Sunday, 31 March 2013

Mervyn's springtime appointments as Master

MON 11 March was the Modern Companies Dinner at Insurance Hall, one of the best such I have attended. Good food and good company. The principal guest was Sherriff Nigel Pullman, who unburdened his soul about the difficulties in obtaining suitable tights for the Shrieval Formal Dress (which he will be wearing at the WCCA Banquet: Modern Companies being ‘informal’ ie. Black Tie). This was an introduction to the heaviest schedule for a week so far. On Tuesday I was let off so drove to Northampton for an evening of planning CPD; mercifully the snow was light. On WED 13 the Vintners’ Company celebrated the 650th Anniversary of their first Royal Charter with Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a Reception at the nearby St Paul’s Grange Hotel. I’m running out of epithets for St Pauls: suffice it to say that the usual high standard was maintained, and that this was A1 on the scale of importance, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (in substitution it was said for The Queen, who was in hospital for two days). The Reception was not a comfortable affair, with the cloakroom facilities overwhelmed so much that we had to stand outside in the cold for 20 minutes, and then made our way into the sub-basement to a vast room with acoustics so poor that I found it difficult to converse. The Vintners didn’t stint: Tattinger champagne flowed freely, but I had to be wary of driving the seven miles home from Letchworth station. 

Next day THU 14 I put some serious thought into avoiding over imbibing when driving. It all started well as I left my car at a friend’s house in Letchworth, white tie and tails ‘neath my black overcoat. I arrived outside The Mansion House in good time for THE LORD MAYOR’s BANQUET FOR MASTERS. Ann arrived and we made our way through security into the Crush Lobby, which was heaving. I queued for the Cloakroom, while Ann changed in the Ladies. Many familiar faces were greeted. Then Ann had to insert herself in the Cloakroom queue, which had grown (she’s very good at that and nobody ever seems to mind). David and Mary Cole-Adams passed and joined the queue for the stairs and reception, which was very long – we never saw them again. Then we inserted ourselves in the queue, and slowly progressed to be received by The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress and Nigel Pullman, again. Then into one of the heaving ante-rooms before being summoned to take our seats in the Egyptian Hall for the Banquet. From then on it was Cloud Nine, pageantry, the Pikemen on guard, brazen fanfares and the mix of the slightly absurd by the hand of tradition. The speeches were serious, and in the case of the Master Grocer reminiscent of bygone attitudes. The timing was somewhat awry, and as we were seated close to the doors, we refused a stirrup cup, and made our way to the cloakrooms (blissfully uncrowded). I hailed a taxi outside the front on The Mansion House (never before achieved and relieving Ann of a long cold walk to Moorgate – but that’s another story) and off we set for our respective termini. I hopped out at King’s Cross just in time for the 10.45, only to find all through trains to the Cambridge branch cancelled due to emergency trackwork. A slow train terminating in Stevenage didn’t connect with the announced substitute buses, so I took a £40 taxi ride home, worth every penny on a freezing night. 

On FRI: 15, I clocked up a threesome (in the best possible taste). Happily the travel plan – minibus to Ashwell Station for the 0718 to King’s Cross worked like a dream, and in good time I strode confidently from Faringdon Station to Stationers’ Hall for Chester Boyd’s Champagne Breakfast. This is really a hard sell to Clerks (I was Ian’s guest) for the Caterer and the Hall. It was one of the best such I have been to, a good quality breakfast, with a witty and informative talk from one of the best known wine correspondents (so well known that his name escapes me as I recall the event two weeks later) about changes in the wine trade and drinking habits over the past 30 years. We have all become more sophisticated in our tastes – I am old enough to remember the days of Blue Nun, Piat d’Or and Mateus Rose 50 years ago – without regret. St Paul’s again for the UNITED GUILDS SERVICE, only the big 12 and selected younger Companies process. Finally, a decent Lunch at Plaisterers Hall rounded off the day. 

