Friday, 11 April 2014

Week Four – Monday 10 February – Sunday 16 February

Business meetings took up much of my time this week although I did represent the WCM at the Royal British Legion Reception at Glaziers’ Hall. I offered them assistance in planning their future Marketing department and approach if they required it – right down to sitting in on their recruitment meeting (if they wished).

Also represented the WCM at the CIM Marketing Awards Dinner at Grosvenor House – a delightful and very full evening where many Awards were presented to very obviously delighted recipients. Used the opportunity to talk to a number of senior Marketers about potentially becoming Marketors!

Had a very pleasant lunch meeting with a Member who wanted to talk about his vision for the WCM and how he could be involved. Very happy to do this when my diary allows!

The week ended with my wife, Jeanne, celebrating an important birthday. Enough said.

Weeks 3 - Managing the Marketing - Monday 3 February – Sunday 9 February

Monday required me to go to our office in Plaisterers’ Hall for a meeting with the Clerk, then a session at Fishmongers’ Hall together with representatives of the Berkhamsted School Foundation regarding a charity dinner that I had suggested to both parties. Brief explanation – I had found that there are three Masters this year from Berkhamsted School (Master Musician, Sir Anthony Cleaver; Master Information Technologist, Michael Webster; and me) and therefore proposed that we should jointly organise a “livery style dinner”.

I then had a meeting to do with my own business, followed by a briefing for Masters attending the Ironbridge weekend (in June) at Insurers’ Hall.

Tuesday I had a session with Court Assistant Richard Christou on the events programme for the year (Richard had agreed to run the programme as Chairman of Events and is clearly extremely well organised, for which I am extremely grateful – I suspect that you will see those words again!).

Then to a black tie dinner at Stationers’ Hall (shown above), which was my first formal Dinner representing the WCM – a very pleasant occasion enjoyed by all.

Wednesday saw my first “Master and Wardens” meeting with me in the chair – these are held monthly and the intention is to spend ever more time on the future and strategic items and far less on the minutiae of the past. We will do our best! One special agenda item was a presentation by our current investment manager on how our investments are progressing, something that we will be reviewing more frequently.

Friday saw me at a black tie dinner – but this time at Berkhamsted School!

Week 2 - Up to Speed - Monday 27 January – Sunday 2 February

My first external appearance representing the WCM – although to be fair it was the AGM of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and therefore I was there in my own right. But I did ensure that people were made aware of the Livery and hopefully some will seek to join us.

Wednesday saw me interviewing potential new Freemen as part of a panel, followed by a session with the Learned Clerk and the Assistant Clerk.

Thursday I was at the Gresham Lecture given by the Lord Mayor at the Museum of London and later on I was with her again at Mansion House for the reception celebrating last year’s Lord Mayor’s Show and getting an early idea of the themes for this year (Andrew Marsden as Senior Warden came with me so that he could meet this year’s Lord Mayor and also the “most likely” candidate to become the next Lord Mayor!).

Friday I visited Skinners’ Hall with the Learned Clerk – to discuss holding the Spring Lunch there. I then went on my first “representative lunch” (together with the Clerk) at Cutlers’ Hall where my kind hosts were the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators.

I am beginning to realise just how many e-Mails are sent to the Master! Oh well.

Master Michael Harrison - 2014 Week One – Monday 20 January – Sunday 26 January

Preparations take far more time than you might think! Because a new gown had to be made (not just because I am very tall, the old one is looking rather tired) I had to collect it (this has been going on for some time). Then there are the rehearsals, the list of photographs to be approved, final seating plan agreed…..all very necessary.

The day before the Installation, I had a meeting on the website followed by an Armed Forces and Cadets Committee meeting – whilst the received advice was to relax on that day!

Thursday was a blur. One thing that struck me as funny was that at the Installation Court there was a slight pause – immediately after I had been “installed” and took my place at the lectern I read the words “the Master will now say…” and it took me just a moment to realise that this meant me!

Dinner was excellent – the food, wine and service all first class and our speaker, Terry Mansfield CBE (of Hearst Corporation fame) was equally so. In my response, I was able to emphasise my belief that the Master and Wardens must work as a team and that the entire Court is also a vitally important team. To emphasise that I was able to announce that (subject to the Court’s approval) the Master and Wardens had produced a four-year rolling plan to which we were all committed, rather than have four individual “stove-pipe” years.

