Thursday, 31 October 2013

Lighting-Up Dinner Guildhall Crypt Wednesday 30th October

One of the requirements, or rather privileges,  of the Master of the mother company of the Aldermanic Sheriff is to sit on the Lord Mayor and Sheriff's Committee involved with aspects of the organisation of major events in the Mayoral Year.  Major among these is the banquet for the new Lord Mayor held in Guildhall on the Monday following the installation and such regular charitable activities as the Big Curry Lunch.

More will follow about the Lord Mayor's Banquet in later blogs but there is a little known but interesting quirk of history - that of the Lighting-Up dinner which deserves some explanation.

Prior to 1777 there had apparently been several years when the Banquet had not been conducted with the decorum becoming the City and it was decided in that year to establish a committee to superintend "The Entertainment" - the origins of the Lord Mayor's and Sheriff's Committee. As an evening event likely to extend late into the night, at that time much attention had to be paid to the lighting of the Great Hall, still achieved by means of candles and oil lamps.In 1791 the contractor responsible for lighting the Great Hall and adjoining rooms underootk to provide 6000 glass lamps of various colours, 800 black lanthorns, 15 dozen pounds of wax candles, together with a sufficient quantity of cotton spermaceti oil.  The lamps were to be lighted by 4pm on Lord Mayor's Day and to remain burning until 4am the following morning.  Lighting was always of great importance to the success of a major function.

The need for a rehearsal of the lighting arrangements almost certainly dates from introduction of gas to light and no doubt there were also safety considerations of concern.  Gas was first used in 1815 and proved a success - beautifying Guildhall for the Banquet.  It was an exciting innovation and the rehearsal itself became a popular event to which members of the public were invited - eventually turning up in excessive number to view the hall and its decorations.   Fire was always a danger and in 1827 a board carrying variegated oil lights in the shape of an anchor fell down with a terrific crash from where it had been badly fixed in the great east window.   Unfortunately it fell on the heads of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress seated at that time on the dais at the east end, as was the custom.      The Lord Mayor Alderman Matthias Lucas sustained head injuries by broken glass, and the Duke of Clarence also received two slight wounds.  The Lady Mayoress had her dress ruined by oil.  Many of the distinguished guests left soon afterwards and clearly this was a huge embarassment to the City as the evening was ruined. The Clerk of the City's Works was held responsible for the accident and severely reprimanded although he would have had to climb a high ladder to discover the use of thin and unseasoned wood that was to warp with the heat and become unwedged.  The following year the Lord Mayor and Sheriff's Committee accepted the offer of 18 firemen from the Secretary of the Norwich Union.  The committee continued to have a duty to inspect a rehearsal of the lighting arrangements.  This continues long after use of gas was discontinued and the Committee supervises all arrangements for the Banquet to this day holding a Lighting Up Dinner.  It is enshrined as part of the ceremonials attedant on the installation of a new Lord Mayor.  It is conducted in the presence of the Lord Mayor-elect and the Sheriffs, as well as many of those with responsibilities for the conduct of the Show and the Banquet.
One quirk was the expectation for the Lord Mayor's and Sheriffs Committee to provide an "entertainment".
This we duly did, singing "Oranges and Lemons" to much accompanying good humour.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Bowden Charter Dinner Thursday 24th October Plaisterers' Hall

The Bowden Charter Dinner held annually in October was instigated to celebrate the achievement of Reginald Bowden, founder Master to both the Guild and the Livery Company he helped create.

Reginald Bowden was selected from a group of seven Fellows of the Institute of Marketing, five of whom former Chairmen, to lead a working party in 1973 with the aim of establishing a City Guild to represent the profession of marketing.   In just two years such a Guild was founded, and just two years after that we were a full blown livery company, obtaining the approval of the Court of Alderman to progress to full livery status in December 1977.  The working party not only had to negotiate with the City, but also find the members prepared to join and help fund the proposed Guild and Livery Company.  Financial viability lies at the heart of what is sought prior to establishment of both Guilds and Livery Companies.  At the dinner I really wanted this year to re-establish the huge importance of Reginald Bowden to the existence of the company - something that I thought had perhaps been rather lost in recent years. This is a particularly good time to do it as it is forty years since the establishment of the working party and some of our founders are still active in the Company and wish that their work be recognised and fully appreciated by the current membership.