MON 18 hotfoot to Basketry Arts, Dutch Church, 11.30 for demonstration and buffet lunch. As with the Turners’ Wizardry in Wood, this was a craft display and sales opportunity: I acquired an elegant, robust and hopefully cat-proof waste paper basket, and nibbled on the buffet, chatting to Gillian Scahill, wife of the Master Engineer, who had been called to the launch of the Queen’s Prize for Engineering, billed as the Nobel Prize for invention. Then I discovered that my new, warm, black woollen overcoat had been purloined from the unattended cloakroom (and a worn one of a different size was left next to where mine had been hung). Mercifully I had left nothing in the pockets – at least I still had the scarf and hat that I had placed in my bag, but after having reported the matter, I hurried along Austin Friars through the freezing drizzle, clutching the basket to my bosom and gritted my teeth for the 1/3 mile walk to the car from Letchworth Station at the other end. The Basketmakers Company emailed all the companies they had invited to the event, but 10 days later nobody had reported taking the wrong coat (which there had been ample time to discover) and the Dutch Church still held the other coat (which nobody had bothered to claim). I can only conclude that the disappearance of my coat had been opportunistic theft. Checking people in and out of the event had been hit and miss. I hope that a Liveryman was not responsible: even so it leaves a bitter taste. 

By sheer coincidence, my next event on THU 21 took me back to Austin Friars for the Furniture Makers’ 50th Anniversary Court Dinner at Furniture Hall, opposite the Dutch Church. John and Sylvia Reid, architects who were active in the Furniture Makers Company in its early years were founders of WCCA, and Sylvia was our first Lady Master in 1996, and more recently we had held joint Carol Services. The Hall resulted from a purchase in a fine Edwardian Building, and was aptly scaled for a dinner of 35, with a menu which included the best venison I can recall. It was a very pleasant occasion, intimate enough to engage in conversation, and I left with a feeling of warmth and bonhomie. Then the curse of Austin Friars struck again! The bitter wind caused me hastily to reach into my bag for the hat with earflaps, and in so doing I dislodged my spectacles. Actually I heard a noise, and looked downwards – Austin Friars is not well lit and I didn’t see anything obvious, and only discovered the loss of specs when I reached home. Not perhaps too disastrous since they were from the eye test before the last, after which the strength was increased, but I had always liked those half frames…. 

March ended on the highest possible note (C in altississimo, only audible to a passing bat!) On TUE 26 the WCCA Banquet was held at Carpenters Hall. Ian had planned everything meticulously – the order of procedure, timed down to the last minute is attached. However, it was up to me to match up to this. My driver, Lee, collected me and 2 guests – the Murrays, Sheila had been my PA/ Secretary for 21 years – and we reached Carpenters’ Hall spot on 18.00. My son Sam had travelled from Yorkshire that afternoon and was staying at the St Pancras Hotel. He collected Ann from her hotel and they too arrived on time. Ann was wearing a very becoming dark red gown which emphasised her trim figure. We posed for official photographs before the Reception. The Orpington Sea Cadets in their smart sailor suits provided the ‘carpet guard’ at the foot of the steps (a first at this event). Not that anybody would have stood much chance of making away with the carpet, given the eagle eyes of the Carpenter’s Beadle who seemed to be fussing around. The Reception line assembled, with Wardens and ladies, and the gladhanding and greeting went like clockwork. My personal guests included family and friends from schooldays in 1953 and professional colleagues. Livery support was excellent: the lesser number 122 reflected the omission of winners from the Company’s architecture award (which had not run this year due to lack of entries) and the ‘outmess’ support of Aldermanic guests: Sherriff Nigel Pullman was out top level guest who came ‘unencumbered’. Photographs were hurriedly taken with Guest Masters, then the procession into the hall, to the strains of ‘See the Conquering Hero Comes’ – I had suggested tongue-in-cheek that it be played ‘with irony’. 