And so the next year of the Worshipful Company begins – a good first day!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Last Post 23rd January 2014

Looking back on the many posts I've made in the past twelve months it has clearly been a busy year.

It is a great privilege to act as Master of a Livery Company with the opportunity to attend many interesting events and to meet many people, whilst representing the profession of marketing within the City of London.

I hope the blog serves to both inform and inspire any who are motivated to progress through a livery company to achieve the Mastership.

Tonight, at an Installation Court,  the Senior Warden progresses to the office of Master having been clothed in the gown and invested by me with the Chain and Badge, the insignia of the office as Master. I wish him every success.  

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Women in Manufacturing House of Commons Tuesday 21st January

“Smashing the Glass Ceiling”
Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – the so called STEM disciplines – are key to the UK’s engineering and manufacturing capability and schools are under increasing pressure from government to facilitate and support their delivery within the curriculum, encouraging pupils into these important and challenging subjects.
Women in Manufacturing is an organisation that seeks particularly to attract and retain women to this key sector of the economy, encouraging diversity and increasing the UK talent pool by raising the number of women in industry at all levels.  It does this by urging both educators and employers to forge partnerships to mutual benefit.
As things stand fewer than 10% of STEM qualified managers are female.  Women complete only 1% of apprenticeships in construction, planning and the environment, 4% in manufacturing, 18% in ICT.    Indeed only 27.3% of manufacturing workers are female, the same level as in 1972.  Clearly there is a lot of work to do in redressing this imbalance.
With my long standing interest in promoting diversity Women in Manufacturing is therefore a topic close to my heart.  The organisation was formed by the Glass Academy working with the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers.  The aim is to attract a broader mix of skills, experience, views and ideas to the UK manufacturing sector to help address the impending UK manufacturing skills shortage and significant gender imbalance in the sector.
The Aim:
  • Inspiring more girls and young women to take up careers in manufacturing and engineering
  • Raising awareness of the numerous well paid, exciting and fulfilling career opportunities in the sector
  • Contributing to a cultural shift through education to eliminate gender stereotyping from the industry.
The well attended reception held in the Churchill Room within the House of Commons was to raise the profile of this new and worthy initiative and was full of faces known to me.  In many ways the need to engage with Industry, Government and Education was familiar ground for me from my years running the Industry and Parliament Trust – educating MPs and Peers about the continuing importance of maintaining a manufacturing industry back at a time when the City appeared far more seductive to most in achieving economic growth.
It was good to meet again with Alderman Andrew Parmley, now Master of the Glass Sellers, and as a Musician a driving force behind the City Livery concerts, now firmly re-established.  I was also delighted to also meet with a very dear friend and one-time neighbour Tony Thatcher, a member of the Glass Sellers and former Vice Chairman of Thyssen-Bornemisza.  Tony came to my Installation a year ago.
I do hope this initiative gathers momentum.  Manufacturing today is no longer the heavy work of yesteryear but more usually embraces innovation, precision,delicacy and design – all gifts possessed by the female half of the population.  My sense is that girl schools are still succeeding rather better at bringing girls into STEM subjects and this new organisation gives me ideas of where I might well decide to apply my business experience in coming months and years.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Reception to honour Sir Robert Worcester KBE DL 80th birthday Monday 20 January 2014 at the Reform Club

I was delighted to go to Sir Robert Worcester's celebratory birthday party which was attended, as one can imagine, by practically every luminary of the political and business world. 
No General Election in this country could possibly take place without commentary from the founder of MORI. Despite being American by birth Sir Robert was appointed by Her Majesty the Queen a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) in 2005 in recognition of his 'outstanding services rendered to political, social and economic research and for contribution to government policy and programmes'.
I know Bob ("never Sir Bob - that's Geldof") best through us both serving many years on the Council of the University of Kent, he as Chancellor and me as a Council member. He is visiting Professor of Government at the LSE and also of the Institute of Contemporary British History at King's College. Most importantly he is Chairman of the Magna Carta 2015 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee.  Bob spoke on that fascinating topic as my guest at the Marketors Court Dinner in December.
I was delighted to catch up with many MPs, Ministers, business leaders and media moguls. I was listed by Bob as "Church Commissioner" in the evening's printed programme so received a number of congratulations from a wide spectrum of those attending.  I very much enjoyed speaking with Eleanor Laing, Deputy Speaker and Tessa Jowell, and other old friends from the House of Commons, along with Sir Peter Bottomley, who gave a glowing tribute to Bob's work. I also caught up with a number of Peers, including Lords Clement-Jones, Quentin Davies and Michael Howard.  I was also pleased to meet up with my old friend John Pullinger, House of Commons Librarian.
Sir Robert and Lady Margaret are as busy as ever, living in Allington Castle, their magnificent Kent home. When asked during the evening if he was thinking of retiring, the firm answer from octogenarian Bob was 'no'!

