Feltmakers’ Extend a Warm Welcome to the Waag and Other Guests at the Summer Banquet

On a beautifully sunny evening on 8th June, Feltmakers and their guests arrived at Mansion House for the Summer Banquet.

Mansion House looked at its very best, and the Egyptian Hall was splendid in the warm glow of the evening sun, while chandeliers defied gravity in the reception rooms. Perhaps the only things more eye-catching than the beautiful rooms, and the guests in their finery, were the prize-winning entries for the Feltmakers Design Award: seven beautiful hats and headpieces, complete with descriptions of the inspiration and thought process behind each design. Each had been selected by the judging panel for qualities such as craftsmanship, innovation or commercial appeal, and it was fantastic to see them on display together to appreciate the variety of styles and inspirations.

At the sounding of the gong, we took our seats for dinner. Fresh crab salad, chicken with spring vegetables, and a mango and camomile mousse proved the perfect meal for a summer’s evening. But this was a feast for more than just our tastebuds.

We were also treated to beautiful music from Holly Brown (soprano) and Emilia Noack-Wilkinson (piano) from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  They performed four arias, from the tragic Marietta’s Lied from Die tote Stadt by Korngold, to the comic Tarantula Aria from La Tempranica by Gimenez.

The evening’s speeches began with Upper Warden Simon Wilkinson proposing the civic toast to welcome Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Sir William Russell, Alderman Sheriff Alistair King, and Sheriff Andrew Marsden and their Consorts. Sir William joined us as Lord Mayor Nicholas Lyons was visiting Asia as part of his mayoral duties. It was a pleasure to be joined by Sir William, especially given his personal connection to the company as a Feltmaker himself – and of course we forgive him his membership of the Haberdashers too; a joint membership which has not been held since the Feltmakers split from the Haberdashers in 1604!

Master Neil Edwards welcomed guests from the Zunft zur Waag guild in Zurich, who recently hosted fifteen Feltmakers at their Spring Festival, Sechseläuten. The Master spoke of their warm hospitality and the spectacle of the celebrations. He also shared details of the Feltmakers’ recent involvement in a celebration much closer to home: King Charles III’s Coronation. As part of the Craft Livery Companies, the Feltmakers supported the Royal School of Needlework, the Broderers, Drapers and Weavers in creating and producing the Anointing Screen used by the King at the most private and spiritual part of the ceremony.

The Master also presented The Lord Mayor with a cheque for £4,000 for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, and a further donation to the Alderman Sheriff’s City Ride appeal. Then it was time for the awarding of the Feltmakers Design Award. The Master, together with Lady Russell, presented the 1st prize to Dawn Wilson of Morley College. Dawn’s structural design drew inspiration from such varied sources as the intricately decorated linings of kimonos, and paintings by Cezanne and Hopper. Many congratulations to Dawn and to all the prize-winners.

René Kalt, Past Master of the Zunft zur Waag, proposed a toast to our shared friendship in place of Zunftmeister, Robert Naville, who sadly was unable to join us on the evening. René introduced the customs of the Sechseläuten, including the burning of the puppet (Böög) and the traditional honey biscuits, Tirggel, which he shared with us all. This year marks the fifteenth year of friendship between the Feltmakers and the Zunft zur Waag; a friendship which was sparked “by accident” when Past Master David Bentata and his wife Linda travelled to Zurich as part of the Coronation Masters’ Past Masters’ Association to attend the Sechseläuten. René commemorated the occasion, and David and Linda’s efforts to cultivate this friendship, with a special gift from the Guild – A Certificate of Appreciation.  This bond has been enthusiastically nurtured by subsequent Feltmaker and Waag Masters.

Soon it was time to retire from the Egyptian Hall, and join the Master for a final stirrup cup, before departing into the evening, warmed by such enjoyable company and delicious food. An evening almost as sweet as the honey-infused Tirrgel biscuits which René and the Waag treated us to!

Jolly Boating Weather… Feltmakers go to Henley!!