Carpenters’ Hall grows on me. Its exterior is late 19th century classical with an arcaded front and Corinthian columns to London Wall (1876-80 by W. W. Pocock). The interiors were reworked after gutting by firebombing in 1941 which ignited the gas main in London Wall. Whinney, Son and Austen Hall redesigned the restoration in 1956-60, who including the stark bridge over Throgmorton Avenue to contain the extended hall, which includes at least 18 varieties of timber. The interior of the hall was by Clifford Weardon of Basil Spence’s practice. As I mused on the hall, sympathetically lit with modern glass candle holders on the tables and dimmed ceiling lights, I noted a family resemblance of the ceiling to the contemporary treatment at the new Coventry Cathedral). The Loving Cups followed the dinner: I set two on their way and others came up the centre spring towards me. The Royal toasts followed, and a short comfort break, during which the musicians strutted their stuff. Liam Dunachie from the Guildhall School of Music had brought a Jazz Quartet. I had requested Fats Waller’s ‘Aint Misbehavin’ and Duke Ellington’s ‘Take the A Train’ and boy were they good! Rather than have a string quartet (which many may have expected of me) I decided, on the strength of hearing Liam and his colleagues at Plaisterers’ Hall in January that they would create a relaxed mood at the Banquet, midst the formality. 

Then Jaki Howes, Upper Warden, gave a potted history of the hall in her Civic Toast, when she also welcomed Sherriff Nigel Pullman, with a passing reference to ‘stockings’ (‘men in tights’ are not confined to 1930s Hollywood and Errol Flynn as Robin Hood: they flourish to this day among the City of London Shrievalty). It was now time for the ceremonial welcome and Toast to the Company Guests. My speech included the tribulations of public speaking without the visual aids which usually drive my presentations. It is reproduced below, and was well received. In reply, John Burton, surveyor to the fabric of Canterbury Cathedral, made a brilliant concise speech: on hearing his title an American guest at a formal dinner had replied that he too was ‘big in drapes’. John emphasised the need to recognise the contribution of crafts to the continued cherishing of our architectural heritage. His Toast, on behalf of the Guests, to the Company, coupled with the Master –‘may they flourish root and branch’ left me alone seated, almost as patriarch of an extended family (which is what the Livery is in extended sense). In reply, my final utterance, all I could say was that this had been one of the highlights of my life that I knew would not recur, thank all for their support and presence, and invite them to take a Stirrup Cup. 

I have since learned that as I and the Murrays were driven back to Ashwell that an extended Stirrup Cup Italiano was taken at St Pancras Hotel: I’ll leave it to Ann to add further comment. 


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The WCCA's annual Banquet for 2013 at Carpenters' Hall

A short movie of incredible carving!

 a swagwork detail

the 'Augustus Panel' carved by Shane Raven

The Master Carpenter 1604, 1605 and 1616; Richard Wyatt
The gates to Carpenters' Hall

 The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects



Sheriff Nigel Pullman

The Master of the Tylers and Bricklayers - Mr. David Cole Adams, and Mary Cole Adams

The Master the Chartered Surveyors - Mr. Roger Southam, and Miss Roberta Anderson

The Master of the Engineers’ Company - Mr David Scahill and Mrs. Gillian Scahill

Mr John Burton and Mrs Sally Burton - Surveyor to the Fabric of Canterbury Cathedral and Surveyor Emeritus of Westminster Abbey

PO (SCC) Andrew Lawson - 1st Lieutenant Orpington Sea Cadets

The Rev'd Michael Skinner - Orpington Sea Cadets Chairman of Unit Management Committee


18.00 The designated Assistant / Stewards to assist with placement of table plans, place cards and menu cards in the Reception Gallery.
Master, Consort, Wardens, Partners to prepare for robing and photographs.

18.15 Orpington Sea Cadets to be introduced to the Master and Wardens

18.20 Master, Wardens, Clerk and Stewards (David Penning, Chris Bicknell, Rosemary Curry) will be robed by the Beadle to the Company (David Wylie).  Photographs of the Master, the Wardens and Ladies to be taken at this stage Court Room including Orpington Sea Cadets

18.30     Sea Cadets to be formed up at base of stair.

18.35 The Musicians commence playing in the Upper Reception area

The Master, Wardens and their Ladies will form the reception line at the top of the stairs and will remain in place until 19.15.

