On a rather dull day in early March it was a pleasure to enter the warmth of Drapers’ Hall for the annual Inter Livery Bridge Competition hosted by the Makers of Playing Cards Company. Carolyn Phillips and I had formed a new partnership to represent Feltmakers’ at this event and we were very much looking forward to a sociable evening.
We were welcomed on arrival by the Master Playing Cards Maker Michael Davis-Marks and shown into the Court Dining Room where tea and biscuits were offered. Play began at 5.30 p.m. in both the Drawing Room and Court Room with players of differing standards and experience in each. We played 24 boards in two sessions, breaking off in the middle to dine in the magnificent Livery Hall where the impressive collection of royal portraits sits under the splendid pre-Raphaelite ceiling painted by the 19th century artist Herbert Draper. The competition momentarily put aside, the conversation with our fellow players over a delicious dinner was friendly, lively and entertaining.
At the end of the first session Carolyn and I were placed in the top half but managed to reach a top position (E/W) at the closing of the second session. Overall we finished 9th out of 56 pairs, which was a very pleasing result. The occasion was great fun, albeit mentally challenging, and made all the more enjoyable by our winning the Improvers’ prize presented to us by Sheriff The Hon Elizabeth Green.
greeted with a glass of rum punch on arrival, and were entertained by musician,
Eugene, playing a steel drum, all of which set the tone for the fabulous
display created by Rampage, demonstrating their expertise in carnival costume.
Feltmakers and friends gathered at Luton Hoo on Thursday 21 February for the
annual Luton Lunch. Court Assistant,
John Horn, had once again organised an excellent event that was held for the
second year in the beautiful Romanov Suite at Luton Hoo.
is the UK ‘s foremost exponents of Caribbean style carnival arts; their tours
attract thousands of people worldwide. Each year a new theme is created and all
costumes are designed to showcase that topic.
Their theme for
this year is Egypt and you can see from the photographs that all aspects of
this theme are covered and have been given the special Rampage touch to make
the costumes perfect for carnival.
The vibrant and exotic flavours of
the Caribbean Islands were carried through to the delicious food. We began with grilled swordfish skewers, served with a papaya
and scotch bonnet salsa and pickled ginger.
This was followed by Jamaican jerk chicken, pea & coconut rice,
crushed sweet potatoes and rum sauce and we finished with roast pineapple, a
coconut sorbet with mango curd and passion fruit preserve.
As we sat
back to enjoy our coffee and petit fours we listened to three of the Directors
of Rampage, Sharon Burrowes, Stephen
Hoyte and Annemarie Williams, who explained how they had got involved with the
group (through their children!) and how their passion and commitment grew. Their work very much involves engaging young
people and teaching them skills and encouraging their continued participation.
The company now travels around the UK showcasing its artistic work,
participating in carnivals all over the UK and extending into Europe, they
visit Aarlborg in Denmark every year!
All agreed that they were talented and inspiring and we felt privileged
to have listened to their stories.
John thanked everyone for attending with special thanks to Vivianne Vayssieres and also to John’s wife, Christine, for their help in organising the day.
ended with Master William Gammell thanking our speakers and with special thanks
to John for organising and hosting such an entertaining lunch.
Our Clerk, Major Jollyon Coombs, is now famous for his activities performed in aid of charity and particularly his rowing. In 2003 he walked from Amman in Jordan to the rose city of Petra, raising £13,000 for charity. In 2005, he walked, along with Liveryman Jane Way, from Cadiz to Gibralter, and raised over £15,000 for charity. But it was in 2009, that we first saw the efforts of Jollyon, the oarsman. He rowed the length of the river Thames from near its source at Lechlade to the jetty of HMS President near Tower Bridge in London. He achieved this in a boat he had built himself from a kit, and raised £26,000 in the process. Again in 2014, he rowed the route of the Great Glen across Scotland in another boat that he built himself and raised £24,000 for charity.
