Consorts and Guests Dinner 18 April 2018
The Master's Speech
Visiting Wardens, Past Masters, Liverymen
Freemen and Honorary Freemen
Ladies and Gentlemen
Welcome to the Broderers’ Consorts and Guests Dinner and to the newly restored Mercers’ Hall, our shared home for 60 years since 1958, when it was rebuilt and reopened after the Blitz, being destroyed on the same night as our old Hall in Gutter Lane, off Cheapside.
An especially warm welcome to our Company guests tonight: our Speaker, John Campbell, the Dean’s Verger at Lincoln Cathedral, more of whom later; to Martin Castledine, the Dean’s Verger at Westminster Abbey and the chairman of the Deans’ Vergers’ Conference of the Association of English Cathedrals; to Jane Ruddell, the Company Historian and former Archivist of the Mercers’ Company; and to Diana Springall, who is amongst the most well-known of all British textile artists, having made a crucial contribution to modern textile history from the mid-1970s onwards and is the author and curator of the famous “Diana Springall Collection”.
Welcome also to the Past Masters of the Clockmakers, the Pewterers, the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawerers, the Horners, and the Tylers and Bricklayers, and to liverymen guests from the Farriers, the Glass Sellers and the Butchers.
Finally, I welcome my personal guests which include my family; friends from Norfolk and London; Colonel the Honourable Mark Vincent, who has only recently stepped down as the Regimental Colonel of the Honourable Artillery Company and as the Master Gunner within the Tower, and who is accompanied by his wife, Janice; and to ten friends and colleagues from amongst the Honorary Stewards of Westminster Abbey who include the Renter Warden of the Firefighters and former Lord Mayor of the City of Westminster, Honorary Alderman Frances Blois. Welcome All!
Our dinner tonight will broadly mirror a typical livery dinner, as many of our guests may not have experienced one before. The Broderers Company is unusual but not unique in not allowing spouses and partners of liverymen to its formal livery dinners, so tonight’s annual dinner is a special opportunity. As the Confraternity of the Holy Ghost, we have a reputation of brightening up proceedings, which I hope we will achieve again this evening culminating in the much-revered, or is it feared, Master’s Song!
The Broderers’ Company, which traces its origins to as far back as 1331, supports the traditional craft of embroidery and its application in the modern era; referred to in our second Royal Charter of 1561 as the “Mysterie of Broderie”, hence our growing involvement with the world of fashion, where the skill of hand embroidery is much sought after. Talking of the modern era, the Company eagerly anticipates the forthcoming signing “any week now” by Her Majesty the Queen of our third Royal Charter, currently with the Privy Council, a project in the capable hands of our Warden, Sir Christopher Bellamy.
Another exciting project reaching its culmination this summer is the restoration of our two oldest embroidered artefacts, the Broderers Crowns from the late Tudor and early Stuart periods, which were worn by the Master over the brim of a hat. You will recall that, during the ancient ceremony of the Loving Cup, we remembered the names of two former Masters who would have worn the Crowns: John Parr, the Royal Embroiderer to Elizabeth I and James I, and Edmund Harrison, the Royal Embroiderer to Charles I and Charles II. The project is led by Canadian Cynthia Jackson who regrettably could not be with us this evening, and overseen by fellow Canadian Jane Ruddell, of the Mercers’ Company, who is here. A full replica with hat is also being made of the Tudor Crown, to be presented to the Company later this year.
The Broderers now have three military affiliations: the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment from Tern Hill Barracks in Shropshire, to be presented with new Colours by HRH the Duke of York in September at their regimental headquarters in Belfast; 849 Naval Air Squadron, stationed at Culdrose but now at Portsmouth, preparing to be the first helicopter squadron on board the new HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier; and the Bexley and Lewisham Sea Cadets.
I shall mention our key sponsored charities in just a moment but last autumn saw the Company break in to new territory with the launch of the Broderers’ Textile Innovation Fund. This is an initial five year programme of support to the Royal College of Art, totalling £125,000, starting initially with research in to the use and application of graphene and related new materials in embroidery and textile design and getting underway this year.
