Friday, 26 May 2017

158. Visit to City Gin Distillery

On a glorious sunny evening this week, 15 of us headed off to the City of London Gin Distillery located in Bride Lane, just off Fleet Street. This distillery brought Gin distilling back to the City of London after an absence of nearly 200 years, when it opened in 2012.

The evening started with a City Distillery gin and tonic and this was followed by a comprehensive tour of the “in house” process and fascinating descriptions of the process and terminology. Alfie, our guide, was knowledgeable and amusing and he kept us well entertained!

The tour was followed by a description and tasting of the four other gins manufactured on site, and very good they were too! Following some platters of food (to soak up the alcohol) we left and went on our merry way home.

A very enjoyable evening where it was good to see some younger Members (and prospective Members) coming along to join us.

Photographs show the signage outside the distillery and our party during the tour.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

157. Formal Opening at Treloar’s College

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you will recall a visit to Treloar’s College in Hampshire – see blog no 118.

This is a very special place – a residential special needs college in Alton, Hampshire that provides not only specialist care and a home, but also formal education to a high standard – as a recent OFSTED Inspection confirmed.

The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators has developed a long relationship with the college via our charity, The Water Conservation Trust. Our most recent involvement was in sponsoring a water feature in the newly refurbished Gauvain House, which is home to 21 students, all with very special needs. I had the pleasure of formally opening the water garden earlier this year.

With the final completion of the refurbishment of Gauvain House, the Countess of Wessex (a strong supporter of Treloar’s) was invited to formally open the house, earlier this week. Peter Hall (Deputy Master) and I were invited to attend and represent our Company. We were formally introduced to the Countess who thanked us for our participation and generosity.

It was a very happy occasion, and we had the opportunity to view the garden we sponsored – now liberally planted with strawberry plants!

Photographs show the Countess chatting to some of the students, the Deputy Master and I beside the newly unveiled Gauvain House plaque and our water feature operating in the sunny garden.

156. Indian Restaurant on the Thames at Marlow

There has been much talk of potential water shortages this Summer following an unusually dry Winter and Spring. Inevitably, as soon as press coverage of this issue was printed, the heavens opened and it rained heavily!

Earlier this week Fiona and I were at Michelin Star Chef, Atul Kochhar’s restaurant in the famous Compleat Angler at Marlow as a late birthday gift for Fiona. The tasting menu meal was fabulous but I couldn’t help but notice the very substantial river flow over the weir – see photograph. Didn’t look like a water shortage to me!

As we left, long after sunset, the church at Marlow was beautifully illuminated and reflected in the river – see photograph. I couldn’t help but think that following the horrors of the mindless attack in Manchester, how lucky we are to live in such beautiful surroundings and so close to London, the best City in the world.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

155. Supporting ABF – The Soldier’s Charity

Many of you will be aware that the Worshipful Company of Water Conservator’s is a strong supporter of the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch which is designed to raise funds for ABF, the Soldier’s Charity. In blog no 133, I described our involvement with this lunch and how I handed over a cheque for £500 to the Lord Mayor for ABF, which supports veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. I also indicated that there would be more to follow.

I am delighted to report that the collection from our Election Court Lunch together with some income tax credits and a contribution from the Water Conservation Trust enabled us to raise £1,000 for this wonderful charity this year.

At an event earlier this week to celebrate the outcome of the lunch, I was able to make a presentation to the Lord Mayor, of a second cheque for £500. At the event the Lord Mayor, Alderman Dr Andrew Parmley reported that a total of £190,000 had been raised for ABF this year – a magnificent sum from the City Clubs and Livery Company’s.

Many thanks to all our Member’s and the Water Conservation Trust for making our contribution possible.

Photographs show the report presented by the Lord Mayor, and the handing over of the second cheque.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

154. Lunch with the Judges at the Central Criminal Court

During the year as Master, some surprising invitations arrive! One of these was from Alderman & Sheriff William Russell to join the judges from the Central Criminal Court (more commonly known as the Old Bailey) for lunch.
I readily accepted and earlier this week I joined three other guests for drinks with William Russell and his wife and then lunch (in house) with fifteen Judges who were sitting that day.

The other guests were fascinating. They were Dame Mary Archer (academic and wife of Baron Jeffrey Archer), His Excellency Claus Grube (Ambassador at the Royal Danish Embassy) and Tim Hitchens (career diplomat and CEO of the Commonwealth Summit 2018).

There was much banter over lunch (and strictly no alcohol) and it was great to see the human side of these very senior Judges who all have really interesting lives outside of the law! At precisely 2.00pm the Judges left and we were invited to “listen in “ at one of the Courts. Three of us chose Court 14 which was a pretty harrowing murder trial, but wonderful to see the patience and care with which evidence was presented and cross-examined.

A thoroughly enjoyable opportunity and many thanks to William Russell for the invitation.

Photographs show the invitation & menu card, the iconic statue on the roof of the Old Bailey and the beautiful entrance hall inside.