Well, in truth, the forecast was only quite good; overcast and coolish with the chance of a shower.  Not quite the weather one wants when planning to spend a day watching rowing, sipping on Pimm’s or Aperol and grazing on strawberries.  But, on the day, it proved better than expected – a cooling breeze, but jackets came off and hats stayed on – the ideal combination, really!

Simon Wood had come up with the idea of a day by the river, enjoying the sights and colours of the renowned Henley Regatta.

He and Sarah McGrath arranged a lovely spot in the garden of a private house, a substantial gazebo, a fulsome and delicious picnic (very well chosen and coordinated by Simon’s wife, Lucy) and plentiful supplies of assorted cooling drinks.  Even parking was planned, a short walk away, making the logistics easy for those coming by car.

With a backdrop of a Feltmakers banner, about 30 liverymen and guests, along with Edgar Heggli and his wife Joyce from the Waag, gathered to spend the day together. Those in the know had a programme of races, occasionally pausing in their conversations to cheer on a particular team or critique technique and strategy.  Others (like the writer) just enjoyed the spectacle of rowers, boats, blazers, boaters, dresses and hats in blissful ignorance of the finer points of the day.

As a complete bonus, Simon also had his beautiful vintage boat, Frogge, on hand to take guests out on the river, complete with some young (and good looking) Cambridge Blues who proved not just adept with the oars, but also delightful lunch companions, interesting and entertaining to talk to.  Maybe we can persuade some of them to join the Livery in due course?

All in all, a highly enjoyable day, with all the elements needed – good company, a spectacle to watch, delicious food and drink and (mostly) fine weather.  Sincere congratulations and thanks to Simon, Sarah and Lucy for all the effort they put in to bring it together.

For my part, I just hope it becomes an annual event!


I’m already thinking about my hat for next year…

Written by Louisa Vincent

Announcing the Winners of the 2023 Design Competition

The annual design competition run by The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers is open to millinery students, apprentices and those who are within the first two years of starting their own labels. It is very much an industry prize with the aim of supporting individuals who aspire to join the hat trade.

Entrants are invited to submit designs that are exciting, innovative and unique. The hats must be predominantly made of felt and capable of being manufactured in a workroom or a factory. They must also be comfortable and wearable!

There are three main prizes and four additional categories. The overall winners are chosen on the basis of their design, originality and craftsmanship. The further categories are awarded for Commerciality, Craftsmanship, Innovative Use of Felt and Artwork.

This year’s judging took place at Haberdashers’ Hall on 4 April and was judged by a wide and talented panel. We were thrilled to be joined by Victoria Claridge, the millinery buyer for Fenwick, who was able to bring her buyer’s eye to the proceedings. We were also joined by Elly Stemerdink, editor of The Hat Magazine and couture milliners, Edwina Ibbotson and Victoria Grant, and, of course, PM William Horsman, a retired hat manufacturer with many years’ experience as well as being the mastermind who started the competition over 30 years ago. Milliner Rachel Trevor Morgan, current organiser, was also judging and leading proceedings.

We had over 28 entries from colleges including RCA, Morley College London, Nottingham Trent University, Glasgow Clyde College and Northern School of Art, as well as new start-ups and international entries from Finland, Germany and France.

Entrants are first invited to submit images of their hats along with supporting papers. This is followed by a pre-selection and those selected are invited to send in their physical hats which are then judged in person.

The choice of winning hats is always very tough, and the judges took quite a while to reach their final decision. Many factors have to be taken into account; does the winning hat fit all the criteria but also stand out above the others? Is the design original? Would someone wear it?

We then went on to select the other four categories which, in the event, proved an easier task.

Elly Stemerdink commented ‘The variety of the entries was reflected in the top three winning designs where besides craftsmanship, the innovative, theatrical and commercial skills were appreciated by the judges. It will be interesting to follow the work of these designers who are all just at the beginning of their career!’

Decisions made, all the hats were photographed by Peter Clarke and modelled by Danielle.