Lunch with the Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans Monday 20 January


A lot of my pre-occupation and personal professional endeavour over the years has been in support of diversity in the workplace.  At Pearson, for example, I was responsible for international diversity right across the Group and introduced policies to ensure the removal of discrimination in recruitment and advancement where it still existed.   Previously at Cable & Wireless in the 1990's I advocated that women, including those who were married with children, should have equal opportunity offered to them to take up international assignments on the same basis as men and then did so myself with a move to Singapore.  

The Marketors' Company values its affiliation to HMS St Albans set up in 2011. The ship is currently undergoing major refit in a basin in Portsmouth harbour scheduled for completion by May. I was therefore particularly delighted on learning from the ship's previous CO back in September 2013 that HMS St Albans was likely to receive a female Commanding Officer to take the ship out of refit with a largely new ship's company and into Sea Training ready to rejoin the Fleet as an active unit.   Commander Catherine Jordan was duly appointed in December.  It is perhaps noteworthy that it was only in 2012 that the Royal Navy appointed any woman to sea going command and there is clearly now some considerable momentum behind the concept.

Cdr Jordan is in fact returning to HMS St Albans - an aviator, she has served on the ship before as the ship's very first Flight Commander shortly after commissioning.  She had specialised as a Helicopter Observer earlier in her career.

Just as I cannot claim to be the first lady Master of the Marketors, Catherine cannot claim to be the first woman to take command of a Type 23 frigate! Commander Sarah West is already "driving" HMS Portland to use the navy slang and Commander Sue Moore has command of Fishery Patrol Vessels based in Scotland. Nevertheless to my mind Catherine is definitely breaking exciting new ground in the field of diversity in the workplace because unlike Sarah West and Sue Moore, Catherine is married and also a mother - her daughter was born on Christmas Day 2012 and is now one year old.   Catherine's husband is a Captain in the Royal Navy currently shore-based.  

A lawyer by original training, Catherine is a delightful person and comes to HMS St Albans with substantive command experience  - she has previously commanded HMS Severn - an offshore patrol vessel and HMS Clyde.   She is enthusiastic about developing the ship's several affiliations which for the Marketors is very good news.

Commander Catherine Jordan RN with the Master

From a professional point of view I am delighted that the Royal Navy is clearly enlightened looking only to professional fitness in making its appointments - not to domestic situations.  That must be the lesson to all employers. 

I have myself worked professionally and almost continually all my professional life despite bringing up three children. It does necessitate employing management skills at home in a supportive domestic environment, and it is quite possible, but only with appropriate assistance, to combine a demanding senior level career with raising a family. 

The concept of having women in command of powerful and complex fighting units of the Royal Navy which may well be required to go to war is still sufficiently novel to warrant mention in the media - just as having a woman as Lord Mayor of the City of London.  It certainly changes the dynamics in a subtle way.

Commander Jordan will be attending the Installation Dinner on Thursday 23rd January with her Executive Officer where they will be able to meet the newly installed Master Michael Harrison.  As I pointed out to her she is somewhat privileged as both her predecessors, Tom Sharpe and Andrew Block were at sea patrolling the UK coasts at the time of the previous Installation Dinners, thus both missing out on the formal occasion!  

