Mansion House, London

The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress ‘At Home‘ to The Phoenix Masters

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Just three weeks and five days after being installed as Lord Mayor, the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Alderman Charles Bowman, Vice President of the Phoenix Masters Association and his wife, Samantha, the Lady Mayoress, entertained the Phoenix Masters at their new ‘home’, the Mansion House. The event was very well supported with nearly two-thirds of the membership in attendance.

The group was first given a tour including some of the private rooms of the house. Until the mid-18th century, Lord Mayors used their own houses or livery halls for their work as the head of the City’s governmental, judicial and civic functions. In 1752 Sir Crispin Gascoigne was the first Lord Mayor to take up residence in the newly built Mansion House. It was designed by George Dance the Elder who was a devotee of the great 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio who based his ‘Palladian style on the designs of Roman architects like Vitruvius. In the lexicon of Palladian style, the huge columns used in the main reception rooms of the Mansion House are deemed to be ‘Egyptian’, hence ‘The Egyptian Room’.

One particularly popular attraction was the Plate Room where dozens of items of gold and silver plate are stored and displayed. Many are gifts from former Lord Mayors and Past Master Marketor David Pearson was delighted to see that the very first item on display, a huge gold cup, was the gift of his great grandfather’s first cousin Sir John Bell, who was Lord Mayor in 1906-7.

Our guides delighted in pointing out items we might not have noticed before even though we had all been there many times before. The bust in the downstairs reception is of a Lord Mayor who died in office. He also has a plaque in St Paul’s Cathedral to his name. The priceless collection of Dutch and Flemish 17th century art was the gift of the wife of Baron Samuel of Wych Cross, founder of Land Securities. He had collected the works with the help of the dealer Edward Speelman. As most of the works are small he wanted them to be seen in a house, close to eye level, rather than a vast gallery where they might disappear on large walls. Two are shown together as in the later one an art pupil is seen copying the older picture.

We gathered for a sumptuous tea in the ballroom where we were joined by our host. He told us how thrilled he is to be in post and how much he appreciated the considerable support he is getting from the Phoenix Masters. With his two successors, subject to election, Alderman Peter Estlin and Alderman William Russell, he is entering into a new spirit of cooperation across three years, not just one.

They are talking a 4 3 2 1 approach to building A Better City for All.

They will work on four key pillars to build a City that is Inclusive, Healthy, Skilled and Fair.

They will deliver ground-breaking programmes with their three charity partners, Place2Be, OnSide Youth Zones and Samaritans, and continue to develop their three thought leadership initiatives: the Power of Diversity, This is Me and City Giving Day.

Their work will benefit two communities: City employees and their family and friends as well as residents of neighbouring communities.

They have one aim: A Better City for All.

The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, working on the three charities was launched at Mansion House on 20th November and the Phoenix Masters were represented at the presentation. The new approach is clearly working because Charles told us that already £500,000 had been pledged by businesses over the three-year programme.

Charles’ main theme for the year will be that of seeking to rebuild trust in business. He proposes that we work together to:

  • Inspire businesses to operate with integrity and grow their positive impact
  • Support businesses and their leaders to meet tomorrow’s challenges
  • Bring the City together to explore the changing role of business in society
  • Work with others at home and abroad to build trust in business
  • Connect with communities to take the discussion beyond business

Charles then took questions and in a lively session told us his plans on everything from Brexit to how fast he expected to run the 5 kilometre charity run later that afternoon. There was a particularly interesting discussion on the idea that the Livery Companies should work together more closely to explain their total charitable activities, not just the money they give, but also the time and support to schools, the armed forces, churches, charities and many SMEs. Incalculable value is created through these activities. Charles is very supportive of this approach and has set a date of 14th June 2018 to showcase this at Mansion House.

In thanking Charles and Samantha for their generous hospitality, the chairman Mark Chambers pointed out how the Phoenix Masters were working closely with the Samaritans to help them launch their new programme and were planning to actively support City Giving Day. Finally, Mark presented Charles with a Phoenix Masters shirt as worn by the rowing crew on Lord Mayor’s Day when Gloriana ‘bumped’ the Phoenix boat.

As Secretary and Past Master Engineer Isobel Pollock-Hulf OBE said: “It was an amazingly positive turnout from Phoenix Masters and a very enjoyable afternoon.”


David Pearson

December 2017