On Monday 18th September the Phoenix Masters Association held its first Annual General Meeting in the Court Room of Girdlers’ Hall. 65 members attended and heard that subscriptions have been received from 107 Past Masters from the Rt Hon Alderman Lord Mountevans’ year as Lord Mayor. A lively programme of events has been held with good support and there is a strong programme of upcoming events. Members were also consulted on the committee’s ideas to develop a further Purpose for the Association than just be a social organisation. This received widespread support and was further encouraged by our President, Jeffrey Mountevans and our Vice Presidents Alderman Charles Bowman and Dr Christine Rigden. We believe that if we our able to carry out these plans we will be breaking new ground.
After our meeting we adjourned for Champagne (genuine – we have resolved to only serve ourselves the real thing) in the garden. The Company is rightly proud of its garden, which regularly wins prizes in the City of London garden competitions.
It is a privilege to dine in Girdlers’ Hall as it is not generally available for hire. Our Treasurer Patrick Reeve is a Past Master Girdler and he made the arrangements. He also presided over our dinner and told us something of the history of the Company and the Hall.
The Company, which was involved in the making of girdles (or belts), received its Letter Patent from Edward III in 1327. The Girdlers flourished from medieval times until the end of the sixteenth century, when girdles began to go out of fashion. Even in its heyday, the Company overlapped with other crafts concerned with metal or leather and was at various times associated with the Pinners, the Cordwainers and the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers. Today the Girdlers’ Company no longer practices its craft, with the single proud exception that it has the privilege of presenting the sword belt for the Sword of State and stole for each Sovereign’s coronation.
In 1431, Andrew Hunt bequeathed the Company buildings and land which are substantially the site of the present Hall. Hunt’s buildings became the Company’s Hall, which was developed and improved over the years. In common with many other livery halls, this building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The replacement, built in 1681 at a cost of some £1,500, was destroyed by enemy action in 1940, and rebuilt in 1961.
The Hall contains a number of items precious to the company, and Patrick particularly drew our attention to the Bell Carpet, which hangs below the gallery in the Dining Room. It was commissioned by Past Master Robert Bell (a prominent member of the East India Company) in 1630, woven in Lahore and presented in 1634.
Our four course meal was delicious, washed down with no less than five fine wines, six if you include the Champagne. Our President, Jeffrey Mountevans gave a brief after dinner speech, congratulating the Association on its progress in its first year. He told us some of the amusing things that had happened to him in his year as Lord Mayor and then took questions from the members. We then adjourned for a stirrup cup bringing to an end a lovely evening in which many friendships were renewed and some new ones made.
And we are no longer the youngest Past Masters’ Association as the 2017 Masters met in Ironbridge in June and formed the Prime Masters PMA. Apparently 2017 is a Prime Number.