As I approach the final month of my Mastership, having clocked up approximately 130 events, meetings, lunches and dinners, one abiding memory for me and all of us is the major event that kicked-off the year last June, the first ever Heritage Skills Festival at Lincoln Cathedral, involving over two dozen City Livery companies. The Broderers’ had four stands, showing off the work of our Charity Trust’s four main beneficiaries: the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace, offering three-year honours degree courses in embroidery and textile design to nearly 60 students; Fine Cell Work, which through its team of volunteers supports the teaching of embroidery to over 600 prisoners throughout the UK’s prison network and their training as apprentices at its new studio in Battersea; The Grange, a residential rehabilitation and training centre near Leatherhead; and the Embroiders’ Guild, which supports the renewal, replacement and restoration of vestments at our English Cathedrals.
As an aside, one memorable evening last December saw the presentation of three new sets of vestments to the Bishop, Dean and Chapter of Southwark Cathedral, funded by ourselves and the Needlemakers.
So, back to Lincoln and the lady sitting on my left, liveryman Isobel Lattimore, whose skill as an embroiderer, her work at St Paul’s Cathedral and above all her energy and enthusiasm for exhibiting at Lincoln persuaded us all to “have a go”. She led on the design and manufacture of our beautiful sewing kits and of her own volition, with the help of three other embroiderers, made this glorious Sewing Box as a key prize in the auction; a prize that liveryman James Neill, secretary of the Livery Committee, and I successfully bid for, to keep the Box as a Company asset. I am delighted to announce that Isobel’s Box is to be presented on loan to Murray Craig, the Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court, for safe keeping and to display in the room where aspiring liverymen make their oaths to become Freemen of the City of London. This means that for the first time our candidates will be able to see a Broderers embroidered artefact on their special day. A big “thank you” to Isobel from everyone!
And, Isobel, may I just add that, as direct consequence of our stall at last week’s Lord Mayor’s Big Curry event at Guildhall, in aid of the three Service charities, the Equerry to HRH the Duke of York has been in touch with our Clerk today to follow up on HRH Princess Eugenie’s obvious interest in our display and seek more information about the charities behind them; HRH confessed to loving embroidery but had not as yet visited the Royal School of Needlework.
Finally, before the toast, it is my very great pleasure to introduce and formally welcome our guest speaker for this evening, John Campbell. John being the sort of unassuming character that he is, offered himself as an auction prize last June. The prize was to be the guest speaker at a dinner where he could show off his many talents to great effect. I was relieved that the bidding stopped when it did, so some ten months later we have the man himself to honour his pledge.
John has been the Dean’s Verger at Lincoln Cathedral since 1990 and has also served four terms as the Mayor of Lincoln’s chaplain. He has been at the forefront of changing the atmosphere of the cathedral, making it a more open, accessible and friendlier place. In recent years the cathedral has been used for many special events including the production of major films, such as the Da Vinci Code; the 800th Anniversary celebrations for Magna Carta and, more recently, the Heritage Skills Festival in June 2017. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2016 for services to the Church in Lincoln and will be sharing with us anecdotes and stories of his life’s work, initially as a hotel chef and a ballroom manager, and then as a verger in the cathedrals of Bradford, Winchester, Carlisle and Lincoln. His address, which follows in a moment, is entitled “Close Encounters of the Ecclesiastical Kind” but I suspect may have a sub-text of “A life verging on the ridiculous” We shall see!
But first, may I ask fellow Broderers to please arise? The Toast is “The Guests”.
- 14 May – the inaugural Broderers’ Textile Lecture at Carpenters’ Hall “1066 – How history was stitched up”- the story of the Alderney Bayeux Tapestry Finale, the “missing” final panels of the Bayeux Tapestry which is, of course, an embroidery.
- 16 May – the memorial service at Mercers’ Chapel for the life of Peter Crouch, our lately departed former Warden and Clerk of 28 years’ service.
- 21 May – the annual Election Day Service and Supper
- 20 June – the Election Dinner, here at Mercers’ Hall
- 11 September – first ever Broderers Fashion Show at St Paul’s Crypt
- Join us for a Stirrup Cup
- “I wish everyone a safe journey home and thank you for coming”