Our Plough Monday dinner was held at Cutlers’ Hall, one of the most distinctive Livery Halls in the City of London and the closest Hall to the Old Bailey where our Master, His Honour Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC serves as Recorder of London. On Plough Monday the Feltmakers entertain the two Sheriffs of the City of London to dinner and have done so since 1937. As the Senior Judge at the Old Bailey, our Master works closely with the Sheriffs, whose duties include supporting the Lord Mayor and the Old Bailey judges. It was therefore a unique opportunity for our Master to return the Sheriffs’ hospitality in the company of distinguished guests from other Liveries and members of the Feltmakers’ Court. The Plough Monday dinner has its origins in feudal times when the first Monday after Yuletide festivities signified a return to work and, for most land workers, to the Plough. This year’s Plough Monday celebrations were begun by our own Livery Chaplain, Andrew Pritchard- Keens, who with great purpose led all present to declare GOD SPEED THE PLOUGH at the end of Grace.
Court Assistant Jeremy Bedford proposed an eloquent toast to the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of the City Of London. He recounted the first real contact the apprentices of the Feltmongers had had with the Sheriffs of London in the early 17th Century. After one unfortunate apprentice had been wrongly imprisoned, the “rowdy Feltmonger apprentices” secured his swift release from the Sheriffs. It appeared a win-win for the Master Feltmaker of the time, as the young apprentices were still at that time the responsibility of the Haberdashers! This time, however, the Sheriffs were offered a warm welcome without fear or anxiety as to any rowdy Feltmaker behaviour. Other honoured guests representing the Sheriffs’ mother companies were Stephen Gee, Prime Warden of the Basketmakers, and Alderman Peter Estlin, Master of the International Bankers. For the first time we were joined by the Master of the Coventry Cappers, Richard Spencer.
The meal consisted of a sumptuous four courses overseen by the Master of the Cooks’ Company, Mark Grove, who sat immediately to the Master’s right for the evening so as to make sure that nothing went wrong! During the meal the Master took wine with the newest Liveryman to be welcomed into the Feltmaker family, Christopher Reeves. After the Loyal Toast Alderman and Sheriff Timothy Hailes spoke about how those working or living in the Square Mile were in the business of trust which is the Lord Mayor’s theme for the year. Sheriff Redcliffe spoke of the day to day work of the Sheriffs. Although the office is an ancient one, he left us in no doubt about its present day value and relevance. Our Master proposed the toast to the guests.
He described the night in 1941 when the Old Bailey and Cutlers’ Hall had been hit during the same air raid. He explained that since 1967 the Cutlers had given a dinner for the Old Bailey judges each year. In 1995 one judge had fallen over the banisters after dinner and onto a table below. An offer to pay for the damage to the table was made but both parties swept the matter aside and still remain good neighbours. A truly memorable evening, fittingly concluded with the Master offering a stirrup cup to all.