Viscount Younger is the Under Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and is the Business Minister in the House of Lords representing his department.  In his speech at the start of the evening Lord Younger stressed the role that Professional and Business Services (PBS) need to fulfil in the new economy that will emerge in the wake of the financial crisis.  It is expected that a further 600,000 jobs will be created in this sector in coming years - representing a huge transition in employment opportunities and the skills needed in the modern economy.

My after dinner speaker is a personal friend Dr Gillian Tett, Assistant Editor to the Financial Times and a well known journalist and author on financial matters.  She stressed the fact that even experts such as Alan Greenspan can "get it wrong" and that there is no monopoly on wisdom.  The origin of the word "credit" is CREDO - the Greek for trust and that implied that personal relationships must again come to lie at the heart of transactions in the City. With her anthropological interest in the motivations of people she said that livery companies have importance in the city - representing as they do a connectedness between professionals.

The Bowden was very well attended - over 200 - and this was my fourth "Great Event" during my year of mastership.   The Masters of the Mercers, Plaisterers and International Bankers were also in attendance as guests, along with Mr Nicholas Woolf who will shortly be assuming the role of consort to the incoming Lord Mayor.  Our dinner was reported today in the Daily Telegraph under Court and Social.

Prior to the dinner a Ceremonial Court was held at which I had the pleasure of installing a new Court Assistant, admitting four freemen into the livery as liverymen (sometimes described in livery companies as clothing or clotheing), and admitting eight into the Freedom of the Company.  These eight Freemen now have the opportunity to apply for the Freedom of the City of London, sponsored by the Marketors' Company.  The procedure at Ceremonial Court is very formal with each person admitted or installed reading a declaration in front of the Court. I also awarded four Pioneer Medals and two academic prizes so it was a very full Court Meeting.

The Bowden Dinner marks that I am three quarters of the way through my year but still with plenty of other events still ahead of me, and of course the Company - Autumn is always a busy period for all livery companies.      


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Gresham Lecture Barnards Inn Hall 23rd October

The Gresham Lectures embrace a wide variety of topics of interest to those involved in the City of London.  The lectures are free and held in the historical setting of Barnards Inn Hall, which used to be a Mercers School up to 1958.

One of the lesser known subjects involving livery companies are the Irish Plantations which took place early in the 17th Century, coincident in timing with the Virginia Plantations and the planned colonisation of America.  

Part of a series of three lectures on the establishment of Londonderry and forced colonalisation of Northern Ireland by the English, under Royal pressure financed by 55 Livery companies, Professor James Stevens Curl gave an interesting insight into the role of The Honourable Irish Company and particularly the Great Twelve - each allocated large areas of land in what we now know as Ulster.  Professor Curl outlined how the Irish Plantations shaped events in Europe and also in England - helping to bring about the decapitation of Charles 1 and creating the Civil War at home.

The story is fascinating and makes interesting reading - all lectures are transcribed and available online for printing out or for listening.

151 (London) Transport Regiment's Curry Night Tuesday 22nd October at 240 Transport Squadron's TA Centre at Barnet

Over the year the Marketors, and myself in particular, have developed and maintained a really special relationship with 151 (London) Transport Regiment. The Regiment is London's only logistic regiment and part of the Royal Logistic Corps. The soldiers and officers come from all walks of civilian life and represent the diversity of Greater London and beyond. Their promotional material states you don't have to be a professional driver to join the Regiment.   Having been only that morning to Thruxton race circuit for a Jaguar experience (see previous blog!), I felt very humbled when I went to visit the Transport Squadron in Barnet in the evening.  Here I met the men and women of the Regiment and learned how they drive the most unwieldy and difficult vehicles over very challenging terrain in the course of their part-time volunteer work - and love it! The Regiment includes professional drivers, communication specialists, Chefs, HR specialists, medics and engineers, to name but a few  - because that is what they all are - trained professionals giving of their time to form a volunteer reserve able to reinforce the Regular Army in time of emergency.
It was a fascinating evening, organised by Freeman Michael Smeeth, and supported by some twenty Marketors and guests, including the Senior and Junior Wardens. We heard from the Commanding Officer, Lt Col John Kerner about their new 2014 'rebranding' as the Army Reserve, the increasing dependency on the reservists to fill the many gaps in the regular Army, and the enthusiasm of the Regiment to take on a broader and more 'regular' role. The commitment of the Regiment to train to an absolute top standard in all they do and the inherent skills that they all bring from their working life - medical, managerial, engineering - is second to none. I did express my wish that there should be a marketing campaign to build greater awareness in business of how invaluable these men and women are to the British Army and the need for all employers to understand the dependency and necessity of supporting this dedicated volunteer resource. 
The skills of 151 were all too evident in the fantastic food that had been prepared by the Chef.  I gather she had taken the day off work to make sure the curry was perfect for us visitors and for the 151 members present - which it certainly was.  Many thanks to all involved. 

