Monday 1/10 was COMMON HALL at Guildhall for the annual election of the Lord Mayor of the City of London. As a Liveryman I’ve done this several times, but this was special. As Master, I took Breakfast at Carpenter’s Hall, then went to the Guildhall crypt for robing, and marshalling for the procession to St. Lawrence Jewry for the Service. Then back across the yard for the processional entry into Guildhall, the full panoply culminating in the Lord Mayor. The election is by acclamation: not the democratic ballot. I’ve often thought of it as ‘Politburo with Pageantry’, and splendid it is! Afterwards an excellent luncheon at Haberdashers’ Hall rounded the proceedings off nicely. In the evening I was guest of my cousin Mr Justice (Sir Gary) Hickinbottom at the Bakers’ Company Dinner, excellent food in convivial surroundings. My grandfather Sam Hickinbottom built up a successful bakery in the Black Country after redundancy as an ironworker by selling bread made by his wife Martha off a handcart: such was the spirit of enterprise in 1896.
The Musicians Company Evensong at St Pauls Cathedral late afternoon on 3/10 was another great occasion, its pageantry complemented by apt music at one of the great Anglican ritual services. Choral music aside, the most moving item was the Guildhall Strings playing Elgar’s Elegy beneath the twilit dome. After a quick bite at the Reception, reunited with my consort Ann, it was hotfoot down Cheapside to the ARBITRATORS’ CONCERT at St Mary le Bow. An intriguing combination of organ music, a virtuoso Ukranian pianist-composer and a vocal duet culminated in Rossini’s hilarious Duet for two cats, which as usual brought the house down.
On Monday 8/10 Stephen Wagstaffe and I joined our new 'regiment' the Orpington Sea Cadet unit on their visit No. 10 Downing Street, informal, informative and fun (no difficulty with security!) where we were welcomed by Larry, the Downing Street cat. The unit was very smartly turned out with the cadets in immaculate naval ratings' dress and their 'top brass' in formal frock coats with brass buttons, gold braid around the cuffs and peaked caps. The guides couldn't have been more friendly. As we sat round the Cabinet table, one of the youngest took David Cameron's seat: I was opposite in Nick Clegg's place. Photographs were taken, and I hope to get these from the unit. We proceeded up the cantilevered stair, its well lined with portraits of every Prime Minister from Walpole, and into the State suite used for receptions. We were invited to sit in all the furniture: a girl cadet stood up pretty sharply on being asked 'Are you comfortable?' - 'Yes' - 'You might be interested to hear that that chair (gold French ormolu) is insured for £1 million'! We also amired the plaster vaulting by Sir John Soane, in the State Dining Room and in no. 11 in Geoirge Osborne’s Conference Room. It was a great occasion, and Stephen and I felt privileged to be hangers on. On October 30th my predecessor Michael Wilkey and I will travel to Tilbury to see the unit training on shipboard.
Back to Haberdashers on Wednesday 10/03 (?) for the Tin Plate Workers Court Dinner, another lively affair. Andrew Balcombe, Master, had been a guest at my installation, when we both shared our penchant for the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Andrew, whose proud boast is that he has lived on the same double page of the London A-Z map, is the latest of three generations of Company Masters, a dynasty only feasible with the patrimony of the older companies, and the top table was a roll call of family.
So to Tuesday 16/10, my own Master’s Reception, was held at THE ART WORKERS’ GUILD HALL, Queen’s Square, Bloomsbury. The Guild was founded in 1884 as a coming together of architecture and the crafts associated with building. I am a Brother of the Guild, and I invited their Master, George Hardie (resplendent in robes designed by C F A Voysey) to tell us something about this singular organisation, together with Simon Hurst, the architect who recently restored the hall (which was built as a laundry). Around 40 people spent an informal and informative evening, with appreciative feedback.
On Thursday 18/10 I attended the Turner’s Company Reception at Carpenters’ Hall. This celebrated their exhibition Wizardry in Wood, a comprehensive demonstration of their craft since mediaeval times, including artefacts recovered from the Mary Rose wreck of 1545. The hall was filled with skilled craftworkers, demonstrating turning and selling their wares. The court room contained the prize exhibits, scarcely believable in their complexity and delicacy unless assisted by the wizardry of Harry Potter!
written by Master Mervyn Miller