June ended with a surprise invitation from Kent County Cricket Club to their Committee’s box at Lords for the One Day Cup Final. Sadly the result did not go Kent’s way but it was a most enjoyable day and nice to see several people that we’ve encountered at various Royal Engineers’ events at Chatham over the year. 

The warm weather of June turned decidedly hot for July as we officially entered a heatwave and thus the Architect’s Dinner in the non-air conditioned Skinner’s Hall was the first event at which gentlemen were encouraged to remove their jackets. However the top table declined to do so and we emerged somewhat bedraggled after another evening of excellent fare. 

The next day the Craft Trust met followed by the Private View of the Company’s Exhibition at Guildhall Library and an excellent reception in the Guildhall Club Room. As ever Mark Groves did us proud and it was lovely to see Penny Brooks and indeed John’s newly married son Tom at this well attended event.

Sincere thanks are again due to all those who have helped in creating this superb Exhibition and particularly Liveryman and Silver Steward David Allen, Past Master Roger Westbrook and all the staff at the Guildhall Library and the Metropolitan Archive. Those who have not yet visited should ensure that they do so before the Exhibition closes at the end of August.

The ensuing weekend saw us at the Kent Show which was yet another scorching day and a fascinating event which I hadn’t attended for some thirty years or so. It has come a long way in that time and was a most professional event. At the President’s Luncheon we were treated to Kentish wines. The sparkling was not a surprise but the excellent white and red were – roll on our visit to the Elam Vineyard next month!

Fortunately the Committee had decided to import a number of screens and all were able to watch England’s quarter final victory over Sweden in the World Cup.

Sadly the 12th saw us in Southwold for a celebration of Jennifer Fuller’s life. As many of you will know Jenny had been ill for some years and the courage and good humour with which she faced her illness was an example to us all.

On the sixteenth Catherine and I were back at Mansion House but bizarrely not for dinner but for fish and chips and Karaoke. The Mistress led the Consorts in a rendition of Abba’s Super Trooper and the Sheriffs – wigs, boots and all - gave a convincing Mamma Mia but nothing could match the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress’ interpretation of You’re the one that I want from Grease performed via a Skype call as the Lord Mayor was in South Korea!

 Back to reality and several candidate interviews and meetings regarding a new Education and Training forum headed by the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants before Charter Day which this year was fittingly held at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Epping Forest. Having both grown up in the forest Catherine and I felt there was little we didn’t know but how wrong we were. Our two excellent guides gave us detailed, fascinating and informative tours of both the Lodge and the nearby forest following which we enjoyed an excellent buffet lunch. Many thanks are due to the Mistress for organising the day so brilliantly and to all at the Lodge for their hospitality.

A quieter August beckons.

June

June began with a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace hosted for the first time by HRH Prince Charles. Despite a forecast for rain the weather was superb and the setting and event more than matched it. Sipping tea on the steps of the Palace standing next to the Prime Minister was a little surreal to say the least. The most interesting part of the day was meeting people from a wide range of backgrounds, many with incredible stories to tell. The whole event ran extremely smoothly and was a great experience.

The Mistresses’ visit to the V & A followed the next day and the Father of the Company and myself joined the Ladies for lunch at the Alderman’s Dining Room in Guildhall. Mark Groves provided us with splendid fare and the event proved most enjoyable and convivial.

On Friday 8th the Mistress and I embarked on the Livery’s Ironbridge weekend travelling via Bristol to attend Liveryman Eric Maxwell’s funeral. It was a poignant occasion as Eric and I joined the Tykers and Bricklayers on the same day. Despite only having been at Ironbridge for the Craft Visit in May, we only visited two sites we had viewed in May. One of these was the Jackfield Tile Museum and it was very pleasing to receive much positive comment about our involvement with the museum and Craven Dunnill had also put various T&B plaques and awards on show.

Of the 110 City Livery Companies some 93 Masters were present together with the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs who arrived on Saturday after Trooping the Colour, and whose consorts returned to London on Sunday morning for the march to celebrate the centenary of female suffrage. The pace of our visit was only marginally slower as we took in 5 museums, two dinners and a lunch in the space of 36 hours. After that it was off to Newcastle to collect Jack before heading back to Southwold on Monday.

The following week centred around the Court Meeting and Masters’ and Clerks’ Luncheon at which we were honoured by the presence of Sheriff Neil Retcliffe who commented that this was one of his most enjoyable events and that he was impressed with the friendliness of the T&Bs and the quality of the food and wine. Indeed I have received many similar comments from visiting Masters and Clerks so congratulations and thanks to all involved in putting on this event and indeed to all those present for contributing to such a successful event.