Friday, 17 January 2014

Presentation by the Master on the City Livery Companies of London at the Royal Over-Seas League Club, Mayfair Thursday 16 January 2014

Over-Seas House, where I was once a member when heading up Cable & Wireless' Asia Pacific Region, based in Singapore, had been a home from home for me in the 1990s on my visits back to Head Office. Alas, returning to the UK's often dismal weather and staying in a very pleasant room overlooking St James' Park somehow lacked much merit, particularly when meeting my rather gloomy and envious colleagues in Theobalds Road who were obliged to hear me relate my exciting adventures around the islands and countries of Asia Pacific. As I always looked rather tanned and relaxed, despite having a huge portfolio to manage, I hope I was at least some inspiration to my UK colleagues to understand that working internationally can be a positive and useful step in one's career. It certainly was for me. So here I was, back in the building that in November 1975 was where the Marketors, under the leadership of Lord Mais, member of this Club, Lord Mayor in 1972/3 had held their Inaugural Dinner - the first formal event of the Marketors.  Earlier that year on 1st April 1975 the Guild of Marketors had been formed and had started a process of inviting Fellows from the then Institute of Marketing to join the Guild of Marketors.   The first meeting of these Fellows, many eminent in marketing, therefore had taken place in this very Club, a successful event that now forms a significant part of our history. It was interesting to note from the early records that the Guild of Marketors was promoted as an association of Gentlemen in senior marketing positions (ie: no ladies need apply!).  I informed my present large audience of members of the Over-Seas League Club that well over half of those graduating in Marketing today are women! I did say that if the livery companies did not exist, there was very little chance that anyone would invent them today.  Indeed, venture far from the City of London, even into the neighbouring City of Westminster, or maybe even into Parliament (save that we do have Theresa May and Cheryl Gillan MPs as members of the Company) and you will find people who know absolutely nothing about Livery Companies at all. I talked about the Guilds found in most large towns and cities across Europe from which we derive, the long history of the Livery, as it is known collectively, and the present 109 City of London Livery Companies. I explained the Corporation of London, the freedom, patrimony and also the historic origins of the words such as 'masterpiece, and 'hallmark'.  I also,of course, spoke of the work of the Modern Livery Companies (those founded since 1931) and my own Company's Outreach, our collaboration with the Mercers, Stationers and Haberdashers.  With the 25,000 liverymen and 16,000 Freeman within the square mile, the Livery Companies are seen to be flourishing today and are not so much a City feature but more a City survival. I concluded by mentioning the events and activities in my year as Master and the several Cs I see in the work of our Company, built on the words of one distinguished Lord Mayor in the 19th century who talked of the Five Points of Fellowship:  Charity, Citizenship, Comradeship and Conviviality. Personally I would add three more Cs: Collegiate, Church and Corporation.  I concluded, after answering many questions, by stating that I had greatly enjoyed the enormous privilege of being Master for this past year and how delighted I would be next week to install my successor on 23 January so that I can disappear with my husband to the Caribbean, with so many very happy memories.  All the year is recorded on this blog!  I will return from my holiday suitably refreshed to take up my appointment as a Church Commissioner with the responsibility that this entails in managing the £5.5 billion assets of the Church of England. To that effect I shall be guest Preacher at Evensong in St Paul's Cathedral on Sunday 2 March. Everyone is welcome to attend! I thanked the assembled company for listening and discovered that one Liveryman was present, from the Security Professionals. He had decided to keep his powder dry.  It was a delight to know that there were two Liverymen in the room and, maybe, a few more now interested to become free of a Company.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Worshipful Company of Upholders Election Court Luncheon Tallow Chandlers Hall Wednesday 15 January

It is always a pleasure to visit Tallow Chandlers Hall.  It is easy to locate at Dowgate Hill and accessed directly opposite the exit from Cannon Street tube.  I can vouch that it has the best ladies room of any hall!
The Company had been holding their Common Hall, to which all Liverymen and Freemen are invited.  I had previously met the Master, Nick Meyer.  His Company (49th in precedence) welcomes people with a great variety of skills and achievements, although the original upholders of the City of London can trace their history back to the early days of the Craft Guilds in which were fostered the high quality of goods and the high standards of workmanship that have always been the pride of English industry. The craftsman in Upholstery was known by a name that varied from Upheldere to Uphouldesterr, but mainly as an Upholder and it is under this latter name that the Company came into existence "On the Saturday after the Feast of St. Matthias in the 35th year of the reign of Edward III" (i.e. the 1st March 1360, Old Style). The election, in February 1360, of Wardens "to survey and govern the men of the mistery" is recorded in the City archives together with the grants in 1474 of the right to search for and seize all wares in the City pertaining to the Craft that were insufficiently or not truly made. The Company received the grant of its Coat of Arms in 1465 in the reign of Edward IV, and its Royal Charter was granted by Charles 1 on June 14th, 1626. The original Charter was destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire, but a new exemplification was obtained in 1668 and the grant was therein confirmed by Charles the Second.  Interestingly the Company has over the years had two Royal Navy submarines affiliated to them, both called HMS Upholder.  Where is our HMS Marketor? The Company also specifically supports Castle Baynard Ward Club. The lunch was excellent and the Master's guest speaker, Jake Mayer, had recently returned from climbing Mount Everest.  Jake had decided from a very young age that he was going to climb all the highest mountains of the world before his thirtieth birthday and he achieved his goal by the age of 28.  It was not without awe that the assembled company listened to the graphic description of his ordeal. After an excellent stirrup cup I repaired to the Guildhall to collect some material for my own talk on Livery Companies tomorrow at the Royal Overseas League.