The Jaguar Experience Thruxton Race Circuit Tuesday 22nd October

Jaguar say in their blurb that if you’ve ever dreamt of roaring around a racetrack behind the wheel of one of their cars, this was the day to get the pulse racing. Jaguar offered to show me how to get the most out of their cars on the track – accelerating hard on the straights, sliding through corners with ease and getting to grips with the cars’ active safety features in real life scenarios. 
This was promoted as the Jaguar Experience, an exclusive and complimentary invitation to be down at Thruxton Race Circuit in Hampshire at 9am for a day of exhilarating driving activities, both on and off track, designed to showcase the breadth of capability of the new Jaguar range.   It seemed to fit particularly well with my theme of “Great Brands makes Britain Great” and I was firmly "into cars" after my recent day at Mclaren. 
After a welcome cup of coffee and light breakfast, under the watchful eye of professional Jaguar drivers, male and female, I was able to put some exciting new Jaguar cars through their paces, albeit at a somewhat steadier speed than some of the chaps.
Pride of place had to go to being in the driving seat of the new Jaguar F-TYPE and equipped with crash helmet I was able to try out both the 3 litre V6 and the heavier 5 litre V8.  This is a beautifully designed car totally in the footsteps of its famous predecessors – the C type, D type and E type.    I don’t pretend to have taken the car to anything like its limits on the track but it was a lovely car to drive – as much fun and rather more predictable than our own forty year old E type convertible sitting at home.
I was also given the opportunity to take the XJ Supersport around the circuit a couple of times – challenging as the course had been subject to a constant downpour that morning and there was standing water as well as spray from passing cars.
For the XF Sportbrake Diesel S we had a slightly different experience – that of manoeuvring the car around bollards at speed and being impressed with its superb handling.  From a practical point of view this would probably have been my car of choice, head ruling over heart.
For the XFR, I was instructed to accelerate fast up to 45mph and then slam on the brakes and at the same time steer the car “out of trouble” around some bollards.  Miraculously the car seemed to go exactly where pointed despite very heavy braking – all due to its incredible ABS braking system.  This apparently brakes each wheel just to the extent needed and they never lock.  In an emergency situation, this car could stop and avoid a collision where other cars simply could not.

And then (above) to the highlight of the morning – being taken around the circuit in a blue  
XKR-S by one of Ja
guar’s professional driving team, demonstrating in a couple of laps the awe-inspiring performance of their fastest and most powerful production car.  This was the fairground ride to beat all fairground rides as we touched on 145mph in wet conditions feeling the back end sliding as well as the front end, taking the track at maximum speed.  The car may be incredibly fast but my main appreciation is of what it really takes to be a professional driver, able to take a car to its absolute limits whilst always maintaining total safety and control.  It was an exhilarating experience!
Jaguar say The Experience is where their cars truly come alive. It left me impressed with their hospitality and over-awed by their cars.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Marketors visit to McLaren, Woking Saturday 19 October

