, largely cherry, are always in bloom at Visitation time.
On Thursday the Master and Wardens conducted their first almshouse visitation to Queen Elizabeth College (QEC) in Greenwich.  The Visitation is now an enirely ceremonial affair. But in the past it used to be the highpoint - or possibly high stress point for the staff - of the year when the efficiency and good management of the almshouse was thoroughly inspected by the Master and Wardens on behalf of their fellow trustees who then reported back their findings to the Court.

The Visitation of QEC also has a further feature.  When the endowment was established by William Lambarde in 1576 he asked the Master of the Rolls, one of England's most senior judges, to be the Visitor.  Lambarde had a particular friendship with Sir William Cordell who was Master of the Rolls at the time and 325 years later the tradition continues.  This year Baron Neuberger of Abbotsbury paid his second visit to the College.

The Visitation started with a short service in the chapel, that can seat about fifty.  Rev Chris Moody, Vicar of St Alfege and also a member of the Company's Sir William Boreman Foundation that helps students in of the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham, officiated.  Towards the end of the service the Master of the Rolls gave a short address and as he left the chapel he was, as is traditional, presented with a pair of white kid gloves.  These are nowadays returned for use on following years.

We then moved on to the community centre where we met a large number of residents.  I have been Chairman of the Friends of Drapers' Almhouses (FODAH) for some years now and it was good to meet up with residents I have known for some time and also to meet new faces.  Also members of FODAH including Liverymen Felicity Conway and Jonathan Bush as well as Sir Nicholas Jackson Bt, who leads the QEC FODAH team, were present.  Any member of the Company is also invited to attend and it was good to see a recently joined Freeman, James Baily, present.

All in all a lovely day, the sun shone, the blossom looked lovely and with the Visitation completed spring has definitely arrived.

Later this month we are visiting Walter's Close in Southwark and Edmanson's at Bruce Grove, Tottenham but before that on Monday 11 April it is the residents' tea party at the Hall.  I shall post this next week.  


A bronze follis of Justinian II (527-565) minted at Constantinople (CON on the exergue of the reverse) in the twelfth year of his reign, i.e. 539/40.  The letter M on the reverse was the way the Greeks to indicated forty: the follis comprised 40 nummi.  This is a huge coin; 40mm across and weighing nearly 23 grammes, one of the largest ever struck for daily use. Justinian virtually recreated the Roman Mediterranean empire.  But it had nothing like the stability of its predecessor and to balance conquests in Italy and Spain he had to pay huge tributes to the Persians and Balkan tribes to avoid war on a number of fronts. This coin would probably have bought a number of loaves of bread or couple of dozen eggs.
Having been on display since September 2010 the exhibition of books and coins linking Drapers with the Anglo-Saxons was closed after the Livery Dinner on 23 March. 

I take the opportunity to illustrate two more coins from the display.

Most of those who saw the display were polite enough to express an interest in it.  The most common comment was to express surprise at the level of organisation and order in a period commonly known as the Dark Ages.

A penny of Edgar (959-975) minted by Heriger, a moneyer known to have been based in York, around 970.  Edgar is sometimes taken as the first King of England and he certainly had a successful and peaceful reign.  However it could argued that his grandfather, Edward the Elder (899-924) and uncle, Athelstan (924-839) had better claims to this title.  This coin comes from the Tetney hoard found in a potato field in Lincolnshire in 1947.  It comprised some 300 coins of the Northeastern type (i.e. minted in York, Lincoln, Stamford) of Edgar and his half brother Eadwig who briefly reigned from 955-959.    


The crane is huge though dwarfed by the new Academy site.  The buildings themselves will cover an area of about threequarters of a hectare (let's call it an acre and a half!)  In the foreground the foundation slab of the new building can be seen.  This picture was taken in mid-March. 
This is such a good picture that I have copied it from the Drapers' Academy website.  It is of the huge crane that is now erected on site and will start to put the framework of the new buildings together like a Meccano set. 

Kier are now making very rapid progress and the good weather is certainly helping them keep up to schedule.  I am sure there will be a lot of interesting developments over the next few weeks. Also I must put on record that I am most impressed with the way that Kier are managing the site in a way that is almost completely unobtrusive to its neighbours.

For more information on the new-build and Drapers' Academy go to the website http://www.drapersacademy.com/ 


Another view of the now vanished 'Fifth Warden'
Regular readers of this blog will recall that in December (see post of 8 December) we donated a bear to the Lord Mayor's Bear Necessities Appeal to take up residence in the Mansion House, along with bears from all the other livery companies.  At the time we decided to dress him as a warden of the Drapers' Company and Penny Fussell our archivist made a most fetching miniature version of our livery robes.

