One begins to think about one’s year as Master of the Turners’ Company at the Livery Dinner in the previous December (2013 in my case). An official photograph is taken in evening dress and one borrows the Master’s Chain of Office for the occasion. It feels good!
My first formal engagement was the Bodgers Ball – a must for anyone interested in woodcraft. The Mistress Turner and I marvelled at the best of woodcraft from shave-horse to pole-lathe.
Our first major event of the year was a weekend at the Ironbridge Museum in Shropshire with 80 Masters of Livery Companies and their partners. Many will say that this is one of the highlights of a Master’s Year – it’s certainly action packed and I was able to meet the Ironbridge Resident Turner in his own workshop.
He was turning a stone-mason’s mallet out of a reclaimed lignum vitae lawn bowl into which he was planning to insert a shaft of American hickory wood. Wonderful to see a true craftsman at work. Ironbridge is always worth a visit.
Next came a visit to Capel Manor Horticultural College in Enfield. As guests of the Master Gardener, HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, we enjoyed a guided tour of the magnificent grounds followed by a delicious English country cream tea.
Shortly afterwards we had the pleasure of attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace.I was told that cameras weren’t allowed but suspect I was one of the few guests there without one. It was particularly enjoyable to have had Lindy with me on many occasions during my Master’s year. Since we are both working we spend far too little time together and so I took every opportunity to ensure she was with me whenever invitations allowed.
In September I attended a City Breakfast with our good friends at the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers, waving bon voyage to the Turners’ sponsored taxi driven by Alex Robertson, our Clerk, on route to Disneyland Paris. Every year 100 London taxis take seriously ill children for a wonderfully happy weekend with their families. Sadly Kusera, aged six (the elder of the two girls in this picture), only lived for a few months after her visit. She died in the New Year.
November is a very busy month for Master Turners. An outgoing and incoming Lord Mayor, Remembrance Services, Court Meetings, our Patronal Service, the Harrogate Show and
other livery functions. In all I attended 28 functions including making an after-dinner speech for the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers.
Mistresses and Consorts have a busy year of their own. Lindy organised an afternoon tea party at The Reform Club in December for some twenty five other Mistresses and Consorts. A guided tour of the Club highlighted some splendid examples of turning in Regency and early Victorian furniture and a display of outstanding signature work by the late Bert Marsh and Joey Richardson, Margaret Garrard, Simon Hope, Stuart Mortimer and Paul Coker.
The Patronal Service at St Bride’s was particularly evocative for the Bridgeman household as this is where the Mistress and Master were married.
In the New Year I had the pleasure of conceiving a Presentation Chalice in sycamore modelled on the world famous wedding cake Spire of St Bride’s Church as a design-and-make commission for Liveryman Paul Coker. We presented it to our retiring Chaplain, Canon the Reverend David Meara at the 2015 Ladies’ Dinner; he was thrilled.
In the New Year one has a growing realisation that the year as Master is finite but with little time to dwell on it.
In January there is a children’s Fancy Dress Party given by the Lord Mayor! The photograph below shows our grand-daughter Tilly in her Hogwarts outfit, having just cast a spell on
a mounted Police Officer.
Time too to learn more about one’s Livery Company, as I began my next piece of research – the importance of turners’ pulley wheels to the success of the Royal Navy’s fighting ships in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
At a visit to the Royal Windsor Horse Show in March we were able to see Joey Richardson in her role as a QEST scholar. Her breathtaking artistry never fails to inspire all who see it. And before we knew it, the next Bodgers Ball had come around again. This year in Sherwood Forest.
I enjoyed helping to judge classes and resting my weary legs in a chair that went on to win its class. We also had the pleasure of meeting up again with Mr and Mrs James Pumfrey, demonstrators at last Summer’s Reception, and now with their beautiful baby daughter Rose. And of course, no Bodgers Ball could ever be complete without a Green Man!
What an honour. What a Master’s Year – and with over 200 engagements. Thank you Turners’ Company.
John Bridgeman CBE TD DL