Next day the Wine Committee met for its annual business meeting although we still enjoyed a most convivial lunch at the Pig and Goose in the Strand where we tasted some interesting new wines several of which have been added to our list.

The ensuing days were spent finalising the Master’s visit to Southwold on 20th and 21st June when 36 Liverymen and consorts joined us on the East Coast. The weather was kind and on the first day we enjoyed crazy golf and afternoon tea with a talk by Nick Haward on the challenges of building Southwold Pier. This was followed by a reception and dinner at a local café/restaurant.

The next day saw an intrepid 12 take to the sea aboard the Coastal Voyager – a high speed rib. All returned safely and relatively dry despite Past Master Ian Mitchell -Grimshaw taking the helm for part of the tour! There then followed a choice of a Brewery or Distillery tour and tasting at Adnams’ Brewery in the heart of the town with lunch and drinks available at the Master’s Beach Hut.

After these rigours the party reconvened at the Electric Picture Palace for a screening of Michael Palin’s East of Ipswich. The Picture Palace is an authentic replica of a 1920s cinema including a Wurlitzer Organ rising from below the stage! That evening the party met at the Crown for an excellent dinner with a wine tasting before all departed for home on Friday save for the Charity Trustees who held their annual meeting.
All seemed to have enjoyed the visit and many in the Town commented on how much they enjoyed meeting the T&Bs.

After a weekend of some recovery (Satruday marked the start of the Southwold Arts Festival) it was back to civic duties with Common Hall on Monday 25th June. This was another sweltering day and certainly not ideal for being robed for three hours! The election of the Sheriffs was contested by three non-Aldermanic candidates and I was delighted that Alderman Vincent Keaveney was elected as Aldermanic Sheriff and the Honourable Liz Green as non-Aldermanic Sheriff for the coming year. Liz was supported by a large number of Tylers and Bricklayers and polled twice as many votes as her nearest challenger.

Afterwards we celebrated with lunch at Insurers’ Hall where the assembled Company largely comprised T&Bs and Framework Knitters the latter being Liz’s (and the Mistresses’) Company. 

A month of unbroken sunshine and virtually unbroken events – fortunately July and August look a little quieter although just as warm!

March began with a Court Meeting at which we welcomed three new Liverymen in Clare Banks, Bob Caile and Peter Bull MBE and a new Freemen, Steve Brooks. The meeting also formalised the appointment of Jenny Rolls as our new Almoner. Sarah Stroud will be a hard act to follow but I’m sure in Jenny we have the perfect successor.

The Court meeting was followed by our Annual Craft Awards. I have to say that this is one of my favourite events of the year as we recognise those young people at the outset of their careers and those who have achieved Master Craftsman status. The recent trend of having successful figures within our crafts present the awards is proving both inspirational and aspirational to the younger winners and thanks and congratulations to Liveryman Bob Howard MBE for striking such a perfect note in his speech. It was also a pleasure for me not to be involved in organising the event for the first time in five years and huge thanks and congratulations to Court Assistant Chris Causer for handling his first awards ceremony with such aplomb. All being well next year the assembled company will be spared from hearing from me at all!

The awards were followed later that week by the Davy’s Annual Trade Tasting. This provides the opportunity for the Wine Committee to assess how purchased wines are progressing as well as tasting others both for consideration in future purchases and to add to our list of wines for buying in. It really is a much tougher job than it may seem given the number and variety of wines to be tasted – honest!

The following week was busy to say the least. Catherine and I attended the opening of the World War I Tribute Garden by the Lord Mayor and I’d encourage all to visit this in Guildhall Yard. This was followed by the Carpenters’ Spring Dinner at Carpenters’ Hall. A fairly stressful afternoon as we decided to head back to Loughton to change in between and fell foul of the Central Line at its worst but fortunately we made it back to the City in time for the reception. One of the challenges in the Mastership Year is the logistics of having the right formal wear in the right place at the right time!

The following day we again found ourselves at Mansion House for the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. This was a truly splendid occasion with the Pikeman and Musketeers in full attendance of the Lord Mayor together with some 103 Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff as well as the civic team.  This was a great City occasion enjoyed by all and yet another highlight of the year so far and was followed by another great Livery occasion in the United Guilds Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. A full St. Paul’s is a sight and sound to behold and I’d encourage every Liveryman to try and attend this wonderful celebration of the Livery.

Immediately after the service Catherine and I headed to the Tower of London to support the National Heritage Training Group Awards, an organisation chaired by Liveryman Bob Howard MBE. The lottery funded bursaries have been a great success and it is to be hoped that new bursaries or other heritage training will be supported by the National Lottery now that the current funding cycle has come to an end.