The Worshipful Company of Plaisterers Dinner for Masters and Clerks Tuesday 14 January 2014

The Clerk and I had the ideal start to our evening with the pleasure of repairing the very short distance to Plaisterers Hall from our own Company offices directly above! I had used Plaisterers' Hall for our very well attended Bowden Dinner in October and it is the largest and one of the finest Livery Halls in London. Opened in 1972 and situated in the heart of the City of London, it reflects the grandeur of a bygone era but in what is described as 'an ultra modern setting'.The first Hall was bequeathed to the Company by William Elder, Citizen and Plaisterer in 1556. It was situated at the corner of Addle Street and Philip Lane and destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The second Hall was built in 1669 from the design of Sir Christopher Wren, but this was also destroyed by fire in 1882.The present Hall, opened in November 1972 has d├ęcor throughout of the neo-classical style created by Robert Adam in the 18th century. His various designs have been faithfully reproduced in great detail both on plaster and wood, some being taken from his original moulds. We were received by my good friend and the Company's first lady Master, Dee Bradshaw. Dee was accompanied by her Deputy, Gary Morley, Upper Warden, Michael Jones. Renter Warden, Bill Mahoney and, of course, our very good friend Nigel Bamping, Clerk to the Company. It was a packed hall for dinner and the response to the Master was given by Master Merchant Taylor, John Price. It was interesting to note that the Plaisterers have a tradition of their own with the Loving Cup that the person behind the drinker faces inwards towards the one being drunk to, rather than outwards, thereby pledging the safety of the drinker by shielding his back with his body and watching for any treachery by the person to whom he is drinking.  It was a delightful and fun evening, with many guests for whom this was a first Livery dinner.  The Clerk and I also stayed in the hall very late and it was excellent to catch up informally with the Master and Nigel.  No urgency to leave!  I was presented with a large floral arrangement to take home and, in our time honoured and regular fashion, the Clerk walked me to my bus and, once I was safely on board, the flowers were laid next to the driver who was most impressed.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The 686th Lord Mayor's Children's Party Saturday 11th January 2014

Outside Mansion House there was a clue that something was about to take place on a Saturday afternoon! Two police horses and a special fire engine were located either side of the main door.  The Lord Mayor, her Consort, the Sheriffs and their wives arrived in official or fancy dress. Hugo Deadman, the Lord Mayor's speech writer, was wearing a funny hat and William Chapman a large red rosette!  It was the day of the Lord Mayor's annual Children's Party - a long standing City tradition and one to which I had been especially looking forward to. 

At 2.30 pm there was immense activity as literally more than a hundred children all between the ages of six to nine years suddenly arrived on foot ord by taxi, all dressed in fantastic costumes as characters from every fairy story, boy's comics and children's books imaginable.  If falling within the designated age range they could be accompanied by one adult only (mainly a Master and grandparent).  We all surged into Mansion House to great excitement an unspeakable volume of noise and cries of delight.

Inside we walked up the main staircase, familiar to me but most impressive to our young guests, and into the Salon.  There, while adults went one way, the children were lined up in formal style and each announced by name, being received by the VIP line up by the Lord Mayor and Nicholas (who wore a smart red sash saying 'Lord Mayor's Consort') as well as the Sheriffs.  A nice gesture to the diminutive size of the guests was that the Lord Mayor and Consort received them sitting in chairs rather than standing. My seven year old granddaughter, Lorelei, dressed as Alice in Wonderland, gave a slight curtsy (as practiced with her grandmother), handshake and posed for photos. 