Members of the Company and Guests to arrive at the Hall. Copies of the table plan will be available from a table in the Hall Reception – a Steward    will be in attendance.

Members and Guests will be directed to the Reception area for pre-dinner drinks. Guests of the Company (listed above will be directed to the rear of the Reception Room with their designated ‘hosts’.

The following members of the Court and Stewards are asked to ‘hover’ to meet the Company guests after they have been received and to take them with their ladies into the Court Room to entertain them prior to dinner.  The gowned Stewards will ensure that each Company guest is met by their ‘host’.

Sheriff Nigel Pulman - Past Master Alan Downing
The Master of the Tylers and Bricklayers and Lady - Assistant Howard Copping
The Master of the Chartered Surveyors - Assistant Tom Ball
The Master of the Engineers - Assistant Sandra Papworth
The Master of the Constructors - Deputy Master Edward King
Mr John Burton and Mrs Sally Burton - Past Master Roger France
PO (SCC) Andrew Lawson   and The Rev'd Michael Skinner - Stephen Wagstaffe    

17.10 Clerk to await the arrival of the Sheriff and bring him to the reception Line.

19.15 The Beadle announces in Drawing Room: ‘Master, Wardens, Sheriff, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dinner is served – would all Members of the Company and guests not in the procession please proceed to take your places in the Hall. The Company guests, other than those in the procession, are to be escorted to where the photographer will take photographs of the Master’s Guests and then should proceed to the Hall.

The Musicians will move into the Dining Room and continue playing

19.20 The Master is to be photographed with his fellow Masters. Then, Masters are to be escorted to their places by their ‘hosts’.

19.20 Photographs are taken of the Master, Wardens and the Principal Guests and their ladies and the Clerk in the Reception Room. The Company guests, other than those in the procession, are to be escorted to their places by their ‘hosts’.

19.25 The Beadle will form up the procession in the order below and then the Master, Principal Guests and Wardens process to the Great Hall as follows:

The Master     Sherriff Nigel Pullman
John Burton Mrs Ann Yorke
The Upper Warden Mrs Sally Burton    
The Renter Warden Mrs. Ann Purves
The Junior Warden The Clerk

When the Liverymen and the guests are in their places, The Beadle will announce: “Liverymen, Ladies and Gentlemen please receive the Master, Wardens, and their Ladies and your Principal Guests”

The Musician strike up” See the Conquering Hero Comes”  and the Master and Principal Guests enter the Livery Hall and proceed to the top table – the gentlemen taking their escorts to their places before standing by their own seats. The Junior and Renter Wardens and the Clerk will drop off the procession at their respective places

The Musicians leave

The Beadle announces Grace which will be called for by the MASTER. At this stage the Beadle will take the Master’s gown and re-fix the chain prior to collecting other gowns (which their occupants will remove) – the Upper Warden’s from the top table, the others from tail gunner positions.

Dinner is served (approximately 1 hour 40 minutes for the meal). The musician will NOT play background music during the meal.

21.10 Grace – Laudi Spirituali, will be announced by the Beadle – “Wardens, Sheriff, Masters, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Master invites you to stand and join in singing of Grace.”  With Piano Accompaniment.

21.15 The Loving Cup: The Beadle will announce “The Master and Wardens of this Worshipful Company drink to you in a Loving Cup and bid you all a hearty welcome”. During this ceremony there will be background musical accompaniment by musicians

Note for the Master: two loving cups will be brought to the Master’s position at the top table. Following the Beadle’s announcement he will rise, take the cup on his right, turn to the person on his right to start off the ceremony. Once the person on is right has turned away, the Master will take up the cup to the left and repeat the process in that direction. He will then guard the back of the person to his left until he/she passes the cup on. Then he will resume his seat.