The Guildhall, Carpenters’ Hall, Mansion House, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London all in one week!

The following week was no less hectic with the Mason’s Court Luncheon at Mercers’ Hall followed by a private dinner with Sheriff Neil Redcliffe and his wife Emma at the Old Bailey which included a wonderful tour of the Central Criminal Court. Maintaining the theme of criminal justice, the next day saw some 30 intrepid Tylers and Bricklayers head to HM Prison Brixton to lunch at The Clink our Charity of the Year. Seldom, if ever, will so many Tylers and Bricklayers have been behind bars at the same time!

In somewhat imposing surroundings we enjoyed a fabulous three course meal and again one was left wondering why it takes a custodial sentence to receive vocational training and how many of the young men we met might have avoided prison had they had this sort of opportunity at or immediately after, school. Thanks go to the Upper Warden for arranging such an excellent and thought provoking visit and congratulations in her role as Secretary to the Charitable Trusts as we have nearly reached our target for the Charity of the Year so please keep giving to this tremendously worthwhile cause.

From HMP Brixton to the splendours of the Mansion House once more for the Plumbers’ Annual Banquet where we were royally entertained on our sixth visit thus far! A fitting end to my first six months in office but hard to believe I am already halfway through the year.

April highlights include the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry lunch. We have a good number attending but if you are free on the 11th April and in the vicinity of the Guildhall please do purchase a ticket and support Court Assistant Simon Martin who is one of the organisers of this excellent event. I am also looking forward to visiting the Royal Engineers at Chatham for their cadet open day.

April

Incredibly April 5th marked the start of the second half of my year as Master – tempus indeed fugit!

After the Easter break my first event was the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch at the Guildhall and it was great to see a large number of our Liverymen supporting this excellent event which for the first time benefitted all three services and not just ABF The Soldier’s Charity. In all the event raised an impressive £190,000 and if you have not yet sampled the delight of garam massala in the Great Hall I strongly encourage you to attend next year’s event scheduled for 4th April 2019.

The Curry Lunch was followed by the Installation Dinner for the Framework Knitters at Goldsmith’s Hall where unusually I was a guest of the Mistress who is a Framework Knitter.

A range of Company administration and meetings followed but the month’s highlight was my visit to Brompton Barracks for the Royal Engineer’s Cadet Open Day at which bricklaying was one of the task stations for the first time. The cadets enjoyed a variety of tasks including arranging tractor wheels with heavy plant, a waterborne initiative test and operating bomb disposal robots although despite these delights many identified bricklaying as their favourite activity of the day – another pointer to the need to expose school students to crafts at an early age!

 May

The Easter break made April a relatively quiet month but in May the Livery world springs back into life with a vengeance. Lunch with HM Judges and Sheriff Neil Redcliffe at the Old Bailey on the 8th heralded a run of six events in three days including the principal event of the Company year, our Annual Guest’s Dinner at Merchant Taylors’ Hall. I hope all who attended enjoyed the evening as much as Catherine and I did. The food, wine and principal speaker HH William Kennedy were all excellent and it is testament to our history and longevity that we dined in the same room in which our Liveryman Ben Jonson had designed and produced a Royal Pageant and Masque for King James I some 411 years before. Particular thanks must go to our Learned Clerk who as ever oversaw a superb and slick event notwithstanding a number of unusual requirements such as the Master and Mistress’s gifts and the viewing and procession of our magnificent new table centrepiece. This is a truly fitting piece with which to commemorate the 450th Anniversary of the grant of our Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1568 and I extend my thanks to the Upper Warden, Past Master Roger Westbrook and Silver Steward and Liveryman David Allen for all their hard work in the commissioning and delivery of the centrepiece. 

We approached the Annual Guest’s Dinner with some trepidation as our room manager for the night confessed to having worked for the Learned Clerk when at the Dorchester  - fortunately John had treated him kindly and trained him well as he presided over a near faultless service. 

The week ended with the NFRC Awards and it was a great pleasure to see Master Craftsman Andy Rowlands receive the Heritage Roof of the Year Award – congratulations (again!) Andy.

The following week was no less hectic with the wonderful Sons and Friends of the Clergy service at St Paul’s Cathedral. The next day some 20 of us embarked on the Craft Committee visit to Ironbridge. This was a most excellent trip, and thanks are due to Liveryman David Williams for organising such an informative and entertaining programme and for securing excellent accommodation and catering. It was a particular pleasure to visit the Tile Museum and Craven Dunnill at Jackfield where we also participated in a tile designing and decorating competition. The tiles have been independently judged by Craven Dunnill and the results and photographs will appear in the Upper Wardens’ Newsletter. 

