Thursday, 30 May 2013

Article from Spitalfields Life - Jack Corbett - London's oldest fireman

An aerial view of St Paul's Cathedral.
An aerial view of St Paul's Cathedral. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I subscribe to The Gentle Author's web site and do not always have time to read them as they arrive daily. However, today this was so moving, interesting and uplifting I wanted to share it with you.

Also he is one of the firemen who worked so hard to save St Paul's Cathedral during the Blitz, plus many lives and other buildings.

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Six Decades of Royal Portraits - Royal Mail

To celebrate The Queen's 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation

2nd Class Stamp -
1953 - At the moment of Coronation by Terence Cuneo
Commissioned by Lord Lieutenants of England, Scotland & Wales

1st Class Stamp - Commissioned by Royal Mail no less! Artist Nicky Philipps, depcits Queen in formal Garter robes accompanied by her four dogs.

78p Stamp - ?

88p Stamp - 1955 Commissioned by Worshipful Company of Fishmongers and resides in their Hall -
by Pietro Annigoni

£1.28 Stamp - Commissioned to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Her Majesty becoming a Freeman of the Company of Drapers by Sergei Pavlenko. Unveiled  by The Queen in November 2000.

£1.88 Stamp - ?

Can you supply the missing links?  To find out more buy the presentation pack.
If you would like a First Day Cover order now at

If not this edition is available from 30th May 2013.

Court of Common Council - 16th May 2013

The the third and final reading of the Bill for an Act of Common Council -
To: Make further provision for the qualification of candidates for the office of Alderman of the City of London - it was carried at 13.15 today.

The reservations were raised again as to undo things that are fundamental to their (the Aldermen) preservation. The difference between the roles of Court of Aldermen and of the Court of Common Council becomes closer. Also the loss of an essential judicial link etc etc. However the speaker was unable to offer a suitable compromise. For - The Chairman of the Policy & Resources felt that the role had moved on since 1215 (Magna Carta) and the primary purpose of the Aldermen is to produce Lord Mayors! 

The Act is not necessarily for all time and the electorate require a system that works now, it is not a perfect solution but the present system in not sustainable. So there we have it, an Aldermen in the future will not require to be a JP. My personal view is that they will come to regret this as there may be more 'chaff than wheat'.

Applications for Freedom this month also included:

His Excellency Anton Meinrad Fredrich Thalmann - a Diplomat
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Kt., CBE - Master of the Queen's Music
Clare Victoria Balding - a Television and Radio Presenter

Ending on a high note, a joy to read a line such as this :-

From time immemorial there has existed and still exists in the City of London ("the City") a Common Council consisting of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Commons in Common Council assembled etc etc 
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Monday, 13 May 2013

First Division since .... way back when!

Goings on in the Court of Common Council at Guildhall Thursday 25th April 2013

I always try to attend the Court of Common Council held at least nine times a year on the third Thursday in the month. For one thing I know the Great Hall is open to the public before the meeting at 1pm and I can take a guided tour without worrying that access will be denied, and it is good to know about the goings on of the Corporation. This may seem rather dull but there is usually an interesting item to pick up on and always some banter, cynical, sarcastic and downright funny!

This particular Thursday was going to be very special indeed!  The signs were there.

Lady Mayoress Balcony on the right and the Press on the left.
Duke of Wellington Statue stands  in the middle
 The Lady Mayoress seated in the balcony reserved for her, and the second balcony also occupied by some Press .  Also an excited air permeated the hall and full of whispered conversations, plus not a seat to be had by the time the Lord Mayor and his retinue made their stately entrance.

Ward Elections had taken place during March and the newly-elected Members were being presented to the Lord Mayor. It was in  1444 the first recorded Common Councilmen took their place in Council; so today,  resplendent in their gowns of mazarine blue the newly chosen were taken individually by a member of their Ward to be introduced and then to take a seat within the Council. It was good to see many young (er) faces eager and smiling amongst the members of the Court.