Note for those who sit at the ends of sprigs: You should take your cue from the Clerk who will stand when the Master has started both cups on the top table. They should prime the persons on either side of them to rise. The ‘tail gunner’ will drink first, the neighbour to his left having raised the lid of the cup. The neighbour on the right will stand with his / her back to the drinker. The cup will then be passed up the left hand side of the table. The passing of the cup and the raising of the lid should be done with considerable élan and such bows and curtsies as are appropriate.

21.25 Port is served

21.30 The Beadle will gavel
The Master rises and, leaving his glass on the table, when all is quiet gives the toast: (NB)
All rise. The first verse of the National Anthem will be sung accompanied by the musician PIANO.
The toast is drunk - All sit

The Beadle will gavel
The Master rises and, leaving his glass on the table when all is quiet, gives the toast:
All rise. A half verse of the National Anthem will be played but not sung.
The toast is drunk - All sit.

21.35 Coffee and petits fours will then be served.

The Beadle Gavels for the Master. The Master announces that there will be a musical interlude. The Master thanks the musicians for their entertainment  and states that they are students at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and that they appear by kind permission of the Principal.
There will be a comfort break of 12 minutes at this stage during which time the musicians will play


After consultation with the Master, The Beadle will gavel and subsequently move the lectern among the Speakers as set out below:

The Musicians will leave

The Beadle will gavel and announce “Master, Wardens, Sheriff, Ladies and Gentlemen pray silence for the Upper Warden, Jaki Howes”

The Upper Warden rises – “Master, Fellow Wardens, Sheriff, Ladies and gentlemen” and after a speech (of 5 minutes max) proposes the toast to


21.55 The Beadle will gavel and call “Pray silence for the Master”

The Master rises ‘Wardens, Fellow Masters, Sheriff, Ladies and Gentlemen …………’ and at the end of a speech of (max 7 minutes) proposes the Toast to ‘THE GUESTS’. Note: during the course of this speech the Master will present a cheque to Sheriff Nigel Pullman as the Company’s contribution to the Lord Mayor’s Charity.

22 05 The Beadle will gavel and announce John Burton who will respond to the Toast to the Guests. He will conclude by proposing a toast to the Master (7 Minutes)

22.15 The Beadle will announce “THE MASTER “ who will wish everyone a safe journey home etc and invite them to join in a Stirrup cup in the outer reception area.


The Master and official party leave the Hall in the opposite direction to the entry route and gather in the Reception Room

22.45 Members and their guests urged to depart the building

The guard of hour - The Orpington Sea Cadets

The banquet tables within Carpenters' Hall

tablecam catches architects in full flow...

the Loving Cup passes

Monday, 18 March 2013

A message from the Lord Mayor

Below is a copy of the Lord Mayor’s speech at his 
Banquet for Masters 
held last Thursday 14th March 2013 at Mansion House.
(we don't quite understand the date given within the text, but hey.....!)

Masters Web

Mervyn, the Master's travels and travails

February wasn’t just the MILO Lecture, but it was comparatively lightweight: a relief as I had back problems during most of the month, and had to resort to a walking stick, ’borrowed’ from The Lister Hospital in Stevenage when I suffered a severe sprained ankle many moons ago.  I nearly left it on the coat rack on WED February 6 when I attended the Sherriff’s and Recorders Fund Concert, held at St Vedast, Foster Lane a lesser-known and modest Wren Church of 1695-1701.  The programme was based on London in words and music. The musical side of this pleasant anthology was provided by members of the Choir, and concluded with Noel Coward’s London Pride, his secular hymn to the spirit of the Blitz and ‘London can take it’: much of Foster Lane was destroyed and proud Goldsmiths’ Hall was gutted.  There were also two offbeat numbers- Tell me the truth about love, one of Britten’s cabaret songs to words by Auden; and The bells of London (Oranges and Lemon etc.) from Walton’s Songs for the Lord Mayor’s Table, which was commissioned by The Goldsmiths’ Company, composed in 1962 and premiered by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Gerald Moore in the newly restored Goldsmiths’ Hall. On MON February 18 I was invited to attend the launch of the Birmingham Personal Support Unit at the Birmingham Courts (better known to me as Lewis’s Department Store) in the presence of the Lord Chief Justice. Gary is sitting in Birmingham this term but he wasn’t there. Ann and I enjoyed this, and returned to Harborne for an Italian supper at Café Zizzi.  It was a relaxed occasion which prefaced a public inquiry in Westminster over the next two and a half days.  