To witness the final deliberations, we were joined by The Lady Mayoress of the City of London, Mrs Felicity Lyons, and Corrine Lee, Sheriffs’ Consort, along with the Master of the Company, Neil Edwards and his wife Nicki.

The winners were awarded as follows:

First Prize – Dawn Wilson (Morley College) – £1500

This hat was inspired and very original, unlike anything the judges had seen before. Dawn’s hood wrapped around the head with cut out felt details. The blue and copper tones were inspired by the rooftop paintings of Cezanne and Hopper and the interior of the piece was gilded with copper leaf.

Second Prize – Issi Roberts (Nottingham Trent University) – £1000

Issi’s dramatic hat was inspired by religious imagery and the use of burning candles to mark a person’s passing. The base was made from traditional millinery felt but Issi had also used needle felting to achieve the candles and wax drips.

Third Prize – Pip Mayo (Morley College) – £750

Pips ‘Jupiter’ hat was inspired by NASA’s images of Jupiter and its beautiful rings and colour palette. She achieved the colour effects by dip dying on stretched felt. This piece was very well balanced, simple and dramatic.

Craftsmanship – Aurore Martinez (Aurore M – new starter) – £250

Aurore’s hat was inspired by Zarafa, the name given to the first French giraffe. Her technique for creating a giraffe patterned hide was beautifully executed and crafted with each spot being individually cut and stitched into the paler felt base, taking many hours of work. Coloured feathers were then individually worked and attached to wire to create foliage. The hat was edged and lined with a beautiful cotton print.

Artwork – Paula Kasurinen (Stadin Ammattioppilaitos, Finland) – £250

Paula’s hat was an ode to forest and fungi. Her hat was beautifully made and quirky. Her artwork stood out with beautiful hand drawn illustrations and material samples.

Commerciality – Fleur Curtis (Oscar and Willow millinery – new starter) – £250

A winter white felt disc with ivory goose feathers and flowers, Fleur’s hat was extremely commercial. It was a very considered piece that was beautifully made. We all agreed that we would be able to sell it very easily.

Innovative Use of Felt – Niki Bywater  (Working Men’s College, Camden) – £250
All the judges loved Niki’s fun paint pot hat. Niki had experimented using chalk paint on felt. She had blocked shape onto a paint pot and a brush using sinamay for the bristles. The result was surreal and witty.

Author Rachel Trevor Morgan


Rather a bad start – I’d forgotten that I’d agreed to write a report of the Spring Livery Dinner. Suddenly remembered with a jolt. Phew! Looked out the evening togs, plus a bright shawl in case it would get parky at Apothecaries’ Hall, then looked up how to get there on Apple Maps, as it’s one of those Halls you think you know how to get to until all of a sudden it just disappears from where you thought it was. But there it was, on the left, down a squiggly lane towards Blackfriars Bridge.

Found it, and joined the throng, waiting downstairs for the Court meeting to finish upstairs. I was introduced to our newest Freeman, Fleur, who, having been in medicine prior to being a milliner, and who was fascinated to be at Apothecaries’ Hall. I very much like the milling around at the beginning as it’s a chance to meet up with everyone, although at the meal itself you can have some proper conversations, of course.

On entering the Dining Hall, we were surrounded by dark wooden panelling, portraits, long tables, a crush of black tie, beautiful frocks, happy people. Good wine and a particularly good vegetarian choice, ending with a most beautiful rainbow plate of fruit.

John Horn proposed the toast to the guests, and the main speaker was Alan Bird, the Head of the City of London School, where our Master had been educated just a year or two previously (ahem). Several other Old Boys of the school (were they called Citizens?) were among the guests that evening. Alan Bird spoke most entertainingly and well. There was much mention of sporting prowess, which the Head claimed had rather passed him by. The Master replied, finishing with a terrific racing joke which I’m recycling now among my friends with all my might.

I drifted off back home before the stirrup cup, a kind Feltmaker friend offered to walk me home through the dark alleys, but I’m tough as old boots and declined, with grace I hope. I returned with tales of

another splendid evening with the Feltmakers, beautifully organised, smoothly run, and as always, fun!