Several long serving Aldermen were standing down, I do not know them personally but recognised the names from previous mentions, William (Billy) Dove and Sir John Stoddard to name two of them. They were given great praise and recognition for their work over many years and will be greatly missed.  Also the New Chief Commoner George Gillan (appointed for one year) was also welcomed as well as newly appointed Alderman Russell for Bread Street Ward.

For once I had a full set of papers, they are often good for a second glance later on, and especially good reading is the List of Applications for the Freedom, one that really stood out:

His Eminence, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino (a Cardinal) Vatican City State
Proposed by Sir Gavyn Arthur (Citizen & Gardener)
Second Proposer His Excellency Anthony John james Bailey, KCSS (Citizen and Loriner)

Other applications came from Switzerland , Canada, Russia and Albania as well as throughout the British Isles.  In last month’s minutes Micklewhite commonly known as Sir Michael Caine, KT, CBE and Placido Domingo Hon KBE were noted as being admitted to the Freedom of this city by redemption. See separate page about the Freedom.

An important item on the Agenda was the Bill for an Act of Common Council regarding Aldermanic Eligibility.  Currently to be an Alderman you have to be a Freeman, member of a Livery Company, and a Justice of the Peace. The changes required are that another avenue is open to possible candidates other than becoming a JP which means they have to act as magistrates in court a certain number of times per  year, considered time consuming (although worthwhile) but interferes with their duties on City committees. Also there appears to be a rigorous examination and interview, which sadly more have failed than qualified recently.  Plus the fact that this is handled by the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, a Government department, and the Court of Common Council and its members are apolitical, so there is some contention here, that the Government should have the power to disqualify a possible candidate for Aldermanic duties. The other fear is, there will not be sufficient Aldermen moving through the ranks to qualify for Sheriff and hence lack of future candidates for Lord Mayors.

The argument ‘for’ and ‘against’ were numerous, against was the worry that it would undermine the quality of person being put forward, also the Lord Mayor also carries the title Chief Magistrate, so how can he maintain this title if he is not a JP?  The retort to this was, the Lord Mayor is also Admiral of the Port, and he was never a sailor! 

Those ‘for’ pointed out that the test of the magistracy today is ‘no longer fit for purpose’ and stops suitable persons from standing. Also run by a branch of Government; John Wilkes would have been appalled! (Sir John Stuttard MA).  Also mooted was that the electorate should choose the Aldermen and not the Advisory Committee as the City operates on democratic principles. The vote went for the Bill to be passed a second time and the majority agreed.

The bar (as in gate!) of the Court is closed
Members go about the business of voting
The Court ended in a Division, twelve members  stood up and refused to sit down and the Clerk had to call a ‘Division’, those ‘For’ leave by one door and those ‘Against’ by another, votes are cast and recounted.  The Court erupted into much chatter and activity until Council was ready to call the vote once more the Court came to order and settled down.  The Bill for an Act of Common Council : Aldermanic Eligibility was passed again and will be up for a third and final reading at the next meeting on 16th May 2013. I will definitely be there!

If you would like to know how a DIVISION works it's all here (Information from City of London Corporation):
14. Divisions 
(1) A Member demanding a Division must stand for that purpose. A Division 
will not be allowed unless 12 Members stand in their places to support the 
(2) If a Division is allowed, the Lord Mayor will ensure that two Tellers for the 
affirmative and two for the negative are appointed. If there are insufficient 
Members of the Court willing to act as Tellers, no Division will take place. 
(3) If a Division is allowed, the Town Clerk will ring the Division bell and at the 
expiration of three minutes he will ascertain whether a Division is still 
demanded. If so, the Bar of the Court will be closed after which no 9
Member may enter or leave the Court except for the purpose of recording 
his vote until the Division has been declared closed. 
(4) The Town Clerk will repeat the Motion and every Member then present 
and wishing to vote will cast his vote either for the affirmative or the 
negative (the Lord Mayor voting without leaving the Chair and having the 
right to a second, casting vote). The Ayes for the question will go through 
the Bar of the Court to the right of the Lord Mayor and the Noes through 
the Bar to the left, the votes being recorded at the respective exits.
Members will return to their seats through the central entrance. 
(5) Members wishing to abstain should remain seated and the Lord Mayor will 
seek confirmation of their intention before accepting a declaration from the 
Tellers that every Member wishing to vote has done so, after which the 
Bar of the Court will be re-opened and Members will return to their seats. 
(6) The Town Clerk will call for the Tellers’ reports and declare the result.

