Back in the early days of the Pandemic when, like World War 1, we thought it would all be over by Christmas, and when the weather was exceptionally kind to us, I was walking my dog on the hills around my house. From one spot in particular I have an excellent view down across the Thames Valley and Marlow.

I was thinking about how adversely affected many charities had been, and how much pressure they were under, and what, if anything, I could do; especially as, Master Elect of the Chartered Accountants Livery at the time.

I wondered if anyone had rowed the entire length of the Thames. Of course, as I thought about it, no could have done, as one cannot row on the Thames for quite a lot of the upper reaches.

So, not really a ‘light-bulb’ moment but more an idiotic brain dump. “Why don’t I do just that. Run and row from the Source to the City. What a wheeze. It should raise enough eyebrows as well as money for the charities. And thus, one might say, from little acorns…. But more accurately, from a great nut, an even greater process was born.

As I mentioned my wild idea to a few folk, it really started a snowball rolling down a huge mountain. It’s true, one cannot row from the source before a town called Lechlade. The first 13 odd miles are basic fields with, at best, the Thames, initially a few puddles, then a trickle, a brook and almost a stream. But from Cricklade, some 11 or so miles before Lechlade, one should be able to paddle a canoe or kayak. So, my big plan was run to Cricklade, paddle to Lechlade then row to the Tower.

Simple, yes? No!

There are locks in the way. There is the stretch post Richmond which is tidal. One needs permission from the Upper Thames Harbour Master, the Lower Thames Harbour Master, the Environment Agency and the PLA, to name a few. Plus, I do not own a kayak, nor do I own a scull. Moreover, I did not know how to row a scull.

But the snowball was still hurtling down the mountain, getting bigger all the time.

Fortunately, via a very good friend, I was aware that the Para Rowing Squad, based at Marlow Rowing Club, had to raise funds to make access to the boats and, more importantly, to the water for the squad members. I wanted to raise money for their charity as well as another four which I am close to. This was not only gratefully received but the Para squad coaches volunteered to coach me and to teach me to row. Additionally, as one of their number, Naomi Riches, who won a Bronze in Beijing and Gold in London 2012, had undertaken a non-stop row from Lechlade to Gravesend, she and her Coach, David Jackson, had some great data for me and my team to use.

Planning started.  Some key information I got from Naomi and David’s data was the need for a small committee to look after the key areas of the event. These were a Chair of the Committee to act as the Event Director during the event, a Stream, Tide and Passage Planning director, training and support team, athletic welfare and a PR, media and fundraising team. Not a lot to ask.

Well, when I put out a cri de coeur for assisatnce, my kids came running. So Sam, a Feltmaker, filled the Chair and the PR/media slots were taken by my son and youngest daughter. Then my PT said he’d look after welfare and physical training, whilst David & Naomi took on rowing training. (By the way, did I explain that I had, in effect, never rowed before?).

This left several other slots, but one specialist one – the Stream, Tide and Passage planning.

Enter a Past Master Chartered Accountant. She ‘volunteered’ her son, who it transpires, is not only the cox of Gloriana and runs the family river boat business in Henley, but is also a trained logistics specialist.

We were set, so off we started. For me this meant training six days a week; three on the water and three in the gym. Which, even now, is only just paying dividends.

So we contacted the PLA and the Environment Agency (EA) who both responded in kindly, if bemused terms.

We planned. Run from the stone marking the Source to Cricklade and then enter the scull.

But wait! The EA had not cleared trees from the winter of 2019. But we could paddle in a canoe or kayak. Let’s go for the kayak. And let’s plan for June 10th start when the Lord Mayor is free to meet me at the Tower.