The Master’s Masterful Day “Two Matches and One Incredible Day”

A windy Saturday, 25th March, the 9.38am train fighting the technological advances of modern transport, pulled in slowly. A stark contrast to the smooth operating Elizabeth line, whose doors are designed to open exactly where the train access points are located and trains which accelerate without effort or jolt.

Next stop, underneath the four-sided clock above the station concourse at Waterloo Station, where according to The Kinks, “Terry meets Julie every Friday night”,
to greet my guest, grab a coffee and watch “people so busy, make me feel dizzy” and then board the 11.20am train to Twickenham via Clapham Junction.

It was the Master’s Charity Day at the Varsity match. The annual games between the rugby clubs of Oxford and Cambridge Universities first played in 1872. How do we know this? Read-on.

William Webb Ellis – credited with creating the game of rugby in 1823 and who won a cricket blue for Oxford was the first inductee to the “Rugby Hall of Fame” as recently as 2006. The first game between the two University clubs involved 20 players from each side. The Oxford wore dark blue and the Cambridge team, pink.

The large Feltmakers’ “tailgate” party outside the Stadium displayed much tweed, some lively red trousers and the Master with the Feltmakers’ gilet, but sadly no pink. In polite company no scrum formed around the delicious and very generous food and drink. Whilst eating, it was good to meet old friends and new guests.

The Master led the “pack” with a game of “heads” and “tails”. A statement is given and should you think correct, hands are placed in a cone shape on head. If false, then the same but at the rear. Leading with the date of the first Varsity game the throng was quickly reduced as those who guessed incorrectly stood aside.  The deciding question was not the year the first Varsity red card was shown but “why the 1981 Varsity game was renown (other than the fact it was the centenary game)?”. The reason, it was played with a three to four-inch layer of snow covering the pitch; it had snowed overnight and the snow could not be removed in time for the game.

There are two Varsity games played on the same day, Women’s and Men’s. The Cambridge University women’s team, despite an early 7-0 lead tasted defeat for the first time since 2016 as they went down in the early kick-off to a 31-12 loss against their Oxford counterparts.

The Cambridge women won in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before last year’s meeting between the rivals ended in a first ever draw.  Oxford’s win means that overall the head-to-head record is in their favour by a margin of 21-13.

With drinks replenished and form assessed, the Feltmakers’ pack returned to the Stadium for the 3pm kick-off of the Men’s encounter.

Luton Headlines

On 23 February, the Feltmakers and their guests gathered at the grand Luton Hoo Mansion House, set in extensive grounds in the Bedfordshire countryside. As all Feltmakers know, Luton is the historical home of hat making and once the world’s biggest hat producing location, with more than 500 hat manufacturers based there in the 1800s and it is an important part of the Company’s history.

We were greeted with a sparkling reception and met our friends from the Company in the ornate Romanov Suite, once the chapel of the house. The stained-glass windows, highly decorated ceiling and elegant marble and plasterwork were a suitably colourful setting for the milliners to showcase their fantastic creations. There was a great variety of stylish hats on display, made from high quality materials and suitable for all occasions from Ascot or weddings to a fashionable country walk.

We then moved to the Fabergé Private Dining Suite for a delicious three course lunch with a winter country menu accompanied by wine.

Court Assistant, John Horn, was an effortless “Master of Ceremonies” and, between courses, we were entertained by three members of the British Hat Guild, each giving an insight into their work.

First, Feltmaker Carole Denford explained the history of the Guild and how it had been re-establihsed in 2019 following a meeting between her and industry colleagues in a London pub two years earlier. Carole is the founder of trade publication The Hat Magazine and was motivated to rekindle the Guild to promote the unrivalled excellence of British millinery and help people in the trade to network, support each other and promote the industry. Carole enthusiastically explained how she had steered the Guild’s formation through the difficulties of lockdown, where Zoom-style meetings helped the milliners and hatmakers to support each other through a devastating period for their trade. Since then, the Guild has taken in new members and should grow from strength to strength, as shown at www.thebritishhatguild.org.uk .