Friday, 3 May 2013

For Whom the Bells Toll

The silencing of Big Ben and the muffling of bells and drums for the funeral of Margaret Thatcher (17th April 2013) made me reflect on the importance of bells and their part in our history and ceremonial of  the City of London  and the whole country at large.

St Paul’s Cathedral in particular the great Wren masterwork and its role in honouring the great and good after death.

English: This print of the bell named Great To...
English: This print of the bell named Great Tom depicts one of the great bells associated with both the Palace of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The north-west tower contains twelve bells hung for change ringing plus a service bell, while the south-west contains four. This includes a bell named ‘Great Paul’, at 16 ½ tons the largest bell in the British Isles, cast in 1881 by Taylor’s bell foundry of Loughborough, Leicestershire.

Check out Church Bells of London  This article cannot be bettered for pictures and detailed information so do take a look. This bell is just about contained in its tower – it’s so large! 

This bell is in the company of ‘Great Tom’, the hour bell, which of course we hear often, especially noticeable when you are trying to talk over it!  It has been recast twice, the last time by Richard Phelps, after being moved from St Stephen’s Chapel at the Palace of Westminster.

Great Tom is only rung on occasions of a death in the royal family, the Bishop of London, or the lord Mayor of London, although an exception was made at the death of the US President John Garfield.

Richard Phelps cast two more bells in 1717 and added as ‘quarter jacks’.  They are still in use today and for  those bell ringers amongst us, some statistics; the first weights 13 long hundred weights (1,5000 lbs; 660kg) is 41” inches (1000mm) diameter and is tuned to A flat; the second weights 35 long hundredweights (3900 lbs; 1800kg) is 58” (1500mm) diameter and is tuned to E flat.

St. James Garlickhythe Church
St. James Garlickhythe Church (Photo credit: steve.wilde)
On a lighter chime, you may be wondering where the Royal Jubilee Bells went after the great celebration on the river. Having been beautifully crafted by The Whitechapel Foundry and rang their way along the Thames they are now inhabiting the tower of the beautiful church of St James Garlickhythe. They are named after Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and the rest of the family, Katharine and William’s names are share one bell.

The church and original bells were destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666 and rebuilt to a design by Sir Christopher Wren,  it has high clerestory windows which diffuse the church with light and is often called ‘Wren’s Lantern’. The woodwork in this church is outstanding.  New bells were installed from 1682 onwards but are now replaced by the new ring of eight bells which were ringing through London on the barge ‘Ursala Katharine’ at a quarter peel.  The bells were dedicated on 17 June 2012.

Other points of interest about the church. St James Garlickhythe was damaged when a crane fell from across the street in 1991. Pews were damaged but replaced by oak pews made from trees blown down on a Sussex estate in the hurricane of 1987.

Small table on either side of the altar are made from wood from the Marchioness pleasure boat which sank in 1989 with the loss of many young lives.

It also has connection with the Vintners Livery Company (across Upper Thames Street) and this is acknowledged by a wrought iron gate with grapes and vine leaves intertwined.

The Swan Marker And Swan
The Barge Master And Swan (Photo credit: steve.wilde)
A lovely sculpture dedicated to the Barge Master & Swan by Vivien Mallock (2007) stands in the courtyard, this is a reference to the ancient ceremony of Swan Upping carried out by the HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Vintners and Dyers Companies, the only three parties who have the right to keep and manage swans in the country, by Royal decree. The cygnets, young swans are tagged during a special ceremony called ‘Swan Upping’ and takes place during the third week in July.

This article originally appeared in

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