 We were then ushered into the Egyptian Hall which, apart from a dais for the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Pikemen and another for the band, was completely cleared as an open area of carpet with chairs for adults provided around the edge. 

Lorelei - as Alice in Wonderland

It was devoid of any formality and had several hundred large balloons hanging from the ceiling. All the children were instructed to sit on the carpet and had superb entertainment provided from the clown Smartie Artie and his friends. The Lord Mayor addressed the children and each then had their "official" photo taken with her.

By allocating tea tickets in Yellow, Blue Green and Red the children had been neatly divided into four groups and there was a number of "attractions" provided in different rooms repeated at set times.  The children could therefore rotate between a smashing tea and by real Animal Encounters, a Royal Punch and Judy Show, Smartie Artie the clown and the music, all in smaller and more manageable groups.

The afternoon was impressively action packed and well thought out.   One suspected that a level of great expertise and experience had been accumulated over the years in putting on these parties. 

The afternoon culminated in a "Grand Conga" that was to take us all around Mansion House - up the stairs and down to the basement, through all the nooks and crannies and back to the Egyptian Hall where we all, both young and old, finally collapsed in exhaustion.  

After giving three very loud cheers for the Lord Mayor, hundreds of balloons were released and a mad, friendly scramble ensued. Then we all said farewell to the Lord Mayor and, as we departed at 7 pm, each child received a silver spoon embellished with a miniature Lord Mayor's coach. My granddaughter's feedback said the party 'was amazing!'. Now Lorelei is hopefully busy, in true Livery Company tradition, writing her handwritten letter of thanks to the Lord Mayor for the superb hospitality she received.  It should be in the post on Monday!

It is not an absolute requirement for Master's of livery companies to have grandchildren aged between six and nine during one's year of office. Certainly my grand-daughter had an experience she will never forget and will look back on in future years as something very special - and a great privilege.  For me, as a Granny, one of the best treats of my year of office.  

Saturday, 11 January 2014

'Thank you to Committees' Wednesday 8th January at Cass Business School's new Aldersgate Campus for Executive Education

It is a tradition in our Company that thanks are given to the various individuals and Committee members who contribute so much to the success of each Master's year.  I personally see this as particularly important in 2013 when we have moved to a new Aims structure and sought to streamline our activities, events and outreach projects. Many unsung heroes are within our Committees whose members spend untold hours working on behalf of the Company, also contributing greatly to the success of the City and Corporation   This work includes everything from recruitment to the float for the Lord Mayor's Show and this year has been a particularly busy year with the Marketors as mother Company to the Aldermanic Sheriff, our own Past Master, Sir Paul Judge. While some of the early arrivals were given a tour of the superb new premises (opened by the Lord Mayor only on 7 December) we all enjoyed drinks and a catch up with each other. There is no shortage of conversation when Marketors get together.
I personally had so many to thank! I do believe that the incoming Chairman of the Think Tank (now renamed Thought Leadership), Past Master Jim Surguy espied a state of the art Lecture Theatre for his first symposium in 2014!  Thank you to everyone for all the support in my year as Master.  I have been blessed!  

Visit to Royal Mail Wednesday 8th January by the Master and Junior Warden: we were there!

A long awaited scoping visit to Mail Rail. At the celebratory event at the Guildhall marking 150 years of the London Underground in September last year I met the Chairman of the British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA), Sarah Orde. She was at that time in the process of submitting plans to Islington Council proposing to reopen a section of the Mail Rail beneath Mount Pleasant sorting office, for public use. The scheme formed part of the BPMA’s plan for a major new postal museum and experience in the Mount Pleasant area. The first part of this plan, a new combined museum and archive at Calthorpe House (opposite Mount Pleasant) has been approved. This will eventually allow the BPMA to fully open up its extensive collections covering over 400 years of postal history to the public.  The collections include photographs, posters, vehicles, pillar boxes, employment records of millions of people and a world-class stamp collection. Part two of the scheme, however, is perhaps even more ambitious. This involves reopening the aforementioned section of the Mail Rail beneath Mount Pleasant itself.