We were therefore most upset to be recently informed by the Lord Mayor's secretary that our bear has disappeared.  We have no idea as to how this could have happened and if any reader of this blog knows of, or has any theories as to, the whereabouts of this artificially furry little creature I would be pleased to know.

Meanwhile a replacement has been made by the Lord Mayor's staff although the new bear is without special robes.

I hope I can eventually report the safe return of our original 'Fifth Warden.'


Regimental badge of 71 Signals Yeomanry Regiment
Regular readers of the blog will know that we have a close affiliation with 71 (City of London) Signals Yeomanry Regiment.  Recently the regiment has been re-titled to include a City of London designator.  In discussion with the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Allen, we decided to make the Hall available for a dinner to commemorate this auspicious change of title.

The regiment invited a wide range of supporters including the mayors of the boroughs and deputy lieutenants where the regiment has drill halls as well as those who support the Territorial army on a city wide basis such as Sir David Brewer the Lord Lieutenant of London.  In addition there were a large number of senior military personalities present to mark this event including General Officer Commanding London District, Major General William Cubitt CBE.

It was therefore quite an occasion.  It was also good to see that all ranks of the regiment had been invited to be present.  Many members of the regiment now have considerable operational experience which in turn brings a high level of self-confidence. 

It was one of Lieutenant Colonel Tim Allen's last events with the regiment in command as he handed over a few days later to move on to an assignment at the Joint Force Headquarters at Northwood.  He gave an excellent speech that commemorated the purpose of the evening most fittingly.  I think I can say that for Colonel Tim it was an excellent end to what has been a most successful tour and one where the links between the regiment and the Company have been further reinforced.


The nave of St Pauls looking towards the altar.
Following on from the Mansion House Dinner of the previous night the livery companies came together for the 69th Service of the United Guilds of the City of London.

As always there was a great turnout and the cathedral was packed.  The Masters and Wardens in their multicoloured robes and regalia of office, the scarlet robes of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, the ecclesiastical vestments of the clergy and a large number of other uniformed officials complemented the rich decoration of the nave.  The wives of masters sat in rows between the pews and the altar in a splendid variety of hats.

There was a good turn out of Drapers.  So many in fact that the pew allocated to the Company could not hold all those who wanted to come and some members of the Company ended up in seats at the back of the cathedral.

The Very Reverend John Hall, Dean of Westminster, gave the sermon.  Part of it included a consideration of John Donne.  This was the second time in as many weeks, see an earlier post on my visit to Hertford College, Oxford, where this most interesting man had been remembered.  The final stage of his extraordinary life was spent as Dean of St Pauls.  He died in post on 1 April 1631 so the service was on the anniversary of his death 280 years ago.

We then went back to the Hall for lunch where we entertained Gavin Ralston, one of the lay canons, and Andrew Carwood, the cathedral's director of music. 

It was also good to see Dr Bill Frankland present.  He is our oldest liveryman having passed his ninety-ninth birthday last month.  He is still working as a doctor and has led the most eventful life including being a Japanese prisoner of war and treating Saddam Hussein, but he is professionally reticent on the latter subject.  He is a role model for anyone a few decades younger who may be suffering from a temporary lack of vitality. 


The Mansion House, London.  It is located short walk away from the Hall on the other side of the Bank of England.
This and the next post give details of two events in the City year that bring the whole livery movement of London together.

On Thursday evening Rosemary and I, accompanied by Alastair Ross and his wife, Judy, were invited to the Mansion House by the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress to dinner.  As the title of this post indicates all one hundred and eight livery companies were invited to dine in the Egyptian Hall with members of the civic City.

It was a great evening and the Lord Mayor and Mrs Barbara Bear made us all most welcome.  It was one of those evenings where I was, yet again, grateful that the Drapers' Company is third in order of precedence.  Speeches are made by the Master Mercer and Master Grocer, who rank first and second respectively, and it was clearly inappropriate that a third master should speak.

Next morning all the livery companies were in St Pauls for the United Guilds' Service.


The Company hosts two major livery dinners a year.  The first in the Spring is the one where traditionally our links with the City are celebrated.  In recent years we have also taken the opportunity to invite the military units to which  we are affiliated.

The second livery dinner in July (see some of my earliest posts) is when the newly appointed Master and senior Wardens take over and the election of the Junior Warden is made public. 

The Livery Dinner is an opportunity for all liverymen to dine at the Hall and for the more senior members of the Livery to bring guests.  Additionally there are a number of Company guests

The Dinner on 23 March was a sell-out and over half the livery were present.  We were delighted to welcome Sheriff Richard Sermon MBE as a guest.  Unfortunately the Lord Mayor and the Aldermanic Sheriff were out of the country in South East Asia carrying out their vital job of selling the City across the world.