But wait! The Lord Mayor is now going to the Olympics so will not be back until the 12th. Next relevant tide sorted; we reschedule to start on the 14th. But wait!  Covid is lasting much longer and we will not come out of second lockdown until June 21st.   So, whilst I could row, no volunteers could assist fully. OK, we rearrange for August 22nd to August 25th.  But wait!  My “Master’s weekend, which was originally due in May in Gleneagles, was moved to August in the New Forest as the only dates available post June 21st. and the Sunday of this weekend is the 22nd. No problem. Plan for an overnight flit from the weekend hotel to the start of the Source, (with someone else driving). Done!

Surely nothing else will occur to need further changes, Whew! But wait!

The EA failed to shift the trees from winter 2019/20 and they had also done nothing about several more which have fallen since. In short, even the kayak cannot get through.

I do not think running over 25 miles on the morning of day one of this testing event, then rowing at least another 24 is a good idea, let alone even possible for me. So, change gear. I will cycle between Cricklade & Lechlade if possible.  I proved it is possible, if very, very bumpy. Not a route for one to sit in one’s saddle.

Which makes me wonder, if an Iron Man race involves a 26+ mile run, a 112+ mile bike ride and a 2.4-mile swim (if not in that order) and on day one of my event I am due to attempt a half marathon run, then a 11+ mile ride and a 24-mile row, would this constitute a “Rusty Old Half Iron Man”? I ask because I feel sure that at the end of it, there will be a very rusty old half man.

If you feel pity for me, or for the five charities I am trying to support, you can find more details on


Jollyon Coombs, who has died aged 75, was Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers for the last 20 years and had only sworn in his successor on April 28th 2021, 10 days before his untimely death, his final duty to the Feltmakers completed.

With his military bearing and larger than life personality, Jollyon was a true presence in the Livery world, winning the respect and affection not only of his own Livery but that of his fellow Clerks, as well as staff at the Mansion House, who got to know him well through the many dinners and Hat Presentations he organised.

Jollyon Trevor Hardy Coombs was born on the 25th of January 1946 and attended Hawtreys Prep School before going on to Pangbourne College. On leaving school he was uncertain of the direction he wanted to take but his artistic ability drew him to a course in photography at Bournemouth School of Art in 1965. However, a year later, he was passing an Army Recruiting office, went in, and signed up for the Welsh Guards and went to Mons Officer Cadet School. By 1976 he had risen to the rank of Major having completed a number of tours of duty in Germany, Northern Ireland, Dubai and Cyprus. A chance meeting with the Commanding Officer of the 16th/5th Lancers, Nick Vivian, was ultimately to lure him away from the Welsh Guards to a “racier” stretch with the Lancers from 1979-1986. Having been assessed for flying at Biggin Hill, he trained to fly helicopters (Gazelles) and thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Lancers.

However, in 1986, he left the Army and embarked on the second phase of his career, in the property world. Having completed a re-settlement course at London Polytechnic, David McLean-Watt, a partner at Cluttons, invited him to join the firm, which he did, before being head-hunted by Chesterfields run by Brian d’Arcy Clark & David Forbes in 1989, and then Jackson-Stops & Staffs in 1990. By 1992, Jackson-Stops was in difficulty and Jollyon participated in a management buy-out, and took charge of the offices in Chelsea and Fulham. Unfortunately, in 1994 he was extremely ill with pneumonia and decided to sell out his share and take up a less stressful role, in a property search business.

It was in 1999, that Jollyon first heard about the possibility of a job as Clerk to the Feltmakers which was to become the final phase of his career. An old Army chum, Colonel Michael Barneby, was Clerk to the Salters, and knew that the Feltmakers would be looking for a new Clerk to take over from Colonel John Holroyd. After a lengthy interview process, in which Jollyon was the only candidate, he joined the Feltmakers as an “understudy” to John Holroyd in July 2001, taking over in October on the understanding that if the Company didn’t like him, they could sack him after 6 months! Of course, they did like him and the rest is history!

Bill Horsman was his first Master and was very kind and considerate to his new and extremely green Clerk and Jollyon found that, having served in the Army, he soon “fell in” with the City and its traditions.