Ann also attended my last event in February, a real blockbuster, on THU February 28, the World Traders ‘Tacitus’ Lecture, which fills the 700 seats of Guildhall to capacity. We’d made a day of it, with a leisurely lunch at Searcy’s brasserie at St Pancras, a  stop at Lipman’s in Holborn to purchase a new tail coat (much needed as the 1988 Charity shop one no longer fits!), then a gentle pither round the Guildhall Art Gallery, and virtually first in the hall. Soon a coterie of Masters gathered around us.  The lecture Industry and the City – Revitalising the Economy was given by Sir Richard Lambert, Senior Independent Adviser at Deutsche Bank addressing the challenge of growing the economy in straightened times (a perpetual leitmotif from economists, politicians and pundits).  Not unexpectedly Sir Richard was committed to a European perspective, but also touched on the sleepwalking into the demise of British manufacturing industry, and the lack of practical fitness for purpose in education.  It was sobering to wake up next day to hear the near triumph of little England at the Eastleigh by-election, held the day of the lecture.  At the crowded reception afterwards Ann made great effort to find (and presumably buttonhole) her MP, Gisela Stewart, but was unsuccessful.

Into Mad March with an onrush of dreadful weather which deteriorated steadily through the first week.  On MON March 4 at 18.30 it was the City of London Guide Lecturers’ Association Lecture at the Dutch Church in Austin Friars. Their 10th Annual Derek Melluish Memorial Lecture was given by Richard General Lord Dannatt, Constable of the Tower of London, who as head of armed services had been summarily ‘sent to the Tower’ by Gordon Brown who, it is said, blocked further service as Chief of General Staff, reputedly as a result of criticism of Defence Policy over the War in Afghanistan (he had also had a brush with Blair).  The lecture drew on Dannatt’s hindsight perspective on the latter part of his military career as well as his new day job, held since 2009. Frankly I would have preferred more about the role of the Constable, although it did arise in the short Q & A session before the reception.

TUE March 5  saw the Builders Merchants Annual City and Awards Luncheon, at Ironmongers’ Hall, 12.30 for 1.00pm.  The welcome by Master Andrew Day was cordial and I thoroughly enjoyed this event.  However, the timing overran and I had to make a not very discreet exit before the Award presentation was completed to rush to a meeting at the RIBA. This had been convened to discuss Richard Brindley’s paper on Championing London’s Global Architecture Trading Hub, which postulated a new role for WCCA with RIBA input.  There had been welcome developments since it was taken to the January Court and this would be ongoing to the April Accounts Court.  Once again, the pressure of moving quickly between two different commitments several miles apart was not conducive to effective participation at the latter.   

The weather forecast for FRI March 8: Letchworth Garden City Day was ‘wet and windy’: in addition poor visibility veiled the impact of the First Garden City, but happily did not dim the enthusiasm of the 31 participants who arrived at the Spirella factory ballroom for the morning presentation by Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, followed after an early buffet lunch, by an afternoon tour of architectural highlights including two superb houses which evoked ‘the spirit of the place’.  Dropping in (out of the rain) to The First Garden City Heritage Museum, their exhaustive display of Spirella corsets and memorabilia revealed the amazing range of ‘figure modelling’ garments many of our mothers and grandmothers ordered in confidence from the local network of Spirella ladies, and were made to measure in ‘Castle Corset’.  This event was a slice of my professional, academic and literary life involving the Garden City movement, embarked upon in 1974 and continuing in an international context.  The calling notices and briefing notes reproduced below     


LETCHWORTH GARDEN CITY: Master Plan layout (1904) and Westholm housing (1906)