153. Building Relationships for the Future

The Court of Common Council is the City of London’s primary decision making body and it meets nine times each year. There are 100 Common Councilmen representing the 25 Wards of the City and each Ward elects between 2 and 10 Common Councilmen depending on the size of the electorate. The Common Councilmen are elected every 4 years and the most recent elections were held in March 2017.

The Ward of Farringdon Within elects 9 Common Councilmen and one of these is currently Ann Holmes. Fiona and I have got to know Ann from various City events and we have been keen to cultivate a relationship on behalf of the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators. This is primarily because Ann (amongst other roles) sits on the Education Board of Common Council and is a Governor of the City of London School for Girls. These roles link well with our Company interest in supporting education.

Earlier this week we met Ann for lunch at the Guildhall to discuss how these common interests could usefully link together.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

152. Thames Tideway Scheme Visit

On a very wet Wednesday 17th May, some thirty Members, partners and friends visited the Thames Tideway project for a fascinating presentation and viewing.

This project is enormous – it consists of a 25km long 7.2m diameter tunnel running mostly under the tidal section of the Thames to capture, store and convey combined sewage and rainwater storm discharges that currently flow into the river. Construction started in 2016, will take between seven and eight years to complete and at an estimated cost of £4.2 billion!

Our host was Phil Stride, the Strategic Projects Director. We met at the Thames Tideway East Project Office in Chambers Street in Bermondsey. Phil gave us a very impressive presentation of the history, design, public consultation, unique financial funding and early construction of the project. Phil has been involved for over 10 years and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the scheme. Philip Fletcher (ex Chairman of OFWAT) who is an Honorary Member of our Company was present and he added to Phil’s presentation by giving a regulators view of the project.

We were then able to view the Chambers Street site which is a key location for tunnels drives and which will, on completion, be developed for riverside apartments.

A fascinating visit and many thanks to Phil for giving up his time for us. We look forward to returning is two years time when it might be possible to visit one of the tunnel boring machines in action!

Photographs show Phil Stride chatting to our Members, visitors viewing the construction works at Chambers Street and preparations for sinking the massive shaft at the site.

151. The Water Conservation Trust

Most of the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators’ charitable work is undertaken via our own charity, The Water Conservation Trust. This Trust is managed and operated by twelve Trustees – all the Trustees are members of our Company but act independently in accordance with the charitable objectives of the Trust.

I have been invited to attend the Trust’s meetings for the last two years (both as Thames Warden and Master) and earlier this week I attended my last meeting.

The Trust works closely with universities and schools in sponsoring post-graduate students and encourages environmental work in primary schools – there have been many successful stories, not least the excellent work with the Sir Hugh Myddleton School in Islington. Additionally, the Trust supports cases of personal hardship within our industry.

A large percentage of our members regularly contribute to the important work of the Trust and the Company is keen to encourage those that don’t contribute to do so. A regular donation of even £5 each month would help expand the work of the Trust. Peter Hall is the Honorary Treasurer of the Trust and he would be delighted to forward you a form and a direct debit mandate – he can be contacted by e-mail at

Photograph shows the Sir Hugh Myddleton School where the Trust has sponsored a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) laboratory.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

150. Collecting for the Red Cross

Each year the Red Cross liaise with the City Livery Companies to collect money in the City for their very worthy cause on a day in May. The selected day was earlier this week, with a somewhat varied weather forecast!

The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators had three volunteers to help this year – the Master, the Thames Warden (Mike Williamson) and the Walbrook Warden (Mark Lane). Mark Lane had the early morning slot (trying to catch unsuspecting workers on their way to the office), the Master had the lunchtime slot (trying to catch people as they popped out for lunch) and Mike Williamson had the late afternoon slot (trying to catch workers heading home).

We all reported to the Mansion House to collect our buckets, rolls of stickers and our licences and set off at our allotted times with other Livery Company representatives for a two hour slot. The early morning and late afternoon slots were pretty dry, but the lunchtime slot was intermittently wet!

I managed to team up with the Master Constructor and we settled on a pitch on the North side of London Bridge where we made a pretty good pincer movement of encouraging passers-by to part with their cash! As any of you who have taken part in street collections will know, this is pretty hard work and after two hours we were pleased to return to the Mansion House and sit down!

This was a fun experience and for an extremely worthwhile cause. Many thanks to the many passers-by who contributed.

Photographs show the Red Cross logo and the Master on his return to the Mansion House with his heavy and rather damp collecting bucket!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

149. St Bartholomew’s Hospital View Day

Fiona and I accepted an invitation from Barts NHS Trust and Barts Charity to attend their View Day earlier this week.

The View Day is designed to acknowledge achievement, reflect on the past and look to the future of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London. First held in 1551, the View Day has never been cancelled even despite two world wars. The event jointly organized by the Hospital Trust and its supporting Charity attracts a wide range of City of London supporters, including this year nearly ninety Livery Company Masters.

The event starts with a Choral Evensong in the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great. This is one of London’s oldest churches having been founded in 1123 as an Augustinian Priory and has been in continuous use as a place of worship since 1143. It survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 and bombs dropped in both the First and Second World Wars. (See photographs of Fiona and I in the garden and the exterior of this lovely old Church).