Great Brands do make Britain Great! In 1963, Bruce McLaren founded the McLaren team. They contested their first Formula 1 race in 1966 and won their first F1 grand prix in Belgium in 1968. 50 years after the company's foundation McLaren has won 182 Formula 1 Grand Prix and 20 World Championships, with champion drivers Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton. To this day, the McLaren team still inhabits the rich values set forth by Bruce McLaren himself: pragmatism, humility and a solid belief in the strength of teamwork and the value of good, honest engineering. Celebrating 50 years from the initial car being created by Bruce McLaren, Court Assistant Edward Fulbrook kindly organised an absolutely superb and exclusive visit for twelve Marketors to visit McLaren Marketing at Woking. Ten years ago the very impressive Marketing Centre (with Heritage) at Woking, set in 150 acres of protected parkland, had been opened by Her Majesty the Queen and 2013 marks the company's 50th anniversary since the first car was brought to public attention.  And what a first car! The group was introduced to Peter Stayner who is an absolute treasure chest of knowledge about McLaren, eminently and suitably titled a Partner Ambassador.  Peter showed us the cars in chronological order - every Formula One car is built in the UK - and took us around the highly impressive and spanking clean engineering facilities - not a drop of oil in sight!  Steve Morrow, also an absolute expert in Formula One racing, with his delightful wife, Sharon, answered many questions about racing.  It appears that, rather than the car being key, the speed in which you can assemble your corporate hospitality (larger than any of the other racing teams!) by the side of the race course is one of the more important aspects of the business - the scale of money expended runs into millions! According to my notes,140 people work at the factory incorporated into the Marketing Centre, you can order a car at a minimum cost of £160,000 (£900,000 for a P1). As most cars are are made to order, there is a short waiting list of just a few months. 10 cars a day are produced. After a visit of over two hours we left the secure zone and drove to a  local restaurant, Sands, and enjoyed continuing the conversation with Steve, Peter and Sharon.  It was a great day and attended by the Master and Consort, Ian Barclay, Victor Chopin- John, Graeme Doctor, John and Kathy Fisher, Edward Fulbrook, David Pearson, Peter Rees, Marc Scott and Steve Wilson.  Many thanks to McLaren. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Installation Dinner, The Chartered Surveyors Company, Drapers Hall Wednesday 17 October

And so to the beautiful and historical Draper's Hall for dinner to meet the new Master Chartered Surveyor.  Throgmorton Street is currently undergoing renovation and it is not easy at present to negotiate the barriers and roadworks to access the Hall.  However, it is well worth the effort! There is an interesting aspect in this respect about the history of the original Guilds. As trading activities expanded members of the Drapers Guild required a Hall where they could meet to discuss and coordinate business. At first they used individual houses but in the 1420s the Guild decided to build its own Hall.  This first Hall was in St Swithin;s Lane. The present Hall was bought in 1543 from the King and had been the home of Thomas Cromwell but had been forfeited to the King on Cromwell's execution in 1540.  Destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666, the Hall was rebuilt between 1667 and 1671, rebuilt again after another fire in 1772 and later altered in Victorian times.  I can well understand the importance of the Firefighters!  It is a Hall well worth visiting on the open days in the City. The Master, installed at the Court meeting prior to the dinner, Elizabeth Edwards, has worked as a Chartered Surveyor in the banking industry for over 20 years, in particular, working for German banks. During her time as a property banker, she built up a loan book with a value of some £3 billion in a number of well known London properties. Prior to her banking career, the Master had worked for PWC on the privatisation of British Telecom. I do recall Liz when I was at BT. I was hosted by the immediate Past Master, Roger Southam, who is a member of my Past Master's Association, formed when I went to Ironbridge in June. The Master's guest speaker was the President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Michael Newey.  I was most impressed by the RICS Choir who sang throughout the evening, revealing in music the history of the Master's career in true Gilbert and Sullivan style!

Freedom of the City of London Ceremony (Freeman Roz Morris) Wednesday 16th October

It was a pleasure to attend the Freedom ceremony for Roz Morris at Guildhall at her invitation. It is always good to let the Clerk know if you are planning to take the Freedom of the City of London and would like to invite the Master or members of the Company to attend.  Roz was admitted to the Company as a Freeman in 2007.  The short ceremony was conducted by the Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court, Murray Craig, who is an extremely engaging speaker on the subject of the history of the City of London and the Freedom.  Roz is Managing Director of TV News London and, of course, works in the media world.  After the formalities and welcoming Roz as the youngest Freeman, Murray had no hesitation in showing us all, family and friends, photos of all the media personalities to whom he had granted the Freedom to over recent years. 

Murray also regaled us with many both historical and amusing anecdotes of other Freedoms, illustrated by certificates and pictures galore of the past great and the good! It was excellent to see so many of Roz's family enjoying the ceremony with her, as well as a number of Court members. Naturally we all repaired from the Guildhall for a celebratory toast to Roz's progression.

