God speed the Plough!

In his address to The Lord Mayor, represented at our Plough Monday dinner by the Sheriffs of the City of London, assistant Simon Millar explained that the tradition of our annual dinner refers to the medieval English celebration of the return of farm labourers to their ploughs on the first Monday after Epiphany (the twelfth day of Christmas). He described a number of the curious customs observed on Plough Monday, which varied by region, noting that a common feature was for a plough to be hauled in a procession, from house to house, to collect money. The plough was often accompanied by musicians, an old woman (or a boy dressed as an old woman), called the “Bessy,” and a man in the role of the “fool.” There would often be guise dancing (folk-etymologically rendered as “goose dancing”) and considerable drinking and revelry. The tradition also exists overseas where, for example, in certain regions of Belgium, the Monday after Epiphany is called Verloren Maandag (literally “lost Monday”, indicating a day with no work and hence no pay) with typical food associated.

We were treated at the Armourers’ Hall to one of the finest meals that I have enjoyed as a member of our Livery, with a feast of roast halibut, highland venison, apple and walnut gateau and even a savoury, all washed down with an exceptional selection of wines including a rosé (the first I have seen at a livery dinner), claret, a Muskat and an excellent 1991 Dow’s vintage port.  The hall itself was festooned with numerous, vicious looking halberds, swords, helmets and coats of armour, some of which would doubtless have been lined with Feltmakers’ company felt when they were worn in battle or tournament.

Our sheriffs, Alderman Vincent Keaveny and the Hon. Elizabeth Green, responded to Simon’s toast with a splendidly choreographed and witty shared address in which they explained some of their duties over the civic year in representing, supporting and promoting the businesses and residents in the City of London.  

They also described the current Lord Mayor, the Hon. Peter Estlin’s, particular interest in the so called ‘digital skills crisis’, the subject of his Gresham Lecture the following day (which can be viewed online at https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/digital-skills-crisis-opportunity). The video is well worth watching.

Written by Richard Pavry

Carols by Candlelight

On a mild December evening, The Feltmakers gathered within the hallowed walls of St Bartholomew the Great for our annual celebration of the Lord’s Nativity.

Our esteemed Chaplain, who conducted the Service, was joined by St Bartholomew’s Rector, The Reverend Marcus Walker. As ever, the resident choir led the congregation in a wondrous arrangement of traditional carols, interwoven with some glorious, less well-known versions.

The Master, our Clerk, Wardens Gilly Yarrow, Nigel Macdonald and Simon Wilkinson,and Assistant, Simon Millar, each read a Lesson with great sensitivity and meaning.

Company Chaplain, Andrew Pritchard-Keens, opened his Address in witty fashion by summarising the three stages of Christmas we experience through life: stage 1 –you believe in Father Christmas, stage 2 –you don’t, stage 3 –you are Father Christmas!

He went on to muse about the Lord’s relationship with His parents as He grew up, a period of His life about which we know very little. Did His Mother Mary, explain the nature of His birth to Him? Did His father Joseph explore the firmament with his curious son? Did Joseph carve wooden toys for his child?

Many of us were humming Silent Night or O Little Town of Bethlehem as we made our way to Habersdashers’ Hall, where a delicious buffet supper awaited us.This year, we had the pleasure of including guests from our sister Guild from Zurich, the Zunft zur Waag. They will also be joining us alongside The Feltmakers’ Float when we process at The Lord Mayor’s Show on 9 November 2019(an important date for your diary).

After our repast, Past Master Peter Keens, proposed the toast, declaring that Christmas officially starts for The Feltmakers on this night of carols in “the most marvellous church in London”. He thanked the Rector and the delightful choir, before closing with gratitude on behalf of the Company and our guests, to the Master and his family for a beautiful evening.

The Master responded by admitting that few things are more terrifying than following Past Master Keens, who is “always to the point”. He went on to thank our Chaplain for rescuing the Order of Service by suggesting it be printed by an excellent firm he uses for funerals, before remarking on the choir and wonderful soprano.

As we went our separate ways, we could only echo the Master’s sentiments, that it had, indeed, been “an absolute joy” and a fitting start to the true Christmas festivities.