Next, milliner, Jess Collett, gave a lively and entertaining talk about her 25 years’ creating exciting designs, normally handmade and often for famous clients. Jess has an infectiously light-hearted attitude to what must be a demanding business. She has now added an “off the shelf” range and, as we had witnessed in the Romanov Suite and then on her video at the lunch, her designs are strikingly stylish, colourful and edgy, as can also be seen at www.jesscollettmilliner.com .

Finally, Guild member Rachel Frost gave a fascinating talk on her work, which is unique in the UK and, almost, the world. Rachel is a Feltmaker in the historical sense, making felt for her hats from ethically sourced wool, beaver fur and plant-based dyes. Rachel explained how an interest in traditional hat making led her to research old books and recreate the original tools from drawings. She then travelled to Hungary, Turkey and ultimately Mexico to learn from the few remaining pre-industrial Feltmakers around the world. Rachel brought along some of her creations, some raw materials and her best prop, a Hatter’s Bow. This large wooden implement was strung like an archer’s bow and Rachel played a video showing how it is used and her journey from initial curiosity to travelling the globe in search of the last of the Feltmakers. Rachel is now the only person in Europe using these traditional techniques and has made hats for stage and screen. It was a pleasure to experience her dedication to this fascinating part of our own Company’s history, more of which can be seen at www.thecraftybeggars.org .

Finally, we all applauded Viviane Vayssieres, who we have been lucky enough to have as the creative organiser of the Luton Lunch for many years. Viviane is now handing over the reins of this event and her charm and joie de vivre will be a tough act to follow; merci beaucoup from all at the Feltmakers!

Thanks to Author Mark Williams


During a visit to HMS Lancaster in mid-February, the Master and Upper Warden discovered that some of the starboard crew had added yet another skill to their formidable abilities.

Following specialist training, the catering team are now chocolatiers and created an array of exquisitely decorated and mouth-watering hand-made chocolates to supplement their existing melt-in-the-mouth pastries, including croissants and pain au chocolat.

The fascinating morning included a view around the Officers’ Mess Headquarters – HMS Nelson – and a visit aboard HMS Defender one of the very latest type 45 destroyers, including the Bridge and Ops Room.

The Feltmakers were offered a sneak insight into the Navy’s current project, NavyX, bringing Autonomy and Lethality to Maritime Ops aboard The Patrick Blackett.

In addition, they learned more about HMS Lancaster’s history, including the role that fur and felt have had on Naval and Military headwear.

The Master noted: “HMS Lancaster enjoys showcasing its day to day work and the familial bond among the Starboard crew is tangible.  The crew also values the close association with the Feltmakers as much as we do with Lancaster”.

Written by Master Neil Edwards and Upper Warden, Simon Wilkinson

Third successful home fixture in London for this year’s “skipper” The Plough Monday Dinner

For many, Monday 9th January was the first day of a full week back at work after the Christmas and New Year break.  For the Feltmakers, it was the date of this year’s Plough Monday dinner at the Armourers’ Hall, hosted by Master Neil Edwards, and ably supported by our Wardens Simon Wilkinson, Jeremy Bedford, Simon Millar and Sarah McLeod.

The Armours’ Hall is an impressive location, as on arrival, guests are confronted with swords, shields and armour from a bygone age but which still act as a timely reminder of today’s conflicts, especially Ukraine, now nearing its first anniversary.

We were welcomed by the Master and Wardens with suitable refreshment and provided with an opportunity to catch up and renew friendships before the formal proceedings commenced.  With precision timing, we were ushered into the main hall where our Chaplain the Reverend Andrew Pritchard-Keens, lead us in grace. Once seated, we were soon enjoying a tasty starter of sea bass accompanied by a refreshing Pinot Grigio. Our first toast of the evening was to welcome a new liveryman, Mrs Jane Masojada, to the Company.