The Livery Company then processed to the Great Hall of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where following a wine and canapĂ© reception we heard of the work of the Trust and the Hospital from the Chairmen of both organizations. (See photograph of the interior of the beautiful Great Hall which has the names of financial supporters of the Hospital on its walls, including many Livery Companies).

We were then invited to participate in a tour of the new oncology and cardiac departments. These were both deeply impressive – beautiful new building resembling a large international hotel, dedicated and articulate staff and the latest technology including “Cyber Knife Radiotherapy” (see photograph) which combines automobile industry robots with precise radiotherapy heads (each one costing £2.3m).

This was undoubtedly one of the most impressive visits of our year so far. Many thanks to everyone at the Hospital Trust and the Charity who organized this event.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

148. Sons & Friends of the Clergy

The organization now known as the Sons & Friends of the Clergy is in fact an amalgamation of six clergy support charities. The earliest of these, the Corporation of Clergymen’s Sons, has its origins in 1655. This combined charity continues the long tradition of helping clergy households through difficult times (both financial and poor health) and in 2016 they gave some 908 gifts totaling over £2.4m.

Each year the charity organizes a special service in St Paul’s Cathedral both to celebrate its work and also to raise funds. This year the service (the 363rd of its kind) was well supported by nearly 100 Masters of Livery Companies and the Cathedral was packed with other worshippers, many representing the many and varied facets of City of London life. The combined choirs of Chichester and Chester Cathedrals were amazing and the sermon was given by the Bishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who encouraged us all to “dig deep” for this important charity.

This is a very colourful and important annual event in the life of the City, with all Master’s processing in and out of the Cathedral in their full regalia of gowns, chains and badges. I was delighted to represent the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators at this occasion.

Photographs show the invitation & order of service as well as the Master Hackney Carriage Drivers (Alan Roughan) and I just before we processed into the Cathedral.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

147. 100+ Masters & Clerk’s Luncheon

This week I attended a 100+ lunch organized by the Worshipful Company of World Traders. This lunch for Masters and Clerk’s of Livery Companies numbered 100 to 110 was held at the Information Technologists Hall in the City and was a very enjoyable and jovial event.

The excellent lunch and wines were served by the Cook and the Butler, and a toast to the Guests was proposed by the Master World Trader, Robert Woodthorpe-Brown. The response was given by the Master Information Technologists, Chris Histead.

Many thanks to Robert Woodthorpe-Browne for organizing this event, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Photographs show the menu card and the exterior of the Information Technologists Livery Hall.

Friday, 5 May 2017

146. The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists 25th Anniversary Banquet

To celebrate 25 years since the granting of their Livery, the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists organized an Anniversary Banquet at the Guildhall this week. (See photograph of invitation card, menu and seating plan). I was one of 86 Masters in attendance and with nearly 800 sitting down to the “white tie” banquet, it was rather a squash but great fun! (See photograph of guests trying to find their places before dinner).

Because the event was held on the 4th day of the month, and the fact that several Members of the Company work on complex computer generated special effects for the film industry, the event had an amusing theme of “May the Fourth be With You”! On arrival, guests were greeted by Star Wars characters (see photograph of an unsuspecting Master!), in contrast with the more traditional sight of representatives from the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers (see photograph) inside the Guildhall.

Musical entertainment was provided by The London Banqueting Ensemble, who as well as playing through dinner, also gave a fantastic rendition of the Post Horn Gallop on their hunting horns.

The Master, Chris Histed, proposed a toast to the Guests and this was followed by a very amusing toast to the Company given by the Lord Mayor, Andrew Parmley. The guest speaker was Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency.

A thoroughly enjoyable and appropriate occasion for this anniversary. Many thanks to the Master for inviting me and including me in the celebrations.

145. Visit to Wadham College, Oxford

Many of you will be aware of the excellent work of our charity, The Water Conservation Trust. Part of this work includes the provision of Bursaries to post graduate students who are studying subjects related to the key objectives of our Company.

The Company has a longstanding relationship with Wadham College, Oxford – this was originally initiated by Past Master Colin Drummond who completed his undergraduate degree at the College back in the 1970’s. This academic year (2016/17), the Trust has provided a Bursary to Fraser O’Halloran who is part of the 22 strong MSc/MPhil in Water Science, Policy & Management programme.

Earlier this week David Johnstone, a Liveryman of our Company and a Trustee of the Water Conservation Trust, arranged a visit for several of us to meet some of the academic staff at Wadham over lunch and to spend time with our Bursary Holder, Fraser O’Halloran.

Many thanks to David for organizing this excellent visit.

Photographs show part of the beautiful Wadham College buildings, and Roger North (Chairman of the Water Conservation Trust) and the Master with Fraser O’Halloran.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

144. The rain in Spain has blown away!

Fiona and I wouldn't want you to worry about us on our long weekend in Spain. After 36 hours of heavy rain and strong winds ( see  blog no 143), clear blue skies and sunshine have returned (see photograph of our garden now)!

We return this week to a very busy month of events in London - not least our visit to the Thames Tideway project and our tour (with tastings of course) of the City Gin Distillery.

We look forward to catching up with you all soon.