Court members who were present at his first Court meeting will remember Jollyon’s impressive memory for all the names of both Court members and their partners. His skills did not stop there: he was meticulous in his planning for banquets, revealing a perceptive grasp of the most companionable seating partners and unflappable in the face of “no-shows” or, even more challenging, extra guests to fit in! Nor was he phased by the sight of lady guests in backless dresses, although he drew the line at one Liveryman who arrived in a lounge suit for a banquet! But, as Past Master Burgess noted in his tribute to Jollyon, there was a percipient, pastoral side to his nature which revealed itself particularly during the lockdown when he acted almost as an Almoner to those who were bereaved or ailing, and this at a time when his own health was failing.

Jollyon spent his final months compiling his memoirs, chiefly intended for his family, but with Ruthie’s permission, here are his own comments on his time as Clerk.

“My time as Clerk has been blessed, largely because I have enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the Livery, it really is a friendly Company and I like to think that all of you are my friends. As Clerk to the Company and Clerk to the Trustees of the Charity, I have been involved in three Lord Mayors Shows, one quatercentenary celebration at the Middle Temple, looked after twenty Masters, organised dinners and lunches for over 10,000 people, attended over 200 meetings, raised £113,000 for Charity, which included rowing down the Thames, rowing across Scotland, walking from Mount Nero to Petra in Jordan, walking across Iceland, walking from Cadiz to Gibraltar and finally rowing an Olympic course (2000 meters) for every year of my age at the age of 72: all this was largely done to try to encourage other Liverymen to partake in some form of fundraising for the Livery.”

In addition to encouraging fund-raising, it was also Jollyon’s earnest wish that the Livery should focus on encouraging younger people to join and his final initiative was to launch Freedom by Patrimony, open to young relations of all existing members of the Livery.

Jollyon married Sarah Dawnay in 1970 and they had 3 children, Arabella, Daisy and Charlie but later got divorced. In 1990 he met a certain Ruth Owen-Thomas and they married 4 months later on his birthday! Ruthie, as we all know her, has a warm relationship with Jollyon’s children and all the grandchildren too – Rosie, Tilly, Edward, Lily and Kitty. They are supporting her as she faces up to life without Jollyon: at the moment she says it feels almost as though he has just gone on one of the shooting or fishing trips that he so loved. She should take comfort from the knowledge that, not only are the family there to support her, so too are the extended family and friends she can count on in the Feltmakers Livery.

Feltmakers’ Design Competition 2020

The annual Worshipful Company of Feltmakers’ Design competition is now in its 26th year. Started by Liveryman William Horsman, it is now one of the main competitions in the millinery calendar. The competition was set up for the industry, aimed at Millinery students, apprentices and milliners who are within 2 years of starting their own label. It is very much hoped that prize winners will go on to work within the trade and make it their career. We encourage colleges taking part to include The Design Award in their syllabus where possible, serving as a challenge and focus for the students.

Sarah Cant, Course Director at Morley College Chelsea, acknowledges that The Feltmakers Design Competition is a highlight for the students, “It is hard to overemphasise its importance to millinery students – as a motivation to create ambitious work, as a recognition of their achievements, and as a support as they progress their work on the course and beyond”. On the HNC, they have created a project specifically focused on innovation with felt in order for students to create the best possible entries to the competition.  “Students who win prizes in the competition experience such a huge boost of confidence at a key moment in the course, just when they are working on their final collection projects. The financial side of the awards is also hugely beneficial to the HNC students, who are at the end of a very intense academic year, working on their most important work yet, and most often, with reduced resources. Finally, the industry opportunities connected to the first prize are indispensable to any student setting out on a career on millinery”

As well as the financial prize, the winner is also given 2 weeks work experience in Rachel Trevor Morgan’s workroom and 2 weeks experience at Walter Wright Hats in Luton. Two very valuable opportunities. The importance of gaining experience in established businesses is vital to understanding the industry as a whole.