This was soon followed by the welcome of our guests for the evening Dr Trevor Brignall, Master Marketor, Mr John Richardson, Prime Warden Blacksmiths, together with their respective clerks and our chief guests, Alderman and Sheriff Alastair King and Sheriff Andrew Marsden. This led us into our main course of Pedigree Hereford Beef with suitable accompaniment and an excellent Chateau Le Truch. This was followed by Dark Chocolate Posset, English Brie Tart and coffee, a most suitable selection to prepare us for the speeches.

The Master kicked off with two loyal toasts before an excellent heel to James De Broë-Ferguson to enable him to begin the toasts to the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs. James finished his run by passing to Alderman & Sheriff Alastair King to respond who thanked James for his excellent introduction to the Sheriffs and the Master for his kind invitation. He spoke of his career both in the City, the livery and associated charities giving us a clear view of the causes he was sponsoring during his year in office.

 We heard that Alderman & Sheriff Alastair King launched his professional life as a lawyer before switching to asset management via the London Business School and founded and led his own asset management firm. This has been accompanied by investment ventures supporting various charities and a very active involvement with the Corporation of the City of London starting as a Common Council member for the ward of Queenhithe and becoming Alderman in 2016. He serves on an impressive array of committees and outside charities.

Sheriff Andrew Marsden has an equally accomplished City record.  His background in marketing started with Unilever and on through a range of blue-chip companies and executive and non-executive roles in specialist marketing organisations. His involvement with the livery started with the Worshipful Company of Marketors, extending to the Worshipful Company of World Traders, the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, various Ward clubs and cross-livery organisations.

A swift but accurate pass to the Master allowed him to give us an insightful and precise overview of Dr Trevor Brignall and Mr John Richardson, full details can be found on their respective websites. Sufficient to say that each has had a varied and fascinating background and made significant contributions to their respective livery companies and professions. The Master also introduced his rugby guests Peter Winterbottom, Greg Chalmers and Duncan Steele-Bodger. His address concluding with another accurate pass to Sheriff Andrew Marsden to enable him to go for the line and propose the health of the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers and the Master. He told us how he grew up in Yorkshire and about his journey through industry leading him into the City of London and involvement with the world of the livery and the Feltmakers’ excellent reputation for hospitality, finishing just as the referee blew time. Post-match refreshments were then held in the adjoining hall allowing those liverymen dashing off for trains easy access to the exits.

All agreed an excellent evening, with great food and wine followed by interesting and timely speeches.

Written by

Christopher Horsburgh

Luton Lunch 2023

23 02 2023

The Romanov Suite, The Mansion House
Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa

In Partnership with

Sparkling Reception – 3 Course Lunch – A glass of Wine
Coffee – Petit Fours
£70 per person

To book please contact Court Assistant John Horn 
E: barforddyers@aol.com  M: 07580688019

Bank Transfer
Account Number 00410219 – Sort Code: 30-95-28
Ref: Luton Hoo

To JH Horn – Ref: Luton Hoo
Posted to: Pinfield Farm, Leighton Road, Edlesborough, LU6 2ES

A Christmas Carol

Our Carol Service moved to St James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly; a perfectly-proportioned church, built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1684. It has the most beautiful carvings by Grinling Gibbons, Corinthian columns supporting a gallery and a large stained glass window. It has a very different feel to St Bartholomew’s.

Many Feltmakers and their families attended and were in good voice!  Our chaplain, Andrew Pritchard-Keens, led the service and The Choir of St James’s sang magnificently. The five excellent readers of the Lessons were all female members of the Company, a first for a Feltmaker Carol concert. The sixth Lesson was also well read by Master, Neil Edwards.

Afterwards, we gathered for an informal, yet elegant, reception at the Naval & Military Club, where PM Patrick Burgess raised a toast and invited us to support The Wren Project, to continue the restoration of St James’s which offers so much pleasure to worshippers and tourists – as evidenced tonight.

Judy Bentinck