Freemen of the Worshipful Company of Marketors take note! You join a livery company to become a liveryman, and you must first become a freeman of the City of London to progress to the livery of any company.  Only as a liveryman can you participate fully in the traditional life of the City - with rights to vote for Sheriffs and the Lord Mayor. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Master's City Walk Saturday 12 October

Up early on a Saturday morning an intrepid group of Marketors and two very well behaved dogs assembled on the western edges of London to explore the beautiful and best example of ancient woodland in Britain.

Burnham Beeches is an area of 220 hectares, located close to Farnham Common, Burnham and Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire and approximately twenty-five miles to the West of London. Owned and managed by the City of London Corporation through the City's charitable trust, I recall regularly pushing a pram through the beeches when we lived at Dorney while bringing up our three children, near Windsor. In beautiful sunshine we were greeted by our guides, Jeremy and Jake, two incredible experts in ancient woodland management and preservation. We learned a great deal from them about the important art of pollarding,vital to preserve the beech trees, some of which have only survived through pollarding to be over five hundred years old. 

We walked some four miles within the woods and learned that during the second world war, at the instigation of Winston Churchill, it offered brilliant camouflage for military vehicles, keeping them out of sight of the enemy.

The management of the Beeches is designed to keep the whole area self sustaining, but also encouraging the natural return of heathers, funghi and wild flowers that would have been there originally. It was delightful to see cows and forest ponies assisting in this regeneration. 

 Famous for being the setting for a great many films including Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, it transpired that all financial proceeds from the filming traditionally went back to 'City Cash' until it was negotiated that this daylight robbery should remain with the Beeches management!  After our excellent walk in glorious sunshine we retired to the nearby Crown Inn for a pint and a well-earned lunch.

Fortified, we then adjourned to Past Master John Petersen's nearby home, Dropmore Farmhouse to have an offered tour of his extensive vineyard.  We learned a great deal about the viticulturalists busy year - wine making is clearly not just about picking grapes - and not only had the opportunity to test the sugar content of grapes for their readiness but also some of the possible leaf signs for chemical imbalance.  This vineyard was all the more remarkable for being fairly newly planted on former paddock land - it had clearly been set up with some considerable expertise and knowledge. It only remained to sample some of the excellent Dropmore wine - a white and a blush met with full approval.  10,000 bottles this year, I believe, will be produced this year. 

Retiring eventually to the house for a superb tea with Feona, we left after enjoying a really superb social day in the fresh air away from the City - which I suppose was exactly why Burnham Beeches was originally acquired for the people of London.

Dropmore - proudly shown on the map of UK vineyards

A busy year

A variety of grapes being grown

Busting with grapes!
Very neat well spaced rows

Sampling the produce - excellent!

Friday, 11 October 2013

St Florian's Installation Banquet Thursday 10th October Worshipful Company of Firefighters

Cutlers Hall is always a superb venue for a livery dinner and my husband and I were invited by the Master Firefighter Beryl Jeffery as principle guests, along with the Master Bowyer and Sir Nicholas Young, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross.

We were met at the door and hosted by the Immediate Past Master.  Talking to my fellow guest, the Master Bowyer, I was reminded that the Bowyers have the tradition of a Master serving two years, not one.  Whilst this helps with achievement of longer term plans in providing additional continuity, it also doubles the work involved and in a larger Company like the Marketors, this might be a challenge if combining with full time business commitments. 

St Florian is the Patron Saint of Firefighting, as well as being the Patron Saint of Poland. Legends abound of people who have been saved from burning after invoking the name of St Florian.  During the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians, reports reached Rome that Florian, a Roman Army Commander was not enforcing the proscriptions against Christians in his territory. Aquilinus was sent to investigate these reports. When Aquilinus ordered Florian to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods in accordance with Roman religion, he refused. Florian was sentenced to be burned at the stake. Standing on the funeral pyre, Florian challenged the Roman soldiers to light the fire, saying "If you do, I will climb to heaven on the flames." Apprehensive of his words, instead of burning Florian, he was executed by drowning in the Enns River with a millstone tied around his neck.