The Design competition judging was due to take place on April 1st at Haberdashers, but with Covid19 and lockdown we were unfortunately forced to cancel. Thanks to Liveryman John Horn, all the entries had been sent through to Barford Brothers (Dye works) in Luton until the judging, so that is where they sat while we all waited for lockdown to lift. At first it was hoped that it was only the judging in London that was being postponed but it soon became clear that the normal gathering was not going to be allowed any time soon. It was therefore decided that as soon as it seemed reasonable, the judging would be taken to the hats in Luton.

On July 16th a very reduced judging panel of Rachel Trevor Morgan, Noel Stewart and Bill Horsman met to look at the hats and go through all the entries.

The competition rules state that the hat or headpiece designs must contain a large proportion of felt; other than that, students have a fairly free hand, however the hats do need to work as an item of headwear. They don’t have to be commercial (there is a separate prize for that) but they do need to be able to be reproduced in a workroom, they do need to fit the head or be on a structure that stays on the head comfortably. However beautiful or innovative a design is, it will not win if it isn’t able to be worn.

There are three main prizes which are awarded to designs that fit the overall categories and stand out for whatever reason. There are then four additional prizes that are awarded for specific criteria;

The Commercial Prize really speaks for itself, this is awarded for a design that is easily worn, easily reproduced and easily sold.

Then here is a prize for Artwork and Presentation, artwork is a vital part of a submission which gives the student an opportunity to explain the inspiration behind their design and also to explain to the judging panel the processes that have gone into the final piece. This particular criterion is often overlooked by entrants but is a further opportunity to show off creativity and serves to back up a design.

For the Craftsmanship Prize, we focus on the quality of the finish and of the millinery involved.

For the Innovative Use of Felt prize, judges are looking for something new and original. But as ever, it is not just about an interesting take on felt, the submission must work as a hat/headpiece in its own right.

Overall we are seeking originality, craftsmanship, a degree of commerciality, wit, and something we have not seen before. We often see students looking at past years and reimagining former winning designs – actually, we want to be surprised!

This year we had a particularly good uptake in entries with over 40 hats being submitted from the UK and Europe.

The prizes were awarded as follows:

First Prize: (£1,500) awarded to Nora de la Quintana

KCC/ Morley College ‘from words to Ashes’ was a witty and well balance headpiece representing declining reading patterns and illustrating the fact that physical books are slowly disappearing.


Second Prize: (£1,000) awarded to Anna Kittson (Stefanou)

KCC/Morley College ‘Disturbing the Grid’ was inspired by grid structures in architecture and Lucio Fontana’s monochrome ‘Slash’ paintings. The result was a beautiful black and white head piece full of movement.



Third Prize: (£750) awarded to Leah Hislop

Northampton College. Working through different inspirations, close up images of coral and studies of leaf structure, Leah experimented with laser cutting techniques to create a beautiful and vibrant headpiece.

Special Category Awards:

The Craftsmanship Award of £250 Sarah Blackmore KCC/Morley College

(HNC Millinery)

Hyperfelt’ was inspired by the graphic painting ‘Hypermass’ by artist James Roper. ‘An explosive demonstration of the diverse properties of felt’ it was a collage of curves and contrast. This piece was beautifully crafted and fun.

The Commercial Appeal Award of £250 Tina Williams Hereford and Ludlow College.

Tina was inspired by the 75th anniversary of VE day. Her headpiece was a modern interpretation of a turban style worn by women who had been drafted. Tina’s headpiece was perfectly on trend. A wide felt headband with a cluster of handmade felt poppies inspired by the remembrance poppy. Beautifully made and easy to wear.

The Innovative Use of Felt Award of £250 Stefania Belfiore Italy

Taking inspiration from The Colosseum, Stefania’s hat was perfectly executed.

 The Artwork and Presentation Award of £250 Florence Baverstock, Northampton College.