The Mail Rail perhaps needs little by the way of introduction. In 1909 Sir Robert Bruce, Controller of the London Postal Region, was appointed to investigate whether the sub-surface transmission of mail in London was a matter worth pursuing. Having examined systems to be found elsewhere in the world, he produced a report recommending that the “Post Office (London) Railway” be constructed. Whilst various pneumatic options were considered, his ultimate recommendation was for an electric railway connecting the Eastern District Office with Paddington, passing through six other stations, five sorting offices and Liverpool Street station. The Post Office itself quickly approved of the scheme, and the Post Office (London) Railway Act was passed by Parliament in 1913 enabling its construction. That construction was originally intended to take only 15 months, and began shortly after the outbreak of WW1. Initially work proceeded relatively quickly despite the growing conflict. Tunnels were cut by means of a Greathead Shield, with iron ring segments forming the tunnel wall and work proceeded to plan until the tunnels had almost reached Mount Pleasant itself. Here, water began to seep through the tunnel walls and, despite the addition of extra lining, this would remain a problem throughout the life of the system.

Master and David Pearson down below

mailrailtunnelsConstruction pauses on Post Office Railway tunnels
By 1917 the war in Europe – with its demands for both men and materiel – saw work on the Post Office Railway temporarily halted. The tunnels were largely complete, but the railway itself had yet to be fitted out. The tunnels were soon being used to store British Museum treasures safely away from German Zeppelin bombing raids on the Capital whilst serious consideration was given to suspending work completely.

mailrailartwork Storing artwork on the Post Office Railway
In the end, work finally resumed in 1924 and was completed in 1927. The result was a narrow gauge railway over six miles long running from the Eastern District Office to Liverpool Street Station, then the East Central District Office (King Edward Building), Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, West Central District Office at Holborn, Western District Office at Wimpole Street, Western Parcels Office at Baker Street and then finally arriving at Paddington District Office where it connected with the main railway station.
mailrailtrack The narrow gauge track
This route changed slightly in 1965 when the Western Parcels Office, and its station, were closed and the Western District Office was moved to Rathbone Place. For the rest of the railway’s life, Rathbone Place would remain something of the “odd station out” as a result, looking very much like the office block basement it was in opposition to the more tube-like stations elsewhere on the line.
mailrailwestbound The westbound platform at Mount Pleasant
mailraileastboadplatform The eastbound platform at Mount Pleasant

The cross passage between the two platforms
Trains were controlled by a switch system at each station and could be stopped at any station for loading or unloading of mail or could be run straight through. Mail was loaded via bags or trays into special containers which themselves were then loaded onto the trains. Mail was sent down to the platforms from the offices above via chutes and transferred up via conveyor belt or lifts. Indeed at Paddington a lengthy conveyor system was used to get bags of mail from the Post Office Railway directly onto the mainline platforms.
mailrailconveyor What remains of the conveyor incline at Mount Pleasant
mailraillift The lift up to Mount Pleasant depot

The End of the Line.For the next thirty five years, the Post Office Railway would be used to move mail around London. In 1987 it was refurbished and rebranded as the “Mail Rail” in celebration of its 60th anniversary. Finally, in the nineties, it was upgraded to then-state of the art computer control (indeed it would later be boasted that the system was run by a then-incredible “254 megabyte computer”).By the new millenium though it had become clear that the Post Office no longer wished to maintain the system. The network, they claimed, cost five times more to run than the equivalent cost of moving the mail by road. This was a figure that was soon subject to a certain amount of dispute. The Communication Workers Union claimed that, to a certain extent, Royal Mail were cooking the figures – that they had pursued a deliberate policy of running the railway down and only using it at one third of its true capacity. A report by the Greater London Authority also supported its continued use. Despite this, the Royal Mail announced in April 2003 that they would close it down at the end of May, and the railway moved its last parcel in the early hours of 31st May 2003.

Looking down on the Mount Pleasant depot
mailraildepotspace The Mail Rail depot at Mount Pleasant

