Sunday 30 September 2012

460th Anniversary of the Foundation of Christ’s Hospital

As the school I attended in South Africa was only 25 years old at that stage I am somewhat in awe of schools that have survived for hundreds of years.

September 21 saw me back at St Paul’s for the second time that week for the celebration of the 460th Anniversary of the Foundation of Christ’s Hospital School.  For my overseas readers – hospital in this context was closer to its earlier meaning  charitable institution to house and maintain the needy” rather than place for the sick.

The school was the result of the vision of King Edward VI, assisted by Nicholas Ridley the Bishop of London and the Lord Mayor of the City of London. King Henry VIII had already granted the use of Greyfriars to the City for the relief of the poor. Edward granted the Palace of Bridewell, his lands at the Savoy and "rents and other chattels" to create three Royal ‘Hospitals’ — including Christ's Hospital, which was for the education of poor children. The first boys and girls entered the school in Newgate in 1552.
The school is very unusual for a British independent school as a proportion of the pupils are educated free and most at a reduced rate. Pupils are means tested and the fees adjusted accordingly so that children from all walks of life are able to have a high quality education.  It is therefore no surprise that the school is enthusiastically supported by City of London institutions, (including the Needlemakers).
The service was most impressive with a school choir and orchestra.  The pupils still wear the traditional dress with their long coats (it was originally known as the Bluecoat School) and I am assured that when regularly asked about the uniform they have no desire to change.  Do look at the website Christ's Hospital and an interesting cutting Local pupils vote to keep their uniform!

St Paul’s Cathedral – and the choir school

One of the great joys of this year has been listening to wonderful music: not only at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama but also at several churches, especially St Pauls.

On September 19 I attended Evensong at St Pauls which included the installation of a new Minor Canon and it was a feast of organ and choral music. This was followed by a short recital by the choristers and a talk on the choir school and some brief interviews with some of the choristers. 

All the Livery Companies that sponsor choristers then lined up with their choristers for a group photo and we had the opportunity to meet them and talk to them.  Some are so young  (seven!) and yet appeared so confident. 

The choristers then departed and we repaired to the Crypt for drinks and canapés. 

It is difficult to see very much but the overall view is stunning. I am standing in the middle my head barely showing above our chorister – look for the very tall man and I am on his left. 

The photo is copyright of St Paul’s Cathedral and the photographer is Mark Laing. 

Sunday 23 September 2012

Visit to the Royal School of Needlework

It is several years since the Needlemakers visited the Royal School of Needlework and a group visited on September 13. We are very proud that the Chief Executive, Dr Susan Kay-Hamilton, is a Liveryman.

The main focus of this visit was the exhibition that celebrates “140 years of the RSN” and it will be on until March 2013.  A brief history - 
in 1872 Lady Victoria Welby founded the School of Art Needlework in London with the first students being registered on 5 November 1872.  Within a month or two, Princess Helena, Queen Victoria’s third daughter became the President. By 1875 they had the Queen’s Patronage and became the Royal School of Art Needlework, exhibiting internationally for the first time in 1876 in the USA. The exhibition features 140 objects including archive materials, photographs and embroideries from the different decades.

One suspects that this is but the tip of the iceberg and there must be many more items in the archives of great interest.  The School is not locked in the past and while “ladies” may still embroider the students are looking to careers, which will use their skills, whether it will be in, for example, fashion or restoration and offers fully accredited degree programmes.

The School of course undertakes commissioned work whether it is restoration, a very special wedding dress last year, working from original designs or finishing a piece of work for someone. Not only churches and royalty are customers – anyone can commission a piece of work. (There is a lovely Paul Smith man’s suit on display with exquisitely embroidered motifs elegantly placed.)

My mother had an eighteenth century chair which had lost its covering and was just upholstered in canvas. She approached the RSN in the late 1970s and they did some research and produced a canvas for needlepoint, which replicated the type of design that would have been on the chair. They supplied all the yarn and she completed the chair, which I am very proud now to use. Have a look at some of the commissions they have undertaken.  See Studio work.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Horn: an everyday plastic!

The holiday is over and back to work – well, not really work.  The first function was the Court only dinner on Tuesday September 4, which we held at the Savile Club in the West end this year.  This was a change from what is normally a City venue and some of the men took the opportunity to wear their white tuxedos (not de rigeur in the City)! 

The various Needlemaker committees met on Wednesday where we reviewed the year to date and discussed plans for the year ahead.  In about a month I will hand over the reins to a new Master but no time to reflect on that just yet.

I ended the day at a fascinating exhibition by the Horners' Company.  The exhibition has been on throughout the summer.  Like many Livery Companies, the Horners has moved its focus from its original craft into a modern evocation. Horn is a natural plastic (keratin) which can be moulded into many articles from combs and buttons to beakers and pressed into translucent sheets for lantern leaves and even windows.

The Company’s charitable activities support science and the promotion of plastic design and technology.  The collection is held at the Museum of Design in Plastics within the Arts University College at Bournemouth.

The current Master, Georgina Scott, is also the first woman to be Master of the Company – here we are in front of one of the exhibition cases (thanks to photographer, Stephen Blunt, from London Metropolitan University for sending the photo).  
My personal favourites in the exhibition were a selection of fans made out of horn and some very elegant contemporary jewellery made by some of their prize-winners.