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.

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