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Common Hall 2008

On a surprisingly wintry night, when London saw the first snow in October for over seventy years, over forty Feltmakers converged on the Cavalry and Guards Club in Piccadilly for the third Common Hall to be held in the Company’s history, under the enthusiastic chairmanship of the Master, who was well supported by two keynote speakers.

The Master and the Clerk entertain waiting Liverymen

The Master and the Clerk entertain waiting Liverymen

Master Nick Heal got the evening’s business briskly off the mark with an outline of what is promised for the membership by the cascading system of communication. The Master outlined the pyramid structure of the initiative, filtering down through the Wardens, the Assistants, to groups of four mainstream members, to make keeping in touch a practical reality, not just a paper exercise.

The Master introduces Common Hall

The Master introduces Common Hall

The Master then moved the business on to the Company’s charitable activity, and Charitable Foundation Chairman Peter Grant took the floor. Past Master Peter stressed that he was not going to repeat his message set out in the major article on this topic in this issue of the Feltmaker Magazine.

Peter Grant

Peter Grant

He set the context of the Foundation’s current position, having seen the Company’s charitable activity develop from an almost nominal figure 40 years ago to the 2008/2009 picture of distributing over £30,000 per annum. However this has to be set against the £40 m. combined total of all the Livery Companies, and looks particularly modest when compared with, say, the Clothworkers who weigh in with £4m., or put another way our figure is one tenth of one percent of the Liveries’ total. However our resources are growing thanks to the support of half the Livery donating the requested bench mark figure of £100 per annum. More joining in, and more testamentary benefactions would be welcome.

Ted Andrews shows some traditional wool fibre

Ted Andrews shows some traditional wool fibre

Feltmaking – the real thing – then fell under the spotlight thanks to a fascinating ‘short talk’ by Liveryman Ted Andrew. Ted should be nurtured by the Company as being the exemplar of that rare species – a genuine Feltmaker, who heads up Andrew Industries Ltd., a major world-ranking enterprise with an annual turnover of 165 million euros and 2000 employees worldwide, producing 25 million square metres of felt per annum. Ted’s grandfather founded the business in 1894, and it has remained a family business with its main works in Accrington in UK and with extensive overseas bases in the US, Canada, and China. In his talk entitled ‘The Development of Modern Felt and Its Uses’, Ted briefly described how feltmaking by his company progressed from wool based felt to the contemporary engineered textile needle felt, based on polyester fibre.

Ted Andrews with an artificial blood artery made from felt

Ted Andrews with an artificial blood artery made from felt

Ted brought with him fascinating samples of the 21st. century products based on the modern application of this high tech felt. This included examples from filtration, the automotive industries, space shuttles, laundries, medical items, you name it, they make it, and pointing out that ballistic felts, (kevlar) worn by police and armed services personnel, digital printers, paper making, sports shoes (e.g. Nike) are just some of the immense range of products using this highly versatile felt. Those of us who recalled the pictures of the basic, crude procedures for making felt, contained in the Livery Company’s official ‘History of the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers’ marvelled at and admired the sophistication of these products, and inwardly congratulated Ted and his firm on keeping their place at the very cutting edge of new technologies in feltmaking.

Common Hall concludes with an excellent dinner

Common Hall concludes with an excellent dinner

As the title of these events – ‘Common Hall’ – implies, no Feltmaker Livery Company meeting of this ilk would be complete without a meal to boot, and the Cavalry and Guards Club rose splendidly to the occasion, seating us all round one huge oval table and fortifying us for the wintry journey home with seasonal, delectable venison and a smooth claret to match.

Rowland Brown

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