And so to 2018. Jollyon decided to do one more rowing challenge and at the age of 72, he planned to row 72 miles along the river Thames, but this time he started each day at Pangbourne College, his old school, and rowed up and down the river for a week until he totaled the 72 miles, well a little more, actually. His sponsorship has so far, (as at 1 September), earned £19,000 including gift aid. The charities he is supporting this year are The St. Paul’s Cathedral Chorister Trust and our own Feltmakers’ Charitable Foundation.
Jollyon trained for the event by rowing increasing distances on the stretch of river that he would eventually use for his challenge. For each of the seven days of his challenge, he returned home and filed a report of the day, illustrated by photos and even some video taken by wellwishers who visited and supported him. This report was emailed out to Liverymen so they could follow his progress. It became a continuing theme of the challenge, to see what colour shirt he would wear each day.
Here are the highlights from Jollyon’s daily reports.
Day 1 Sunday 12 August 2018
Just back from the river. My report for day one, as follows: – wind, moderate showery rain but not too hot; what a terrible day to start the row. However, up till about 1100 hours it was all fine and I made the decision ( a bad one), having already rowed 3 miles, to go up to Goring a distance of a further 6 mile round trip, but having got to the bridge – stopping to take on water and half a banana – the wind rose from the south west to about 25 knots, making the return journey of 3 miles a nightmare – with the wind on my nose and every meter forward taking a great deal of strength and reserve energy. The return journey took about twice as long as going up and I was very grateful to take a lunch break on reaching the Pangbourne College boat houses. After lunch the wind was still quite strong but the final leg for the day, a further one mile trip was without incident. The task was now complete for day one – 10 miles rowed.
A reasonably uneventful day on the water – wind gentle (mostly), rain slight, temperature perfect. The highlight for today was a visit from the Fourth Warden – Neil Edwards and Simon Millar who joined me for lunch at the Swan and, even better, paid for it – I am most grateful for their support – thank you. 11 miles covered today.
Tomorrow I shall be wearing ‘blue’.
A wonderful day on the water, almost everything perfect. I rowed to Goring first thing and returned to Pangbourne (6 miles) for a break , out of the boat, followed by a further 3 miles to the islands and back. Peter Grant and Richard Hawkes joined me for lunch at the Swan – and again very kindly bought me lunch – thank you both for your support. A further 2 miles rowed after lunch. I have watched a baby Crested Grebe grow from about 4 inches to one foot over the last 5 weeks – always in the same place and always noisily asking for more food, very long suffering parents!! 11 miles covered today so running total now 32 miles. For those who follow their Clerk’s antics – I was wearing blue today!!
Day 4 (a pink day)
Expecting a less than helpful wind today I decided to start by 0800 hours and get the row done before it all turned sour on me. However, the Gods looked kindly on your Clerk and favoured me with lovely conditions all round. I rowed all the way to Goring Lock (9 miles return) and stopped early for lunch. I do find 3 hours sitting in one position extremely trying for my legs, bottom and associated muscles and nerves – 2 hours is really the limit, without a stretch and walk. Catherine and Geoffrey Farr + Bill Gammell joined me for lunch at the Swan – for which I thank them and for their support. After lunch I rowed a further 3 miles to the islands and back, making a total of 12 miles for the day. Now over half way with a few miles in hand should it all turn pear shaped later in the week.
Today was all about rain and lunch at the Ferry Boat Inn at Whitchurch – The Swan had drain problems that I hope will have been fixed by tomorrow. Your Clerk did a morning’s work and then set off for the river at 1200 hours, by which time the rain had stopped and I polished off 3 miles before lunch at 1330 hours. For lunch there were a great number of people, wives, etc, today: Nick Heal, James and Ros Cushing, Bill Gammell, Jane Way, Alex Flower and the long suffering Ruthie Coombs – thank you all for your support. I returned to the river at 1515 hours and set off for Goring. There is nothing more irritating than to row upstream with the wind on your nose, for 3 miles – but, in the sure knowledge that the wind will, of course, help you on your return journey – only to find that the wind does not reciprocate in this way, but falls away, leaving you far away from home with no wind to help you back, Grrrrrrr. However, I was back by 1800 hours having covered 9 miles today. That makes a total of 53 miles so far – 19 to go.