The Mail Rail Experience

The BPMA’s plan is to take advantage of the fact that the Mail Rail, for the entirety of its operational life, was designed to be a fully self-supporting enclosed system. This means that, lying beneath Mount Pleasant itself, are not just a set of original platforms but also an extensive Workshop space and mail car depot. These can all be seen on the map below.
mailrailsiteplan A plan of the Mount Pleasant site, with the key museum areas highlighted
If the plans are approved, the Workshop area will be used to house a visitor centre and cafe, whilst the larger depot space will be converted into both an events hall and exhibition space covering various aspects of the system’s history.
workshopanddepot The workshop and depot space (off to the right), showing the track to be overlayed and likely display points
Looking through the supporting documentation, the intention is to try and avoid as much structural change to the system itself as possible, in recognition of its crucial heritage role. Lifted floors with grills and vents to expose the workings beneath will be used throughout the depot, and exhibits set apart from the original fixtures and fittings that still remain, allowing these to be exposed wherever possible.
mailraileventsspace An artist’s impression of the view back from the events area
mailraildepotboarding An artist’s impression of the view back from the station
mailrailexhibitionspace An early artist’s impression of the exhibition space
mailrailplatformmockup An early artist’s impression of the platform space
It’s an admirable design goal, and one that should be impressive if achieved. The most interesting element of the plan, however, comes with the tunnels linking the car depot to the original platforms themselves. The intention appears to be to restore this section of line to full operation, running trains carrying visitors from the depot through to the platforms, where there will be more exhibits on the system’s industrial history – and indeed the history of moving mail by rail in general. The rolling stock used will be specially designed replicas of the original battery powered trains used to transport the mail. The network beyond Mount Pleasant will remain physically open, but running will be fixed to the confines of the new museum site. Although the planning documents make no mention of proposed timescales, it is clear that the BPMA are keen to press forward in line with their work on the wider museum. It is hard not to wish them success with their endeavour. David Pearson, who if all goes to plan will be Master in 2016, will definitely include a visit!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers Master's Plough Monday Dinner 6th January 2014

My first activity as Master in 2014 took place in the historical Tallow Chandlers Hall on Dowgate Hill. Plough Monday is traditionally the first Monday after Epiphany or the First Monday after Twelfth Night, whatever you prefer! On this day the ceremony of the Plough took place and in early feudal times it marked the end of the Christmas holidays when men returned to their daily work or their plough.  Without going too much into the tradition, those taking part wore white as the activity was known as The White Plough or Fond Plough with villagers dressed as 'mummers' and the procession 'fond' or foolish.  The plough was dragged from door to door in the parish and 'plough money' solicited. If the householder was stingy the ground in front of his door was ploughed up!  The saying 'God speed the Plough' is an expression of good wishes for success and prosperity.

The Very Revd Colin Semper, Liveryman and Chaplain to the Feltmakers Company, gave an excellent grace through an ancient song, the refrain being sung loudly by us all after every verse ' God speed the Plough!'. Officinados of the Church's year will understand that the Company was holding the dinner a week before Plough Monday on this occasion.  The date of the dinner had been rescheduled to Monday 6th from Monday 13th as it was the preference of the Master that both Sheriffs should be present. In the event only Sheriff Adrian Waddingham was able to be present despite the change of date, as Sir Paul Judge, Aldermanic Sheriff and guest speaker for the evening, had been asked to undertake an urgent mission to Togo (next door to Ghana!) in support of an important educational initiative. Sir Paul, an Educator as well as a Past Master of the Marketors, has been instrumental in the Educators advancement to Livery, to be celebrated in February.  Adrian gave an excellent speech, the Master Feltmaker apparently having briefed him simply to speak on any subject of his choosing and for as long as he wished! 

In fact, the Sheriff gave a superbly amusing speech about actuarial matters that affect all our lives and provided some fascinating insights into life at the Old Bailey.  Baroness Wall, well known for her superb work as Fair Pay Champion, gave the response. It was delightful that Baroness Boothroyd, former Speaker of the House and a long term supporter of my work at the Industry and Parliament Trust, an Honorary Liveryman of the Feltmakers, was also present. We had much to catch up on. The Master spoke of the Feltmakers Company's pleasure at annually providing the hat for the Lord Mayor. A special lighter weight design was created for our Lord  Mayor, the Rt Hon Fiona Woolf.  Having seen the hat on the Lord Mayor's head, I can vouch for its fashionable, yet traditional, design.  It was a thoroughly pleasant and relaxing evening with just two Masters present as guests, myself and the Master Actuary.  I also had an engaging conversation with Commander Peter Laughton MBE, Commanding Officer of HMS Lancaster, a type 23 frigate affiliated to the Feltmakers. He trained at Dartmouth with Commander Catherine Jordan, Commanding Officer of our own affiliated sister ship, HMS St Albans. As a Company, we look forward to welcoming Catherine at the upcoming Installation Dinner on 23 January. Please make sure you have booked for this most important event in the Marketors calendar.