Florence Baverstock’s beautiful drawings, artwork and inspiration boards were outstanding. Once again, Northampton College lead the way with Artwork.

We were very sorry not to be able to share our event with the Lady Mayoress and Sheriffs consorts as is usual, especially as this years’ Lord Mayor, William Russell is a liveryman in the Feltmakers Company.  We were also very sorry not to have the opportunity of showing all the winning designs at the Annual Mansion House Banquet.

I very much hope that colleges and new start up businesses can navigate their way through these very challenging times.


Rachel Trevor Morgan


– at home

Past Master Eda Rose-Lawson, took part in the glamour of this year’s “stay at home Ascot” by contributing images of her striking hats in the ‘Styled with Thanks’ competition run by Royal Ascot and The Daily Mail.

The aim of the competition was to boost the fund-raising for The National Emergencies Trust Relief Fund, NHS Charities Together, The Care Workers’ Charity and the Berkshire Community Foundation Coronavirus Fund.

Each one of Eda’s eye-catching creations featured in the Mail Online, and the Eda Rose cream hat, with its dramatic bow, was the winning entry in the ‘Originality’ category.

The competition was judged by milliner Stephen Jones OBE, Chair of the new British Hat Guild; Lisa Armstrong, Style and Fashion Editor of the Daily Telegraph and Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council.

Rainbows brighten Ascot in lock-down

Livery milliners join Royal Ascot Campaign to raise funds for front-line charities

For the first time since becoming a ‘royal week’ in 1911, the five-day 2020 Royal Ascot will not be open to visitors.  However, Royal Ascot, together with the British Hat Guild, have launched a campaign to inspire seasoned racegoers and raise money for four front-line charities: The National Emergencies’ Trust Relief Fund, NHS Charities Together, The Care Workers’ Charity and the Berkshire Community Foundation.  

Stephen Jones OBE, has invited leading British milliners to create a bespoke hat or headpiece which must feature the nation’s instantly recognisable rainbow image, reflecting the gratitude owed to the NHS and front-line workers. Joining Stephen in this initiative are Judy Bentinck, Edwina Ibbotson, Lock & Co. and Rachel Trevor-Morgan from The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers.  Their creations will then be auctioned online throughout the week of Royal Ascot at Home and all the money raised will be added to the charities’ fund.




Hats by Edwina Ibbotson [left] and Judy Bentink [right]

The auction starts at 09.00 on Tuesday, 16th June 2020. please use to see the hats on offer, and use to donate.

Photographs courtesy of The British Hat Guild & the individual Milliners

Judy Bentinck is making bags and masks for the NHS

“They have wire over the nose to reduce any spray”-

Fellow Feltmaker, Judy Bentinck is making bags and masks for the NHS (not from felt).

She reports: –

It all started when my husband wanted a mask to wear to go to Waitrose at the beginning of lockdown. I’d been recommended a mask made from Miele hoover bags which have a high fibre density, and therefore, make a good filter. Fortunately, we have a Miele, so I made one up for Tim, myself and members of the family. I then discovered peoples_masks on Instagram and started making fabric ones for them. They have various collection centres around our part of north London and need a huge number of masks. Even those just made of fabric cut down the force of the spray of infected droplets and coughs.


I then came across a call-out for pillowcases on my local Nextdoor site to be collected and converted into laundry bags for NHS scrubs. After a quick search through my airing cupboard, I found several spare cases and got to work. I now alternate between masks and making up bags from unwanted duvet covers as I’ve run out of pillowcases and other spare fabric.

A designer friend has organised a group of south London designers to make gowns to go over scrubs. Other friends are making scrubs and others are making visors (Visor Army). The problem is having enough materials. I have donated for fabric for scrubs (Scrub Hub) but having material at home is such a great way to help. I think it might be time to have that sort out in the wardrobe to find fabric for the next batch of masks!

So, we can all do our part. Help the City help the NHS