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February/March 2024

For the remainder of my Master’s blog, dear reader, I shall write about selected highlights rather than running the risk of boring you by detailing every single event. You certainly know you are nearing the end of your year as Master when the Newsletter team asks you to write an article which reviews your year ! As the old joke runs: “tempus fugit: time flies – indigo fugit: blue flies” (pause for groaning).

BM ARC: On the 8th February a dedicated group of Arts Scholars met in the middle of rural Berkshire to visit British Museum Archaeological Research Collection (known as the BM ARC). The trip had been meticulously organised by James Drabble and it was a tribute to his organisation that the entire group arrived at the remote location at Shinfield on time (by 11.00 am) and raring to go. After teas and coffees we were given a brief talk on the ARC’s construction. It is an amazing project.

One of the BM ARC conservation labs

Intrepid Arts Scholars at the BM ARC

The British Museum has built the ARC as it needed a new storage facility for hundreds of thousands of artifacts which are not generally on display. The ARC comprises three connected buildings which cover a total of 15,628-square-metre built on a site owned by the University of Reading. The university will provide support and advise on the storage and presentation of historical artifacts. BM ARC will also loan objects to other institutions and there are special conservation labs covering every aspect of ancient artefacts. Viewing will be possible by appointment. The project has cost £64 million, with £50 million provided by the government from the sale of Blythe House, where collections of several museums, including the British Museum, are stored; the rest has been raised from private donations.

The building is extraordinary and we were given a tour of some of the vast temperature-controlled warehouse with state-of-the-art shelving. We saw one warehouse filled with crates of plaster casts – some of which were parts of monumental buildings (one crate was labelled: miscellaneous casts from the Parthenon!). We also toured some of the labs and spoke to some of the conservationists who were excited about receiving deliveries of equipment they had ordered several months ago.

After a wonderful tour and walking what seemed like miles of corridors and vast rooms we were ready for lunch. So the group made their way to The Six Bells pub, only a mile or so away, where James had arranged our pre-ordered lunch. The different orders were efficiently served and I can testify that the fish and chips were excellent! It was a very jolly end to a fascinating visit.

The week of 12th February saw another series of WCAS Committee meetings which are the power houses for the efficient running of the Company. I was delighted to be invited to attend a meeting of the Trustees of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars Charitable Trust; just as the Chair of the Trustees attends WCAS Court meetings, it seems right that the Trustees invite the Master of the day to attend their meetings. I also had a meeting with Arts Scholar Michael Lewis at the British Museum to discuss the best applications for the Portable Antiquity Scheme interns which will be funded by the money raise at the Gala Charity Auction at Christie’s last September. Applications had been put in by Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) from counties all over the country. Michael emphasised what a big difference the interns would make to the two winning regions.

WINDSOR CASTLE : On the 21st February was another very special private visit to Windsor Castle for the Wardens, Deputy Master, the Clerk and those who chair Committees, as numbers were strictly limited. Arts Scholar Richard Williams had arranged this visit and this time we were treated to a tour of the Royal Library, Queen Mary’s Dolls House, the State Rooms, where our wonderful guide was the Governor and Warden of the Castle, Lieutenant General Philip Jones, and finally an incredibly special visit to the Grand Corridor, by kind permission of His Majesty the King. The corridor was built by Jeffry Wyatville between 1824 and 1828 on the instructions of George IV and it is full of astonishing paintings not to mention medal cabinets and marble busts and other works of art. Richard selected four or five key works of art and spoke with deep knowledge about each of them. There are a great many pictures by Canaletto and other masters; the paintings Zoffany and Winterhalter to be found here are truly astonishing.

We ended this wonderful visit by having drinks and canapés with the Governor and his wife in their residence in the Norman Tower. The Governor also gave us a tour of his study which incorporates an Edwardian part of the Castle (that is to say Edward I, rather than the post Victorian era) which even has the names of prisoners of war scratched into the stone walls. The evening was a marvellous way to say thank you for everything that the senior officers of the company do for the Arts Scholars.

On 28th February, Joanna was privileged to attend a select private lunch for consorts with the Lady Mayoress at the Mansion House.