Feltmakers’ Design Award 2018

This years’ Feltmakers’ Design Award judging took place at Haberdashers Hall on 27th April. We had a good many entries from the UK as well as some European entries. There were over 35 entries in all from students, apprentices and new start-ups.

Judging the entries were milliners Rachel Trevor Morgan, Edwina Ibbotson, Eda Rose Lawson and Noel Stewart. Designer and manufacturer Ian Wright and retired manufacturer William Horsman.  Journalists Hilary Alexander OBE and Carole Denford, former editor of the Hat Magazine.


We were joined by the Lady Mayoress Mrs Samantha Bowman and the Sheriffs consorts, Fiona Adler and Emma Redcliffe, who arrived in time to witness the final judging and debate. Sadly the Master was not able to attend due to his commitments in court but we were pleased to be joined by his wife Jane, as well as the company clerk, Major Jollyon Coombs.


This years First Prize went to Elizabeth Yates who is a new start up milliner and former student of Kensington and Chelsea College. Her Design was contemporary and striking, an adaptable headpiece designed to work with different situations. Strips of grey felt edged in rainbow colours that were riveted together and fanned out to create many different looks. Elizabeth said ‘with each click of the magnets you the wearer decide how you look’ It was a very flattering and simple design, the judges agreed that they had not seen anything like it before. She will receive a cheque for £1200.

The Second Prize went to Olivia Dugmore from Northampton College. ‘Angel Wings’ was sculpted out of burnt felt and finished with gilded feathers. It was a mythical design representing good versus evil wings. She will receive a cheque for £600.


The Third Prize went to Christopher Julian Garner, also a new start-up  who formerly studied at London College of Fashion. His entry ‘Lucky Fish’ was a beautiful felt pillbox with Swarovski. This piece was well made and well balanced. He will receive a cheque for £450.

The Craftmanship prize was won by Lily Thomson from Kensington and Chelsea College. Inspired by the artwork of Georgia O’Keefe. Her sheep scull was a work of art. We all admired her incredible craftsmanship. The felt has been soldered, gilded, and stitched to make the finish so realistic that it was like looking at real bones. She will receive a cheque for £200.

The Commercial Appeal Prize was won by Elise Gustilo who created a very wearable and beautiful piece using fanned felt on a small pillbox base. This was a well balanced and flattering. She will receive a cheque for £200.

The prize for Artwork and Presentation was won by Lucy Todd from Northampton College. It was beautifully presented and well thought out. Her hat ‘Procyon’ was beautifully crafted with black and white layered laser cut petals. She will receive a cheque for £200.


The innovative use of felt prize went to Louise Clarke who has been learning millinery with Phillippa Eyland –Gentle. So much work has gone into her extraordinary ‘Autumn Headpiece’ inspired by nature and the natural world with horse chestn


ut made from needle felt and a beautiful hand embroidered butterfly.  She will receive a cheque for £200.


It was a very good day made all the better for the kind hospitality of The Haberdashers Hall and their staff. Thank you also to our model for the morning, Jelena who modelled the hats beautifully and to Carol Denford for the photography.


Rachel Trevor Morgan


Lord Mayor’s New Hat

On the following Tuesday after the Lord Mayor’s Show, a smaller more intimate ceremony takes place at Mansion House. It is the presentation of the traditional feather trimmed tricorne hat to the new Lord Mayor of London by the Master of The Feltmakers Livery Company, which will be worn by the mayor at all formal occasions throughout the year.

It is a style that dates back to the 17th century, when it was designed and worn for protection. In fact the can be traced back to 1695, when the French Huguenot Corne family arrived in London bringing with them the skills of Parisian hat making, eventually putting their name to the ‘tricorne’ hat, which remains today.

The Master and Wardens of the Feltmakers assembled in an upper room to greet the Mayor and his wife. There is no fanfare or pageantry, just a simple handover of the hat to the Lord Mayor and presentation of a silver hat pin to the Lady Mayoress.

Using traditional hatting processes Patey of London have now made 30 Mayoral tricornes. The process begins with a foundation of four layers of stiffened calico. The crown is then covered with fur felt, whilst the brim has a wool felt inner and a velvet plush outer. When the shape is complete the hat is trimmed with black ostrich feathers and decorated with a wide gold chain.