What a wonderful day – Temperature and wind perfect with no rain, if only all the other days could have been like this!! The Clerk is holding up well and the Swan pub was back on line to provide another excellent lunch, where I was joined by Nigel Macdonald and a couple of Army friends – thank you for your support. 10 miles rowed today – wind rising after lunch – so the early bird technique works well; only 9 miles to go and tomorrow I am being joined by Simon Wood, who will row with me and alleviate what has become a rather repetitive programme for me over the last five weeks.
Day 7 – the final day.
Well, It’s all over, I finished the 72 miles at 1230 hours today (but actually did 73 – because it fitted into the schedule better). Simon Wood and his father Edward, together with Robin Pugh, joined me for the final row to Goring railway bridge in their Thames Tub, which is nearly 100 years old. Afterwards three dedicated women of our families joined us for lunch at the Swan Pub. I am enormously grateful to all of you in the Livery and my friends outside the Livery, who have supported me so supremely well in this effort of mine, and have contributed so kindly to the money raised. The weather was sublime in every way on this last day and although I am very tired, I could do it all over again (but won’t!!).
Still not too late to sponsor Jollyon and make a donation to his chosen charities – The Feltmakers own charity and the St. Paul’s Chorister Trust.
His target is £20,000, so not that much to go.
All of you who have been meaning to make a donation but haven’t yet got round to it – why not do it now?
Like so many “traditions” in the City, scratch the surface and you will find that they were only established relatively recently. This is true of the Ceremony of the Presentation of the Lord Mayors hat by the Feltmakers’ Livery Company. It was initiated by Sir Hugh Wontner in 1963 when he was Master of the Company but has become an annual fixture in the calendar of the Lord Mayor and the Feltmakers’ Company ever since.
How wise he was to establish this special rapport with the newly elected Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. Other Liveries, such as the Fruiterers and the Fanmakers, make annual presentations to the Lord Mayor or the Lady Mayoress, but none get their “foot in the door” of the Mansion House so early and therefore make their mark so memorably and effectively. What is more, the Lord Mayor keeps his hat after he steps down, so the memory lives on once his year in office is over!
The ceremony itself is a relatively simple one. This year, the Master and Clerk and the Wardens were invited to the Mansion House on November 14th, the very next day after the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. We all arrived punctually, just before midday, to be ushered up to the Parlour to await the arrival of Charles and Samantha Bowman who were introduced to us by Tim Rolph, one of the Programme Managers at the Mansion House. Our Master, Nicholas Hilliard, then made the official presentation of the hat to the Lord Mayor who had already received his hat at the Silent Ceremony on the previous Friday, and worn and waved it at the Lord Mayor’s Show on the Saturday! In another time-honoured tradition, a tray of champagne glasses then appeared, with which to toast the success of the forthcoming Mayoral year. In all, the ceremony lasted about half an hour before the Lord Mayor was escorted away to take up his hectic schedule, while the Clerk and the Wardens jumped into taxis and made their way to the Garrick Club, where they were entertained to a delightful lunch by the Master and his wife, Jane.
After two years of suffering pouring rain for the day of the inter-Livery clay pigeon shooting competition, the Feltmakers’ team assembled for an early breakfast on a sunny but cool morning at Holland and Holland’s new main building at their grounds in Northwood. Some of us were fooled into leaving coats in cars, which I for one came to regret later when a bitter wind blew up.