Joanna attends a Private lunch at the Mansion House with the Lady Mayoress

ANTHOLOGY: On the last day of February, the Anthology evening was held at Pewterer’s Hall. Brilliantly organised by our Renter Warden, John Benjamin, in conjunction with our Clerk, the evening was entitled “Our Golden Future” and was billed as a special opportunity for six of our younger members and Award Winners to showcase their Lives and Careers. After Wendy Joseph (Master Pewterer and Art Scholar) had welcomed us and after I had a said a few introductory words, John introduced the speakers one by one.

Each speaker was articulate, wonderfully interesting and full of enthusiasm of their chosen career: Sophie Croft completed a nine month internship at the Royal Collections Trust supported by The Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars and now leads the conservation and installation of upcoming exhibitions at the Science Museum; Lewis Browning has recently joined the London office of Dawson’s Auctioneers as a business getter in their new Valuations Department; Alexandra Verney established her own company specialising in creative projects and events; together with her husband Nicholas Verney she is now custodian of the Claydon Estate in Buckinghamshire as well as being a Council member for the National Trust; Joseph Trinder is now at Wotton Auction Rooms, this time as Director and joint owner of the business; Henrietta Hammant is a museum anthropologist with a particular interest in the Polar regions; she is now Collections Coordinator at the Polar Museum, part of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, and is a Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars Research Award Winner; Camilla Szymanowska has worked in the rare book trade and is Secretary of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association; Last month Camilla was appointed Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Bakers. All in all, a wonderful Arts Scholars evening.

Anthology speakers: Alexandra Verney, Camilla Szymanowska; Sophie Croft, Henrietta Hammant, Lewis Browning, Joseph Trinder

On the 5th March, the Clerk and I were invited to attend a dinner at Furniture Makers Hall. We were warmly welcomed by the current Master of the Furniture Makers, Amanda Waring. A Past Master of the Arts Scholars, Christopher Claxton Stevens was also there as he is also a Past Master of Furniture Makers. The dinner was very splendid and very enjoyable indeed.

The Election Court was held at the Guildhall on 7th March. As well as Roy Sully, Deborah Charles and John Benjamin being elected to the next level of Wardens the Court unanimously elected Sonya Zuckerman as the new Renter Warden from 30th May 2024. Ken Dark was unanimously elected as a new member of Court. After the Court meeting, we had an Admissions ceremony for three new members: Catherine Southon, Lewis Browning (who spoke at the Anthology) and Simon Spier. For the dinner afterwards we were joined by many notable Arts Scholars including Philippa Glanville (Past Master) and David Needham. The three new members also joined us and it was a particularly happy and convivial atmosphere throughout the evening.

On March 11th, as the guest of Nic Somers, I attended a City Livery Club Lunch for their History and Antiques group. We gathered at the East India Club in St James’ Square and enjoyed an excellent meal with first class wines. The speaker after lunch was none other than our very own Clerk, Alan Cook, who gave a wonderful presentation on the history of decorated truncheons. Several actual examples were handed round and everyone was fascinated by Alan’s first-class and highly informed talk.

Legion Exhibition: As I would not be able to join the Arts Scholars group visit to the Roman Legion Exhibition at the British Museum later that month, I organised a private morning visit on 12th March for a few select Arts scholars – some of whom had been too late to get a place on the WCAS visit as it was “sold out”. I also invited the Governor of Windsor Castle by way of thanks for his hospitality and guiding for the recent private Arts Scholars visit. The Exhibition is fantastic. It is wonderfully laid out and brilliantly displayed and labelled. I have known the curator, Richard Abdy, as he works in Coins and Medals where I have volunteered for the last 14 years.

For me, the star exhibit is the only known Roman 3rd century shield to have survived. It is made of animal skin and wood and retains its vivid and highly decorated paintwork on the. It was found in Dura Europos which was a border Roman frontier city near the Euphrates (one of the most intact Mithraic temples was also found there). The Exhibition really brings to life what it was like to be a Roman soldier and will long live in my memory. It was a great privilege to have the curator give this special, private tour.