Words and photos from Carole Denford

Silent Ceremony 2018

On the 29th of September each year (Michaelmas Day) the Liverymen of the City of London elect a new Lord Mayor.  This year Alderman Peter Eslin was elected and became the 691st Lord Mayor of London. On the Friday before the second Sunday in November the new Lord Mayor was sworn into office, at the Guildhall, at a ceremony known as Silent because, apart from the vow of the incoming Lord Mayor, it is held in total silence. Silence that is apart from the heavy tread of the officers as they process in and out of the Guildhall.

The ceremony was witnessed by the Aldermen, the City officers, Masters of Livery Companies and hundreds of their fellow Liverymen. It was as rich in pageantry as it is ancient in history and though it only lasted some twenty minutes or so it was a great piece of theatre. It started with the procession into the hall of The Lord Mayor’s and Sheriffs’ Committee followed by the other City Officials, then the Aldermen, and finally the Lord Mayor Elect, the City Marshal, The Lord Mayor’s Chaplain and the outgoing Lord Mayor, the Rt Hon Charles Bowman.

The Lord Mayor-Elect, Alderman Peter Eslin, swore his oath of office. The outgoing Lord Mayor then moved to his left and summoned the incoming Lord Mayor to his seat. The new Lord Mayor then donned his tricorne hat and exactly simultaneously the newly late Lord Mayor removed his, thus symbolising the transfer of power. The officers then took it in turn to present their symbols of office, the Sceptre, Seal, Purse, Sword, Mace, Collar of Esses and Badge, each one taking three steps forward, then bowing, then presenting the symbol. The new Lord Mayor touched each one in turn and then the officer took the symbol and walked backwards, bowing, essentially reversing the process. Then the incoming Lord Mayor undertook to safeguard the silver and furniture at Mansion House, signing for the “plate”.

All this was watched by the huge audience in reverential silence. Both power and responsibility had been smoothly transferred. The verbosity of endless speeches of congratulation was unnecessary. Congratulations were offered but just with handshakes and smiles, but still all in silence. The processions then went out in reverse order, with the new Lord Mayor triumphantly in the lead.

He and the Lady Mayoress then took the Mayoral limousine to their new home for a year, the largest council house in London, Mansion House. Before they departed the Swordbearer removed his fur hat and took out the key to the seal of Christ’s hospital and handed it to the outgoing Lord Mayor, who passed it to the new Lord Mayor, who returned it to the Swordbearer, who promised to “keep it under his hat

Carole Denford with David Pearson, Past Master, Worshipful Company of Marketers

Our Clerk’s Charity Rowing Challenge 2018

Jollyon’s Charity Challenge 2018

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.

Day 2 (a green day)


Use this link to see the video  

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’.

Day 3

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!!

A pink day

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.

Day 5

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.

Day 6

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!!).

Jollyon’s dog, Molly, gives technical advice.

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?

You can make a donation easily on line with ‘My Donate’   https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jollyoncoombs

Let’s reach that £20,000

Peter Shirley


London Craft Week-Unveiled – The Craft of Millinery Hat Exhibition

The Art Workers Guild Hall [all photographs courtesy of Peter Clark]

As part of London Craft Week 2018, Milliners Rachel Trevor Morgan, Edwina Ibbotson and Noel Stewart curated an exhibition to highlight the excellence of the craft of British milliners. In a first for the industry ‘Unveiled – the Craft of Millinery’ was held at the Art Workers Guild in Queens Square and sought to reveal the workings of the best hat makers in the country.

Each milliner/hat was chosen to highlight a different a skill, material or design approach and each designer was asked to provide materials, tools and work in progress to reveal some of the inner workings of their craft. A large proportion of the exhibits were created exclusively for the exhibition including Karen Henriksen who focused on the unique ability of felt to be stitched invisibly to other materials and House Of Flora created a waved hairstyle shaped hat showing exactly how felt can be shaped unlike any other material.  Stephen Jones gave us a fabric covered top hat inspired by the cotton reels of most milliners childhood and Philip Treacy showed how to clip and shape a feather like only he can. With special creations from up and coming milliners Jo Miller and Harvy Santos this exhibition was a landmark for the best milliners in the UK right now.

