On Shrove Tuesday I lined up in Guildhall Yard for the Annual Livery Pancake Race organised by the Poulters’ Company. The races included a series of heats for the Masters, for Freemen and a special fancy dress category.
The races were started by a gun provided by the Gunmakers’, the Clockmakers timed each race, the Fruiterers provided lemons, the Cutlers plastic forks and the Glovers white gloves worn by each runner. The Poulters organise the event because, of course, they provide the eggs that are the essential ingredient in the making of the pancakes. I completed the first heat without mishap, but failed to make the final run off.
To Fishmongers Hall the following week for the presentation of Masters’, Journeyman and Apprentice Certificates in the presence of the Lord Mayor. The certificates are awarded in association with the Livery Companies Skills Council and City & Guilds. The Masters of the Merchant Taylors, Masons, Plumbers, Lightmongers et al gave certificates to those from their trades who had qualified. The Fishmongers Hall, designed by Henry Roberts and completed in 1835, is one of the City’s finest livery halls and provided a suitable backdrop to this celebration of craft and the pomp of masters in their gowns and badges.
The Annual Banquet is the Company’s most significant event of the year. Our’s this year was in Goldsmith’s Hall with Thomas Heatherwick as our guest speaker. There were some 240 members and guests present, with a carpet guard of Orpington Sea Cadets and the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers; music was provided by the Honorable Artillery Company Band. This is the text of my speech:
“Masters, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Chartered Architects’ Company Annual Banquet in this most spectacular rendition of our members’ art. We have a record turn out of members and some very esteemed and distinguished guests.
Master Mason Bill Gloyn and Erika. I was so impressed when the Mason’s recently presented the young stonemason of the year, to a mason who was originally from Iran and is working on Winchester Cathedral – what a great mix of diversity, history and craft skills!
Master Tyler and Bricklayer, Tom Rider and Caroline. Tom is the fourth Rider to serve as Master of this ancient company. Tom recently launched the celebrations to mark the Company’s 600th anniversary year. Congratulations!
Master Constructor, Graeme Monteith and Kirsten. Graeme and I share a similar place in the queue of Masters for official events – we are both much younger than the Bricklayers, we are the 98th, Constructors is 99th – it is a pleasure to have you here.
Master Information Technologist Sir David Wootten is also a former Lord Mayor. I must say, David, that I have been inspired in my role as Master by the call you made to the Livery regarding the responsibilities of the civic City when you were in the senior office. David is also Past President of the City Livery Club and we went on a fascinating trip to the Gunmakers’ Company proofing house in Whitechapel, where amazingly, in the heart of the capital gun barrels are still proofed or tested. It is of course located outside the City walls in case of accidents or explosions – it is the burghers of Tower Hamlet who will take the brunt instead!
I approached Michael Bloomberg – the former Mayor of New York and CEO of the eponymous company – recently at a reception at the Mansion House. “Ah, you’re an architect” he said, quickly adding, “I’ve got a joke about architects!” I was told later by a member of his team that he tells it to every architect he meets!
“There were two architect beavers relaxing at the base of the Grand Hoover Dam. One looked up at the massive structure and said to the other ‘Is that one of yours?’ ‘No’ he answered “But it’s based on one of my ideas!”
I say that in relation to our guest of honour this evening because I like to think the Garden Bridge was partly my idea or at least John Gummer’s.
As Secretary of State for the Environment in the 90s, John Gummer thought there should be an additional bridge across the Thames between Blackfriars and Waterloo. The outcome was the Living Bridges Exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1996 which a curated. There was a compeition for a new bridge and the winner was the French architect Antoine Grumbach with a garden bridge.
So I am a great supporter of the idea of a new bridge – it is one that is very relevant to the City of London as it will make a much nicer way of getting to the Square Mile than being crowded into the Drain every day.
Thomas, I am very pleased that you are able to speak to us tonight in the light of your busy global schedule.