I last saw Sir Nicholas at the Tower of London whilst awaiting to be bailed in the “Jailed and Bailed” and we had a good conversation over dinner. He delivered an excellent toast to the guests, detailing how the Red Cross is increasingly working in conjunction with Firefighters and assisting with the practical immediate aftercare of those who have lost their homes through fire. The Red Cross was recently involved in the aftermath of the Nairobi shopping centre shootings assisting victims. 

It was interesting to learn that the Fire Brigade, a uniformed body, also has an official formal mess kit for officers as their evening uniform.

Altogether an excellent well organised event which was most enjoyable in a hall abounding with elephants and tusks.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Freeman Laurie Young 1955 - 2013 - Funeral Friday 4 October

Laurie sadly died on September 18th from a massive heart attack.  At his funeral his partner, sons and other family members spoke of having seen him as usual, with his wide smile and energetic conversation, literally on the day.  What a way to go we might say, but the sadness and feeling of bereavement hits extraordinarily hard to all those close to him when it is such a sudden and unexpected loss.  A hole in everyone's lives is created which we can only now fill with all our memories of him. Laurie was an international specialist in the marketing and selling of services, focused mainly on the professional services and technology sectors.  Having been a leading partner in PWC as well as having held senior roles with BT and Unisys, Laurie founded, built and sold his own consultancy company. He was a great public speaker and a published writer with several books under his belt and, I believe, a latest book shortly to be published.  He was also a friend to so many, including the Marketors, and we were proud to lure him into the Company only a year ago.  He was admitted at the Bowden Dinner in October 2012 and immediately became an active member of the Think Tank. True to form the funeral service started with the love theme from Blade Runner.  One of his three sons played the organ (having only ever played the piano) for the large congregation to sing Amazing Grace.  Several tributes were made from family and friends and at the end of the service, we exited to Eric Idle's 'Always look on the bright side of Life' - and Laurie did.

The Company was well represented by the Master, Wardens and Past Masters.  RIP Laurie, you will not be forgotten and are sadly missed.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Conservative Party Conference, Manchester Tuesday 1 October

As Chief Executive of the Industry and Parliament Trust I would each year attend all three Party Conferences. This gave me an incredibly useful view not only of British politics and the present issues, seen from different perspectives by each party, but an insight into the possible impact of political decisions made by the Party in power and how well MPs and MEPs understand the potential impact on business.  As time was very limited I attended a wonderfully spirited session on the political scene chaired by Eleanor Laing MP, who had presented me with the Voluntary Sector Achiever of the Year Award in 2007. Sir Robert Worcester, an old friend and founder of MORI, who attended my installation, provided his usual wonderful insights into elections past, present and future, with Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, giving an entertaining commentary. Over supper afterwards, the conversation ran on to discussion about the next two years and the view I had expressed to the Home Secretary, when with us at Merchant Taylors Hall in January. Nobody votes for a coalition and there needs to be a visible degree of separation between parties evidenced well before the five years are up. I then moved on to discuss European matters in which I make every effort to remain well versed. The City of London is not complacent about the risks of leaving the EU and the possible loss of the foreign banks.  If the UK pulls out we would have to abide by single market rules without any of the benefit and with no influence. The EU could bring in legal rules to protect itself from the City of London. The risk in not being part of the debate is substantial and the competitive agenda is vital to the whole of Europe. The burden on SMEs could be intolerable.  I pointed out that the principle of free movement of people and goods across Europe is not something business or individuals would at all wish to lose.  A salesman commented that he only exists because he can load up his car with product and sell easily across so many countries. British Citizens being stopped at borders would not go down well with the general public, now accustomed to easy entry and departure to so many holiday and business locations.  The UK would lose the considerable political, social and economic benefits which are generated by our membership of the EU.  Focus, as we know, on the costs of membership obscures the fact that a UK outside the EU cannot expect cost-free access.  My last port of call at the Conference was to listen to Boris Johnson, prior to returning to London by train for the Marketors visit to Lambeth Palace followed by dinner at Mansion House with the Lord Mayor in the company of two most distinguished people - Oxford Professor of the History of the Church, Diarmaid MacCulloch and Lord Peter Hennesey, English historian of Government.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Marketors Visit to Lambeth Palace Tuesday 1st October

Being long involved in the Church of England, Lambeth Palace is no stranger to me.  It plays a critical symbolic role in the church as the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury and every ten years we hold the Lambeth Conference - no longer held at Lambeth but retaining the name.

