The Master’s Weekend was held in the City to reinforce the Company’s links with the Square Mile and proved to be a fascinating exposure of the complexities of the area which held many surprises for even the most experienced City-watcher. Past Master Michael Welbank, who is also Chairman of the Planning and Transportation Committee, gave an introduction to current issues over the scale model of the City located in the City Centre in Guildhall. He made much of the area’s need to create good quality places and streets, to encourage shared space and bring the speeds of vehicles down.
Then, the Renter Warden Stephen Wagstaffe led a walk of the sites of the eastern part of the City, focusing on Wren churches and Livery Halls, “We should bear in mind” he said ” that the Church of England has been a greater destroyer of City Chutcjes than the Luftwaffe!”.
After a fortifying lunch in the Jugged Hare on Chiswell Street, Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour and Grant Brooker, partner in Foster and Partners (and member of the Company) gave a fascinating from-the-horses-mouth tour of their practices’ buildings in Wood Street, Gresham Street and the eastern cluster where the juxtaposition of St Mary Axe and Willis Building with Lloyd’s and Leadenhall is remarkable.
On to St Paul’s where, after sung Evensong in the Quire, Surveyor to the Fabric Oliver Caroe had agreed to give us an insider’s tour. It was a truly remarkable evening, an architectural experience sans pareil, as we picked our way through the nooks and crannies of the roof, climbed remarkable staircases and marvelled at the power of the hidden structures of Wren’s building.
High up in the nave we found a series of pipes; they were to play trumpet fanfares on the arrival of royalty. ” When Prince Philip heard them for the first times they made him jump and he complained they were too loud!” and they have been condemned to silence ever since.
On the Sunday morning we enjoyed a tour of City Sculpture and public spaces, led by Curator Stella Ioannou and Victor Callister from the City Planning Department, when we saw sculptures by leading artists including Ay Weiwei as well as lovely medieval alleyways which Victor called “the people spaces of the City – these little social spaces are vital for the creative future of the Square Mile, he said.
Then on to lunch on top of Jean Nouvel’s One New Change with its spectacular views of St Paul’s. Fully replete we worked off the pudding with brisk canter led by Stephen Wagstaffe of the Halls and Churches of the West of the City, ending up with St Bride’s where we went deep into the crypt to see the charnel house.
A pint or two in the exotic Black Friar pub – a fine example of Arts and Craft decoration – completed a tiring but highly informative and up lifting weekend.