Following a hectic start in October and November, activity slowed slightly in December and January with a pleasant break over Christmas and the New Year.

December began with a service at St Bartholomew’s the Great to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Cutlers Company’s first charter from Henry V in 1416. This church is tucked away in a small alley opposite Haberdashers Hall and parts of it are extremely old. Following the service, a reception was held in the Great Hall at the Old Bailey.

The Lord Mayor’s Awards were held at Mansion House at a small ceremony hosted by the Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor has a very good sense of humour, and asked me to ‘check a couple of dodgy slates on the roof of Mansion House’! The awards are for young people (18-23) who have completed various tasks in many parts of the world. Having spoken to a couple of the winners they are very impressive young people.

My first Court meeting as Master was held at Wax Chandlers Hall prior to the Carol Service. The meeting seemed to go well, although two hours in the Master’s gown is quite a challenge.

The annual Carol service that followed is always a highlight as it starts the festive season for the T&Bs. St Margarets Lothbury was full of Company members and guests who were able to witness an excellent sermon from our Chaplain John Cook, and some wonderful singing from the Lothbury choir. The Mistress delivered one of the readings during the service, which may have been a ‘first’ for the Company. Following the service we adjourned to the City University Club for wine and canapés, taking the opportunity to chat with members of the Company.

Hilary and I left for a three week holiday to Australia the day after the service, primarily to visit our two children, Hannah and John, who live in Melbourne. Whilst in the city ‘The Szymanskis’ were invited to dinner by Liveryman and Steward Brenda Upton-Kemp who is a native of the city. We had a wonderful time catching up with Brenda who served an excellent dinner in keeping with her reputation for presenting good food.
One day after returning from Australia, with the jet lag in full force, I attended a Masons Company lunch and a Plaisterers Company dinner. The Masons lunch was at Mercers Hall, which is always pleasant to visit with the Mercers being No.1 in the order of precedence. The dinner with the Plaisterers Company was a very large and grand occasion with Masters and Clerks from many companies in attendance. The retiring Bishop of London was a guest but unfortunately he didn’t speak.

Coincidently two of the current Masters are friends of mine. Steve Turner, Master Builders Merchant, was a good customer for many years, and Hugh Moss, Master Horner, was a colleague at London Brick in the early eighties. Hugh invited me to a very select Horner’s lunch at Painters Hall, which gave us the opportunity to catch up and reminisce over old times!

That same afternoon, the Wardens and I interviewed a prospective member to the company, before meeting with new members of the Company for supper at Davys St James. This initiative started last year and gives relatively new members of the company the opportunity to ask questions of the Master and Wardens, and also find out how the company operates. We hope to make this a regular annual event.

It is not uncommon for individuals to be members of more than one livery company, in fact some City dignitaries can be members of 6/7/8 companies, usually on an honorary basis. Tom Christopherson has been a Tylers and Bricklayers Liveryman since 1986, but currently he is also Master of the Art Scholars Company, the last livery company to be formed – 110. Tom invited the Mistress and I to their annual dinner at Drapers Hall, which is always magnificent. It was a very pleasant evening that was attended by many TV personalities from the Antiques Roadshow, which is probably not surprising. The guest speaker was Sir Tim Lawrence, Princess Anne’s husband, who is currently Chairman of both English Heritage and the
Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He gave a very interesting speech and stirred memories of my time working in West Flanders, Belgium where many of the war graves are situated.

It is important for all members of the company to promote the company to the wider world and explain what our aims and objectives are. With this in mind I gave a short presentation to the board of the Association of Brickwork Contractors who represent most of the larger bricklaying firms in the UK. Unfortunately, they are not as engaged with us as we would like and as I am a good friend of the Chairman, I took advantage of the invite he gave. Hopefully we will be able to develop the relationship.

January finished off with a superb visit to Hampton Court Palace by the Mistress and I at the invitation of Liveryman Emma Simpson. Emma is a bricklayer by training and specializes in the heritage sector. Most of her and her teams work is at the Royal Palaces and Hampton Court is a good example. Emma is able to use skills and techniques that are quite rare in the 21st century to repair and renovate the brickwork that has deteriorated over 100’s of years. The work that has been done on the extensive garden walls is excellent, but that which has been completed on the magnificent chimney stacks is staggering. Emma must have a good head for heights! This work is a credit to Emma and her team and I would recommend a visit.

As well as being able to attend many special events, the Master has to work with the Clerk to organize Company functions both formal and informal. Often these preparations start months in advance and require careful planning. Fortunately our Learned Clerk is very experienced and guides the Master with great skill.

The diary for February and March gets off to a good start, with Common Hall at Bakers Hall, followed by a continual flow of appointments.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been in touch with two Liverymen who are no longer able to attend our functions. Michael Drown became a liveryman in 1983. When I was a young engineer with London Brick, Michael was company Sales Director. He then went on to work for Westbrick and then Tarmac. Michael lives near Tiverton in Devon. I have also been in touch with the Right Reverend George Cassidy. George was Company chaplain prior to John Cook. George lives near Bridgwater in West Somerset. I plan to meet up with both Michael and George in the Summer.

Finally, it was with great sadness that we heard that Past Master Hugh Fuller had passed away peacefully. Hugh had been a great servant to the Company and had continued the great traditions of the Fullers within the Tylers and Bricklayers. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anne and the family.