Garden Cities are back on the government's planning agenda.  I have been involved with their management and conservation for almost 40 years.  I have published several books on the subject: the latest Introducing English Garden Cities appeared in 2010 under the English Heritage imprint.  In liaison with the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation I am organising a visit to the First Garden City, established in 1903 on the basis of Ebenezer Howard's book, Tomorrow: A peaceful Path to Real Reform published in 1898.  Building a Utopian community on the green fields of Hertfordshire was a bold strategy for First Garden City Ltd.  However the Master Plan by Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin and the enlightened cottage housing set standards for community planning during the 20th century and are still relevant today.  Howard's 'joyous union of town and country' included a spacious town centre and an industrial estate, reflecting an arts and crafts architectural image, set in an agricultural green belt, which anticipated its statutory counterpart by 50 years. 

A unique feature about Letchworth is the requirement that the added value created by its development and management should be returned to the community, rather than distributed to shareholders.  The Heritage Foundation is a registered charity which has ploughed resources into regeneration, including the local cinema, and awards grants to community organisations.  It is independent of North Hertfordshire District Council, which is the planning authority.  Most development requires landlord consent from the Foundation in addition to statutory planning permission from NHDC.  The Letchworth Conservation Area covers the town centre, Howard Park, Broadway, Norton Common and most of the early residential areas.  Many of the most characteristic early Garden City buildings were listed in 1979, the first predominantly 20th century statutory list.  Much of the groundwork for the conservation of Letchworth was put in place by The Master, when he was Principal Conservation Officer at North Hertfordshire District Council in 1974-87. 

Letchworth is easily accessible by rail from King's Cross or Cambridge, and is just off the A1 (M) junction 9.  We will meet at the iconic II* listed Spirella building (a few yards from the station) at 10.00 for 10.30 for coffee and a briefing by the Heritage Foundation, the ground landlord.  A bus tour will include stops at the Garden City Heritage Museum and the outstanding regeneration of Howard Park Gardens, the new sustainable housing at Hartington Place and an early Arts and Crafts private house.  Lunch will be provided by the Foundation.  The day will end about 4.00 pm.


Arrival at Spirella Building for Coffee. The Spirella Building was designed by the Letchworth architect, Cecil Hignett, for the American firm manufacturing and marketing made-to-measure corsets, stiffened by a spiral wound spring. The building (constructed in three phases 1912-20) is a pioneer of concrete framing, with generous glazing in the workshop wings and flat roofs, which were used as sun decks by the employees.  The ballroom, where our meeting will be held, hosted callisthenic dancing for the employees as well as civic balls. Corset manufacture ceased in the 1970s, and most of the factory was subdivided into myriad small industrial units, and deteriorated, despite being listed Grade II*.  It was refurbished as high-tech offices by the Heritage Foundation and was re-opened by Prince Charles in 1999.

10.45-12.00 noon
Welcome and Presentation by John Lewis, Chief Executive of Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and Estate Managers

12.00-13.00 pm
Lunch at Spirella

1.00-4.15 pm
Guided Coach Tour of Letchworth Garden City including 7 Willian Way (built 1909 as the family home of Wilson Bidwell (visit)); The Cloisters (now North Herts masonic Lodge), listed Grade II* (built as a visionary education centre by Miss Lawrence in 1907, architect W H Cowlishaw, external view); Friends Meeting House (1907, Bennett and Bidwell, external view). First Garden City Heritage Museum (visit, built 1907 as the offices of Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin) walk through Howard Park Gardens (Mrs Howard Memorial Hall, 1905 by Parker and Unwin) to Rushby Mead Housing (Howard Cottage Society 1911); Hartington Place (competition-winning sustainable housing 2011-12, external visit); Westholm, Wilbury Road (Parker and Unwin 1906, short stop, walk to nearby Exhibition Cottages from 1905); Stanley Parker House 102 Wilbury Road (visit, designed 1909 by Barry Parker for his craftsman brother, listed Grade II*).

4.15 pm
Return to Spirella for Tea and departure