I welcome Mark Boleat – chairman of the Planning and Resources Committee, fighting for the city’s economic future which has so much impact on the work of our members – particularly as the company launches it programme to support the concept of London as a creative hub; Michael Cassidy, a former Chairman of Policy and resources Committee and now in charge of the new Garden City at Ebbsfleet.
We also have here tonight Sir George Iacobescu . George has been a wonderful supporter of many key initiatives – The London Festival of Architecture; the New City Architecture exhibition in 2004 which was the progenitor of New London Architecture and the Cycle to Cannes ride – which I started and each year raises over a quarter of a million pounds for the Coram foundation and other charities. The Director of Coram stated recently that Cycle to Cannes was the largest individual donor since William Hogarth. I don’t know how much Hogarth gave, but it sounded great!
Lord Cunliffe, Roger Cunliffe is Past Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths Company and was the client for the refurbishment work on this building and so I am very pleased that he is sitting next to Sir Donald Insall, our greatest conservation architect, and who was responsible for the work.
Spencer de Grey of Foster and Partners whose intervention has assured us an entry to the exclusive cellars of Chateaux Margaux on the Masters’ trip to Bordeaux in May – I hope you are all coming!
I am very glad that Charles Saumarez Smith from the RA is here tonight since the Company is a keen supported of the Academy’s Attract education project. And we have the nation’s number one bus driver! Sir Peter Hendy – – as well as being Chairman of Network Rail – drives his restored route master bus around the West End and the City with leading developers as tour guides talking about their work all in support of worthy charities. We are extending our repertoire of tours to East London this year, so I hope we can drop in on you George.
Marianne Fredericks – Deputy Chairman of the City Planning committee – we are pleased to support the work of the Corporation in promoting the highest quality architecture in the City. We want to do more. Assistant Chris Dyson attended a meeting of the Conservation Area Advisory Committee just last week and we discussed how we should comment on planning applications at our Court meeting today.
At the meeting today we swore in 30 new Liverymen and Freemen. Marvellous additions to the company, leading practitioners all who play a key role in the profession as a whole and I know will play an active role in the growth and vitality of the company.
The new Freemen are:
Ben Adams Richard Blandy John Bowmer Daniel Campbell Paul Davis Simon Hurst Nigel Lea Vivien Lovell Ian Mulcahey Sosie Pasparakis Frederick Pilbrow Mike Taylor Andrew Usher Peter Watkins Chris Williamson
and new Liverymen:
John Bushell Simon Child Karen Cook Paul Davis Alex Ely Roger Hawkins Matthew Lloyd Justin Nicholls Peter Oborn Grant Smith Cathy Stewart Tim Stonor Paul Webber Liz Wilks
Congratulations. Would you all please stand and take a bow.
You will have noticed a touch of the Honorable Artillery Company in the proceedings this evening with the company of Pikemen and Musketeers as the carpet guard and HAC musicians providing the the music. This was because my son William, who is a member of this company, is also a veteran member of the HAC and was in the Active Unit. So it was really for him, but he is currently in Madrid filling in for me on a lecturing engagement that I obviously had to forgo.
The theme of my year is “Rebuilding London” looking at the role of architects in creating a resilient and prosperous City from 1666 to the present day to mark the 350th Anniversary of the Great Fire. We have upcoming talks on the Livery Halls and the Fire, on the impact of the Blitz and of the IRA bombs of the early 90s and a series of Great Fire walks open to all members of the Livery.
It was by chance that we held the first of our Great Fire lectures by Adrian Tinniswood in Gresham College. It was very resonant to learn that the Merchants had first met in the College after the fire went out, that both Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke were lecturers there. It reinforced this powerful connection of history with the City and indeed the Livery itself. Its the sort of fascinating stuff that you come across all the time in this job and which makes the Square Mile so enthralling, so complex and one of the most fascinating pieces of city on the globe.”