From Ironbridge the Mistress and I attended the TTA Awards and Gala Dinner at Solihull which was an excellent but late, night to close another busy week. 

After a few days at home there then followed 7 appointments in 3 days the highlights of which were another trip to Brompton barracks for a Reception and the Sounding The Retreat by the Band of the Ghurkas on 23rd May as well as the launch of the Exhibition of the Company’s History and Treasures at the Guildhall Library on the 24th May. We were honoured by the presence of the Lord Mayor who officially opened the Exhibition and who was still eulogising about this at Christ’s Hospital Speech Day on the 26th May. This was another excellent event in the impressive surroundings of the school and hopefully we will be able to announce our second presentee later this year to follow in the footsteps of Onyinye Udokporo. The students’ march past and salute to the Lord Mayor and the School Band were most impressive and were almost but not quite, up to the standard of the Ghurkas - I have to say that as they have Kukris and the students, to the best of my knowledge, don’t!

June highlights to look forward to include HM Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, the Mistress’s Ladies event at the V&A, the Livery weekend at Ironbridge, the Annual Masters and Clerks Luncheon at Armourers and Braziers Hall and the Master’s visit to Southwold. Another busy month in prospect!

October

My Mastership  experience began before it had officially started with an invitation, as Master – Elect, to the Worshipful Company of Constructor’s Installation Service and Dinner on the eve of my own Installation.

Naturally the Installation Court Meeting, Church Service and Luncheon are a highlight of any Master’s year and I was delighted that the Lord Mayor the Rt Hon Alderman Dr Andrew Parmley was able to join us. It certainly was a most fitting way to begin the year in which we will celebrate the 450th Anniversary of the grant of our Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1568. It is a tremendous honour to have been elected to serve as Master and to be the third generation of the Fuller family to hold the office and the seventh Fuller Master in all. I hope that everyone will have enjoyed the day as much as Catherine and I did.

The next day I had the privilege of attending the Prizegiving Ceremony at the City of London School for Girls where the standard of achievement across the entire curriculum was hugely impressive with academic, sporting and musical attainment at the forefront. Indeed the standard of the musical performances was better than some professional events I have attended. Congratulations to all the prize winners but particularly to Isobel Picken the grand daughter of late Court Assistant Ian Picken who won one of the Tylers and Bricklayers Mathematics prizes.

The ensuing month was a fairly constant stream of events or functions the highlight of which was undoubtedly the UK Young Builder of the year Awards held on the House of Commons Terrace and hosted by Baroness Smith of Basildon and the Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. Lindsay was apprenticed as a bricklayer so it was a happy coincidence that he was presenting the awards and he will hopefully present our own Annual Craft Awards in 2019.

November

The month began with a flurry of events initially centred around the Annual Act of Remembrance and the Installation of the new Lord Mayor. Laying a simple cross to mark the opening of the Garden of Remembrance in St. Paul’s Churchyard on the 100th anniversary of the date British and Canadian troops finally captured the village of Passchendaele was extraordinarily moving and a huge but humbling honour.

There were also events to celebrate the outgoing Lord Mayor’s year of office including a particularly good Thanksgiving Service at St. Stephen’s Wallbrook presided over in part by Reverend Sally Muggridge the wife of Liveryman and Steward David Williams and of course the Lord Mayor’s Show at which I was delighted to see the Lady Mayoress on horseback accompanied by her two daughters who were coincidentally at school with my son. An excellent start to what I am sure will be another superb Mayorality and I take this opportunity to wish Charles and Samantha Bowman a fulfilling and enjoyable year.

A variety of lectures, lunches and dinners followed together with a number of awards ceremonies. I was particularly delighted to present an award at the Annual Brick Awards in the company of comedian and impressionist Jon Culshaw although I am still puzzled as to why my stage entry music was the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive - I managed to keep my dinner jacket on although the temptation to have a Saturday Night fever moment was great!

Other awards included the Plaisterers Training Awards and the William Morris Fellowship Awards where our own Liveryman Emma Simpson won the inaugural Gwyn Watkins award, a much deserved honour and recognition for the work and commitment Emma provides to the Fellowship.  I also had the pleasure of representing the Company at the SkillsShow with the Chairman of the Craft Committee. This event, held annually at the NEC, Birmingham and particularly the SkillBuild competition, is truly inspirational and I would encourage all members. Again we were kindly hosted by the NFRC and TTA and I thank both organisations for the generosity.