3rd Century Roman Shield from Dura Europos (Yale University, image public domain)

Later that same day, was one my favourite regular Arts Scholars events, the Pocket Lunch. Around twenty Arts Scholars gathered for a fish and chips lunch at the Guildhall. Not everyone brought a pocket item but 16 members did bring something and spoke for a few minutes about their item. John Benjamin brought a silver pig which doubled as a propelling pencil; Tim Schroder brought a modern silver bowl; Felicity Marno showed us a miniature bronze canon cast from the iron used as ballast in Captain Cook’s Endeavour; Alexander Aguilar brought a Japanese netsuke; Roderick Wright brought an Arita enamelled dish dating from 1650; John Hudson brought an ancient Mesopotamian bronze duck weight; Jack Ogden showed a medieval goldsmith’s tool; John Turquand brought a military silver wine goblet; Roger Massey brought an exquisite ceramic item; Nick Parnell brought a watercolour with theatrical links by Leslie Hurry; Robert Wilde-Evans brought a rare medal; Paula Carter brought a makeup box with an eye decoration that may have been given to Alice Keppel by Edward VII;

Andrew Gumley-Mason showed us a model of Samual Pepys and, probably most spectacular of all, John Axford brought a fabulous Jadeite imperial trinket. All the objects provoked discussion and even some jokes: when I asked Jack Ogden how you date a medieval goldsmith’s tool he replied : “you ask it out on Friday night!”. Another wonderful range of fascinating pocket objects at an enjoyable lunch which is typical of the wonderful company that is the Arts Scholars.

Pocket lunch: miniature bronze canon brought by Felicity Marno

On 14th March Joanna and I attended the Mansion House dinner given by all the Masters and Prime Wardens of Livery Companies (and the Upper Bailiff) and their consorts. This would probably be my last white tie event as Master.

United Guilds Service: Friday 15th March was another triple event day. Firstly, we attended the magnificent United Guilds service at St Pauls Cathedral. It is a wonderful sight to see all the Masters and Prime Wardens gathering at St Pauls and then the wonderful procession including all the City functionaries, the Sheriffs and Lord Mayor. The service was inspiring with wonderful music which included an anthem by Edward Elgar. The sermon, preached by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Revd. Andrew Tremlett, pulled no punches on topical matters of the day. After the service, many Arts Scholars walked to Apothecaries Hall where we were warmly welcomed by Master Apothecary, Air Vice Marshal Aroop Mozumder, for a splendid lunch. Finally, Joanna and I raced back to Berkshire where I was on Royal duty hosting HRH the Duke of Edinburgh as Vice Lord Lieutenant.

Colourful livery gowns at the United Guilds Service St Pauls Cathedral

On 20th March Joanna joined the WCAS group for the private visit to the Roman Legion Exhibition at the BM while I was on VLL duty again in Berkshire. Many Arts Scholars said afterwards how much they enjoyed the visit to this brilliant exhibition.

Modern Livery Companies Dinner: On 27th March, the Upper Warden, Roy Sully, and I attended the Modern Liveries Dinner at Armourers Hall. The definition of a modern livery company is one formed in or after 1932. Different companies take it in turns to organise and host this event and this year we were hosted by the Worshipful Company of Solicitors. The idea for this company was hatched as early as 1908 and their coat of arms granted in 1926 but the Company did not become a Livery company until 1944, hence their inclusion in the modern livery group. Purely as an observation, it makes you realise how quickly the Arts Scholars was able to progress to becoming a Livery Company, complete with Royal Charter, in such a comparatively short time. Bravo to all concerned.

The Master Solicitor, Sarah de Gay, highlighted the extraordinary portraits in Armourers Hall and especially the Tudor painting of Anne Vavasour, a busy lady who was lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth I and mistress to two high profile members of the Tudor Court ( the portrait can be seen on the right hand side, in the background of the photo below). It was most convivial evening in the spectacular Armourers’ Hall.

Stephen Sidebottom ( Master, HR Professionals), your own Master Arts Scholar, Elise Rasmussen (Master, Tobacco Pipe Makers) at the Modern Livery Companies Dinner, Armourers Hall




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Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed by the author of this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars or its members.

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