The shoot followed the usual pattern of our team of four guns going round the course of 10 stands, each with a different challenging pair of clays, which each team member had 4 goes at hitting. This was followed by a flurry when the whole team shot wave after wave of clays launched overhead from a tower. There was a queue at each stand and we followed the Gunmakers ladies team, who were excellent shots. It was eventually one of the Gunmakers men’s teams that won the overall competition. I have to admit that the Feltmakers team didn’t really shine. Even our better shots had trouble hitting clays caught by strong gusts of wind. At one stand, the official had to warn us to take cover as clays were blown back at us by the wind. A broken piece of clay hit him on the wrist, which obviously hurt but he stoically kept going. Our gallant Clerk, who usually leads the team, was salmon fishing in Scotland so we were led this year by Prime Warden Bill Gammell. Other team members were Simon Bartley, Mark Williams and Peter Shirley.
So, freezing cold, we were keen to finish the shooting with the flurry, which warmed us up a bit and then head to the marquee for the now traditional hog-roast lunch.
The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers and guests gathered at Vintners’ Hall for our 2018 Spring Livery Dinner on the evening of Monday 9th April. As an itinerant Company we are fortunate to meet in the halls of the other Companies. Each has its individual character and the Vintners’, situated on the bank of the Thames, is rich with dark oak panelling and portraits of past Masters. The main Livery Hall dates back to 1671, during the reign of Charles II and just five years after the Great Fire. The panelling retains wood carvings depicting grapes and other images of viniculture and I find myself wondering how a Feltmakers’ Hall might be decorated.
We were welcomed with a champagne reception, providing the opportunity to meet friends old and new.
Without exception, the ladies were resplendent and the gentlemen elegant in black tie. As we passed to the Livery Hall to take our seats, each of us was formally announced by the Beadle and welcomed by the Master. There were 122 diners including Masters of six other companies, the Cutlers, Glovers, Framework Knitters, Gardeners, Solicitors, and Hackney Carriage Drivers. After a blessing from our Chaplain we enjoyed a splendid dinner which, as you would hope in the Vintners’ Hall, was accompanied by fine wine and followed by an excellent port. The atmosphere was extremely convivial and everyone appeared to be having a most enjoyable time.
Our Master took wine with our new Liveryman and we toasted the other Masters who were with us. The Master proposed toasts to the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, after which the honour of proposing a toast to our guests fell on our Steward, Emma Whitaker. Emma took the opportunity to reflect on the
great social changes that have occurred since 1918, including voting for women.
Our Master’s principal guest was the Right Reverend Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington. The Bishop gave a poignant account of his recent experiences aiding those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which occurred in his diocese. He described attending the scene while the fire was still spreading and his involvement in the long-term healing process within the community. The Bishop spoke persuasively about the need for us to care for our neighbours and, as we sat in the grand Livery Hall in our finery, it was a moving reminder of people in need of our support and how we should continue to use our great Company to help them.
The Bishop then proposed a toast to the Feltmakers to which the Master, a friend of the Bishop since student days, gave the response. He recounted memories from their early friendship before leading onto amusing anecdotes from his legal profession and finishing with a description of the charitable activities he and the Company are carrying out during his year.
The occasion ended with the Beadle inviting us to join the Master for a stirrup cup before we departed with memories of an entertaining and memorable evening. Mark Williams
This year’s Livery Society Dinner was held in the Peninsular and Waterloo Rooms of the Cavalry & Guards Club, and was well attended with 35 diners including the Master and our gallant Clerk, to whom thanks must go for arranging for us to dine at the Club. The food and wine were excellent; given the surroundings, the Chairman of the Livery Society thought it appropriate to begin the evening with an opening salvo of excellent English sparkling wine, Three Graces Chapel Down, before taking on the French in the guise of an Andre Dezat Sancerre in a brief skirmish with our Potted Shrimp, followed by a full on assault on Chateau Méaume with our Rack of Lamb. When the thunder and smoke of the heavy cannon of lamb and claret gave way, our palettes were soothed by a delightfully light orange crème brulée with an unctuous Baumes de Venise. The evening was known to have been a success by the time we toasted Her Majesty with a Fonseca and were entertained with some of the Master’s war stories from the Old Bailey.