By Edwina Ibbotson (Peter Clark]

By Noel Stewart [Peter Clark]
By Rachel Trevor-Morgan [Peter Clark]
By Piers Atkinson [Peter Clark]
The week also included a program of ticketed millinery related talks and demonstrations. These we very well received and attended, milliners generously donated their time to get involved.  Demonstrations included felt blocking with Edwina Ibbotson, rolling sinamay with Bridget Bailey. Talks included a fascinating Q&A with Jane Smith, doyenne of theatrical millinery, New practices in Millinery with Noel Stewart chatting to with Paul Stafford and Jo Miller, and Hilary Alexander interviewed Rachel Trevor Morgan. There was also a curators’ talk on Friday evening.

Stephen Jones and his creation [Peter Clark]
On Sunday Carole Denford organised for 2 films to be shown – ‘The Millinery Lesson’ and ‘Mad About Hats’

Thursday evening was the Private View which was well attended by over 100 people and generously supported by the the Livery who provided Cava for the evening.

All profits raised from the week (approx. £900) are going to the Master Charitable fund.

Many thanks must go to all involved. Special thanks to Carol Denford for organizing the films and her help throughout the week. Hilary Alexander and Piers Atkinson for their input with the PR. Special thanks to all at The ArtWorkers’ Guild, especially the guild steward Elspeth Dennision. The Guild generously provided the space and nothing was too much trouble!

The Show’s Curators- Noel Stewart, Edwina Ibbotson and Rachel Trevor Morgan [Peter Clark]
Noel Stewart and Rachel Trevor Morgan


Tucked away behind the Bank of England, Drapers Hall stands on the site of Thomas Cromwell’s grand city palace which was acquired by the Drapers in 1543.  The current hall comprises a succession of elaborately decorated formal rooms enclosing a secluded courtyard garden.  It was here on Friday 1 June that a record number of Feltmakers and their guests gathered for the annual Banquet.

Pre-dinner there was an opportunity to admire the court rooms and also to see at close quarters the finalists of the 2018 Feltmaker Award.  A collection of stunning hats were on display along with the accompanying art work, an incredible diversity of designs. The winning hat, designed by Elizabeth Yates, at first glance appeared to be very simple but deeper examination revealed a great deal more both in terms of technical and design skills.  A very well deserved winner and a hat admired and indeed coveted by very many of the attendees.

We dined in the ornate livery hall, adorned with portraits of British monarchs a room which has often been used as a film set including as a double for Buckingham Palace. Serenaded by musicians from the HAC Regimental Band we enjoyed a delicious meal and excellent wines expertly served by the team from the Hall. As ever, the ceremony of the Loving Cup caused a great many smiles and laughter.

The Upper Warden, William Gammell, proposed the Civic Toast with a particular warm welcome to the Lord Mayor Locum Tenens Alderman Sir Alan Yarrow who is, of course, consort to our very own Third Warden Gilly Yarrow.  In his reply, Sir Alan recalled attending the Feltmakers Banquet during his year in office thanking the company for undoubtedly the best Lord Mayors’ hat ever made.

In his speech, The Master thanked all those involved in the judging of this years’ Feltmakers Award before Lady Yarrow presented the award to the winner.  He also made special mention to those involved with organising the exhibition held at the Art Workers Guild during London Craft Week in May which had showcased work by 17 milliners, including designs by both Rachel Trevor Morgan and Edwina Ibbotson.

The Master introduced our guest speaker Baroness Scotland of Asthall, QC, Secretary General to the Commonwealth as the “model of a modern baroness”. In her speech Baroness Scotland highlighted the many similarities between the City and the Commonwealth not least the focus on shared values and working in partnership.  Climate change has had a devastating impact on many of the Commonwealth countries.  Yet out of this adversity Baroness Scotland highlighted the positive steps being taken by all 53 member countries to address the issues through the recently agreed climate charter – demonstrating the power of what can be achieved by working together. In her opening remarks she described The Master as having extraordinary persuasive powers, Feltmakers were indeed very lucky to have had the opportunity to hear her speak.

The 2018 Banquet was a very splendid special evening and without doubt the highlight of the Feltmakers year to date.

[Pictures to follow]

Emma Whitaker

Presentation of the Lord Mayor’s Hat 2017

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.

Gilly Yarrow