The Company is probably unique among the older Livery Companies in that it currently supports a multiplicity of crafts – no fewer than three, and some with sub-groups. Bricklaying, roof slating and tiling (and the purists might well say they are two separate crafts) and ceramic wall and floor tiling are the major areas of interest. The last category also includes mosaic tiling. We are fortunate to have three crafts that continue to play a major role in the economy, unlike the crafts of some other Livery Companies which have lost prominence over the years.
Historically bricklaying was pre-eminent among these crafts being the one that produced the largest volume of work. Roof tiling was something of a luxury in the early days with thatch generally being used on houses.
Our interest extends to:
- The encouragement of high quality workmanship in our crafts
- The training of future generations of craftsmen
- The informing of members of the Company and others about the mysteries of the crafts
The encouragement of fine workmanship is manifested in our Triennial Awards, the recent winners of which are illustrated elsewhere on the website. These prestigious awards are held, as you might expect, every three years, with the Lord Mayor or other major City figure presenting the prizes. Awards are made in three categories, for new buildings in London featuring outstanding brickwork, tiling or roofing. Certificates are presented to the building owner, architect and specialist contractors and a silver medal is presented to the Foreman Craftsman (eg the lead bricklayer) responsible for the execution of the work. The Triennial Awards have been going for many years, as will be seen from past winners including Battersea Power Station and Guildford Cathedral – both for brick!
Through our collaboration with the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham we also make awards (cash prizes, certificates and medals) to the best Class 1 and Class 2 Bricklayers at the school. One will be a Sapper and the other a Corporal. They too attend the Craft Awards Luncheon in March, together with the Commanding Officer of RSME.
We sponsor the annual Bricklaying prize given to a student at the Building Crafts College in Stratford, London.
The means by which the Craft Committee seeks to inform members of the Company about the crafts include one or more craft events each year. This might take the form of a lecture by an expert in the field or a visit to such venues as the Welsh Slate Quarry in North Wales, the Jackfield Tile Museum in Ironbridge or Bursledon Brickworks in Hampshire. We also visit distinguished buildings, including recent visits to Keble College Oxford and Queens’ College Cambridge – both rich in old brickwork.
The Company takes up such opportunities as are available to demonstrate our crafts to the wider public. We arrange demonstrations of bricklaying encouraging spectators of all ages to ‘have a go’. We have also arranged a display of the manufacture (by hand) of roof tiling components – finials, ridge cappings etc. We participated in the Lincoln Heritage Crafts Festival with demonstrations of roofing and bricklaying which received enthusiastic support from visitors to the show.
We are fortunate in having many active craftsmen as members of the Company and we have world experts in mosaics, encaustic tiling, roofing and brickwork as Liverymen or Freemen. At present we have Liverymen working on the Royal Albert Hall, Hampton Court Palace and the Palace of Westminster! They take the lead in promoting the Company’s activities in our crafts, through the Craft Committee, and Liverymen who are not drawn from a craft background (the majority) get the chance over the years to become quite knowledgeable about the history and techniques of workmanship in our trades.