Alderman Sir David Lewis responded on behalf of the guests. He is Alderman for the Ward of Broad Street in which the hall stands. In fact Drapers' freeholds count for some 25% of the ward's area. Alderman Sir David neatly meshed with our Welsh Guards link as he is the eighth Welsh Lord Mayor (2007/8) in the City of London's history.  His Welsh roots also links with our work undertaken in North Wales through the Thomas Howell’s Education Fund for North Wales.

Howell was a most successful Welshman who virtually controlled the Anglo-Spanish trade in the early fifteenth century and subsequently endowed a great charity that survives to this day.  He also kept meticulous records of his commercial activities, these survive in our archives.  Accontants may be interested to know that he used an early form of double-entry book-keeping which is the earliest use of this accounting method known in England.

Sir David gave an impassioned plea to protect our armed services from the effects of overzealous reductions while so many are on active service and where the world situation is so uncertain.

I concluded my speech with a short message to the Livery:

'Many of you have made a significant contribution to the work of the Company over recent years. By every measure our collective efforts have been most successful; be it significantly improving our investment position, overseeing the wide range of Company business and our broader charitable activity. In the latter field more specifically education and almshouses. All-in-all there is a great sense of vitality in the Company and this vitality is maintaining our great traditions. But a number of initiatives we have, such as the new Drapers' Academy, will be asking even more of the livery. You have much to give and your huge experience and success in life make you potentially superb mentors to influence, for the better, the lives of others or to contribute your skills and professionalism towards Company projects.

We are living in times where I think we can all see the demand for our charitable activity will only increase. I hesitate to mention the overworked phrase 'The Big Society', it seems to mean everything and nothing, but if it at its heart it's about wanting to give something to others we've been doing this for centuries. One thing I am certain we will be doing it for many more centuries to come.'

The programme of the evening included a musical evening featuring some great baroque music by Handel and Bach on trumpet, strings and harpsichord.  Finally the evening saw a major change with new style chocolates prepared by Paul A Young, one of London's leading edge choclatiers, see http://www.paulayoung.co.uk/ for further details.  They seem to have been well received.

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Matthew Slater, Principal Drapers' Academy
At the last Drapers' Academy Governors meeting on 29 March Matthew Slater, Principal of the Academy, announced that he had started a blog.  This blog either appears as Principal Slater or Views from the Hill and can be accessed through the Drapers' Academy website.  Go to www.drapersacademy.com

Incidentally the Drapers' Academy website - which is linked to this blog - is developing very well and worth a look if you have a moment


There is a garden to the north of the Hall laid out in formal style.  One indication that spring has arrived is that two magnolia trees in the garden bloom profusely.  The relative warmth of central London means that they flower early and by late March are a magnificent sight and bring a great splash of colour into the heart of the City.
Looking south towards the Hall.  Throgmorton Avenue runs behind the wall to the right.
Again looking north.  The new Drapers' Gardens office building  is the box of glass just visible behind the magnolias to the left.  The Austin Friars building complex, also part of the Company's estate, are ahead and on the right.  The Drapers' Gardens name for the office block is a reminder that the gardens in the foreground are the remains of a substantial open space.  This was used for recreation and market gardening and existed up to a hundred and thirty years ago before the pressure to develop the site and build offices became too great to resist.


Coat of arms of the Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders Company
The Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders held their Election Court Lunch in the Hall on 22 March.  They were kind enough to invite me.  As I have mentioned in past blogs it is always a pleasure to be a guest in one's own Hall and the luncheon with the Tobacco Pipe Makers was no exception. 

The Tobacco Pipe Makers made me most welcome and quite a number of the Court members has links with the trade.  One retired pipemaker ruefully remarked that demand for pipes in England had declined but that demand was holding up in eastern Europe.

The Master, Julian Keevil, and his American wife, Mary, were charming hosts.  Both gave amusing speeches and Mary was particularly interesting in that she spoke about her family links with the City.  She comes from an old Virginian family that had trans-Atlantic links with both civic London and the Haberdashers particularly  in the eighteenth century. 

Julian and Mary now principally live in Virginia on a site where Mary's ancestors lived - Julian is using a lot of saved airmiles commuting regularly to London on Company business.  I think it entirely appropriate that the Master Tobacco Pipe Maker and Tobacco Blender has close roots with Virginia.

For more information about the Company go to http://www.tobaccolivery.org/   On this site you will also find an excellent blog written by the Master.  This has been going for some time and was started by one of his predecessors.

The company very kindly gave me box containing two replica Elizabethan clay pipes


The ram's head
Past Master Stephen Foakes is a talented woodworker and craftsman generally.  Recently, to commemorate my tenure as Master, he gave me a very handsome walking stick.  It is a most imaginative gift and is just the right size.

Thank you Stephen.