The Lord Mayor’s address and reception at Mansion House detailed the plans for the mayoralty in the coming year including the new approach to the Lord Mayor’s Charity Appeal which is to be run over a three year cycle and will support three charities key to the Mayoral theme of ‘A Better City For All’. The Charities are Place2Be, OnSide Youth Zones and Samaritans.

December & January

The build up to the Festive Season saw a number of dinners and lunches including being entertained at Charlton Athletic by Hadlow College which has interests in a large number of educational institutions including the University of Greenwich, Hadlow College, Ashford College and South West Kent College to name but a few. The Hadlow Group provide a wide range of vocational training and it is hoped that we may be able to set up some training courses relevant to our three crafts and possibly extending these via the new Pan Livery Collaboration project, to other Livery Companies.

December’s highlight was the Company’s Annual Carol Service at St. Margaret’s Lothbury and I am most grateful to the Company Chaplain the Reverend John Cook for stepping in at the last moment to preside. The service as ever, was wonderful and a suitably evocative start to the Christmas period and special thanks are due to Freeman Richard Townend and the Lothbury Singers. Afterwards we enjoyed good fellowship as ever at the City University Club but sadly we will need to seek a new venue for next year as the Club are moving to new premises at Fenchurch Street which will be too distant for our purposes.

Sadly the Carol Service was preceded by news of the sudden death of our beloved Almoner Sarah Stroud and it was good to see so many members of the Company at the Funeral Service in Holy Trinity Church, Claygate - a church that Sarah and her husband Andrew, late Court Assistant and Chairman of the Craft Committee, did so much to help renovate and support. The service was very moving and a fitting memorial to Sarah who will be much missed.

After the Carol Service Catherine and I took the opportunity to re-charge our batteries in the Far East mindful that this would be one of the few quiet periods in which we could get away. Returning refreshed from Cambodia, Laos and Thailand (where, in each case, the internet was better than in Suffolk!) we were again back into the fray with Catherine’s Livery Company, the Framework Knitters’ Winter Dinner at Painter and Stainers’ Hall. Whilst away I was delighted to see that Andrew Parmley’s excellent Mayoralty was recognised with the award of a Knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List and a similar honour extended to Lindsay Hoyle. Congratulations Sirs!

February

February is a surprisingly busy month beginning with the Nominations Committee meeting at which a new Almoner was identified immediately followed by Finance and Communications Committee meetings and Common Hall. It was a little disappointing that more Liverymen did not take the opportunity to attend Common Hall which is the one opportunity in the year to ask direct and if required difficult, questions of the Master, Wardens and Court. The event was followed by a truly excellent meal served with extremely fine wines with excellent fellowship – an appropriate reward for those who braved the elements.

The elements were firmly in evidence at the next event as the ‘Beast from the East’ reduced the Inter-Livery Pancake Races to a static display of tossing skills. The somewhat arbitrary approach to the judging resulted in a surprise win for the Poulters who are of course the organising Company. My thanks to Team T&B (Clare Banks, James Parris and James Hockley) and all the supporters for braving the cold and ice and hopefully next year there will be a true race when we can again show our athletic prowess. Do please come along and support this event which is great fun and is an important fundraiser. There is always the delight of watching tourists shaking their heads at the eccentricity of the English! Thanks also to Liveryman Michael Ash for his generous sponsorship of the event.

The month concluded with various lunches, lectures and receptions, and most notably, the Vintners Dinner an event memorable not just for the very fine wines but also for the Vintners’ Company song which is sung with much gusto as part of the speeches and the other musical entertainment provided by Escala, finalists in Britain’s Got Talent in 2008!

One of the pleasures of being Master is to visit inspirational Charities and Institutions and Catherine and I were mightily impressed by the work undertaken by the St. Edmunds Charity when we visited them in Norwich. The Charity provides vocational training, education and support for excluded school children and further vocational training for elder students who are otherwise unable to access this. It is a sad reflection of how poorly vocational training is viewed in this country that only those who might be dubbed ‘problem’ students receive this yet the vocational training allied with the support and education they receive means that some 80% of St. Edmunds’ students outperform their peers at GCSE maths and English. Hopefully the new technical qualifications will enable at least T1 and T2 to be delivered as part of the core curriculum.

Another pleasure of being Master is to attend the Freedom of the City of London Ceremonies for our Livery Freemen. This important and historic ceremony fascinating and a special experience for those receiving the Freedom and I’m delighted to say I’ve attended three such ceremonies already and with a growing membership hope to be attending several more.

March promises to be a busy month with highlights including our Annual Craft Awards at Trinity House on the 5th and the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House Dinner on the 15th.