Its position on the South Bank of the river, opposite Parliament, is itself symbolic.  Built well before Westminster or Lambeth Bridges, it was accessed by water and old pictures show it lying directly alongside the Thames which was then rather wider than now.    It is an odd mixture of buildings all built at different times and in different styles, but together makes up a fascinating place architectually to visit.

The corridors and rooms befittingly are large but modest in their furnishing. Whilst a Palace, it is not built so much as to impress but to stand as the geographical and management centre of the Church of England and to an extent, also the spiritual home of the Anglican Communion.   Portraits of successive Archbishops line the walls, including a new one of Rowan Williams I had not seen before.  We visited two chapels, one sitting directly above another where those based at Lambeth come for daily services.

Unfortunately, the Palace is currently partly covered externally in scaffolding as its stonework undergoes restoration.  Our guide Kate was most informative and the Marketors were most appreciative of the chance to see inside this fascinating and iconic building.

Marketors at the start of our tour of Lambeth Palace

Election of the Lord Mayor Monday 30th September

The right of citizens of London to elect their own Mayor dates from the Charter granted by King John to the City in 1215.  In the same year Magna Carta declared that London would retain all its ancient liberties.

I joined the procession of the Masters of all the Companies,all wearing their gowns and chains of office and we took our place in the front rows of the Great Hall, those of the Great Twelve proceeding as per custom onto the raised platform.

Whilst there might be no liveryman present in Guildhall not fully aware of the Lord Mayor designate for 2013/2014, the meeting of Common Hall for the purpose of the choosing and electing a Lord Mayor nevertheless retains all the vestiges of a democratic and open process.  Indeed no Lord Mayor would or could take office without the wide assent of the livery as expressed here at Guildhall. The fact that Mayoral elections are by custom not formally contested or disputed indicates some confidence by the livery in the discrete and careful process of selection.

At Common Hall, the Livery does not just elect a Lord Mayor.  They also have the prior privilege of selecting which of the eligible Aldermen who have served in the office of sheriff should progress to Lord Mayor this year or else in a following year - deferred for consideration on a later occasion.   For Fiona Woolf the hall echoed with the shout of "All" on taking the vote, whilst the two other potential candidates received varying support and the traditional call of "Later" - indicating that they would come forward again in future years. 

The varying and lesser indication of support for the other candidates is expected as of the three eligible candidates standing this year, two out of three must be selected by the livery.  The vote takes place in the absence of the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen who have passed the chair - they leave the hall by custom for the vote so as not to influence the result.  The Sheriffs together the Common Sergeant go into a huddle to decide on the basis of the voting which two names should go forward, and a formal final vote between two eligible candidates is taken privately by the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen outside of the Great Hall in the Print Room.   

To any livery observer it is a complex and convoluted procedure to reach a totally expected and predictable conclusion - namely the election of the second woman in London's long history to the office of Lord Mayor.  Nevertheless it holds the fascination of continuity and more than a nod towards maintaining an open democratic process.   Not that these processes or indeed the electorate have always been the same - we heard that over the ages there have been many changes and refinements to the procedures, and also some fairly recent innovations at the instigation of the Livery Committee - an amusing and informative address to the livery whilst the Mayor and Aldermen are out of the hall casting their votes.

After disrobing in the crypt, I emerged from Guildhall to sunshine. The wardens and I repaired to HQS Wellington for a well earned lunch at the invitation of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.  

Divine Service prior to Election of the Lord Mayor Monday 30th September

St Lawrence Jewry, the official church of the Corporation of London sits adjacent to Guildhall Yard and is the venue for a short civic service immediately preceding the election of the Lord Mayor in Guildhall and is attended by the Masters of the livery companies.

An interesting feature of this service is an adaption of a well-known hymn with wording dedicated towards the City:

O Praise ye the Lord, fraternities all,
With each patron saint, with Lawrence and Paul,
Praise God in this City, in his name we strive,
And pray for our liveries, long may they survive.

O Masters of guilds,in livery adorned,
Your mysteries keep and strive to be formed
In charity, service, and care for the poor,
Bring God his due honour, and praise Him the more.

Prepare ye to serve, all Aldermen too,
In each of your tasks be faithful and true;
With eye to the Father, and ear on your ward
With all this City, O praise ye the Lord!