The Livery Society Dinner is an excellent opportunity for newer members of the Livery to dine slightly less formally than at our City dinners, and many thanks to the Master and Members of the Court who attended this year’s dinner.
After a bitterly cold start, with temperatures registering -5 from where some of our Liverymen were travelling, the winter sun eventually appeared, casting shards of light between the bare trees as we drove into the landscaped grounds of Wardown House Museum for the start of the 2018 Luton Lunch.
The museum is the former home of a local solicitor called Scargill and it is curated in a most appealing and interactive fashion to create a fully immersive experience. A great deal of care has been taken to ensure all the exhibits are available to pick up and touch rather than being protected behind glass. Should you decide to sit in an armchair, you might be taken aback to hear Mr Scargill himself telling you about his home. Pick up the hairbrush of the lady’s maid and you can hear her story of being in service.
The Feltmakers have sponsored The Cloakroom and its glorious collection of straw boaters and straw top hats, caps, coats, parasols and walking sticks, lace-up ankle boots and velvet cloaks from bygone days.
Past Master, William Horsman, has long been associated with Wardown House , having worked closely with various curators over the years, donating couture hats, organising exhibitions and facilitating funding via the Feltmakers’ Charitable Fund, in his role as a Trustee. Court Assistant, John Horn, has also generously donated many items to the collection.
Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide was Karen Perkins,
the Director of Arts & Museums at Luton Centre, who emphasised that visitors are encouraged to explore the range of ephemera on display. In fact, Luton FC is about to host an event to commemorate its 1988 victory over Arsenal in the Football League and will use the original Victorian projector, which is now fully digitised, to show footage of the match.
Wardown House is also home to the Lace Lady, a friendly resident ghost, who appears in different rooms from time to time. The Museum is a perfect way to showcase Luton’s history, in particular, its hat industry which serves to connect the town with the rest of the world. Straw hats have been made in Luton since the 1600s. Due to the trade, Luton was transformed from a small market town in 1800 to a sizeable industrial centre a century later.
After a short journey across town, we had lunch among the imposing grandeur of Luton Hoo Hotel. On entering the breathtaking Romanov Suite, which is a former Russian Orthodox Chapel, there was an eye-catching display of hats and photographs including one of Sir John James Baddley, Lord Mayor of London in 1922, visiting Luton’s George Hotel, as a guest of the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers.
A delicious three course luncheon was served, complemented by well-chosen wines but there were two particular details of note on each table; every guest received a shortbread biscuit in the shape of a hat bearing the Livery crest which had been created by The Cakehouse in Dunstable and each table bore an exquisite floral display by Christine Horn which included a rose made from felt which was tucked among the real flowers. Whoever was seated on a chair with a blue ribbon was fortunate to take a display home.
Our host, John Horn, thanked all those who had actively contributed to the success of the day including Karen Perkins for the informative visit to the Museum, Elise Nash, Head of Heritage and Collections at Wardown House, who hosted the “Feltmakers Art and Mystery” exhibition at Luton Hoo Hotel, Mary Miah, Wardown’s Curator of Significant Collections for her expert curation of the display at the hotel, Viviane Vayssieres for organising the full day’s itinerary and Christine, his wife, for the floral displays.
Our guest speaker, local historian and author, Joan Curran, then gave a talk entitled “Dunstable, the Start of the Hat Trade” during which she explained how local straw splitters learned to refine the cut of the straw to emulate the Italian style much loved by wealthy ladies in London in the 1800s, how several inns were turned into hat workshops before the demise of fine straw plait headwear in the late 18th century and the advent of felt.
The 2018 Luton Lunch drew to a close with the Response given by Upper Warden, William Gammell, thanking Joan for her enlightening talk and to John for hosting this event. As we went our separate ways, we each reflected on what a fascinating and fun day it had been.