With every one of the 110 Livery Companies represented (together with Companies, Guilds and other civic and City organisations) St Paul’s Cathedral was filled to capacity on Friday 16th March for the 2018 United Guilds Service. Masters, Prime Wardens and the Upper Bailiff were all bedecked in their company livery, and accompanied by their robed Clerks and Beadles, making for a dazzling array of colours and decorations throughout the Cathedral in the shafts of Spring sunlight.
This grand celebration and thanksgiving, established in 1943 to demonstrate solidarity in the face of enemy action, is a reminder of the religious origins of the Guilds, and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich delivered an invigorating homily on a theme of cooperation.
His words, drawing on his experiences as Vicar of the Isle of Dogs, and now as a Bishop in a rural diocese, underlined the importance of narrowing divides, mutual support and striving for a vision of Heaven on Earth. The Livery, is, he said, espousing these ideals by building relationships across society and in education, and helping neighbours to become friends.
There was ample opportunity to put the Bishop’s words into practice as Freemen Entrepreneurs made their way to Carpenters’ Hall in Throgmorton Avenue for lunch thereafter. The Carpenters’ Company, with their customary generosity, had opened their magnificent Hall to a number of itinerant Livery Companies and the Guild of Entrepreneurs for a champagne reception and splendid buffet lunch. The atmosphere of the lunch is always one of jollity, and, with no formal seating plan, Freemen Entrepreneurs and their guests were able to get to know members of the Worshipful Companies of Plumbers, Tylers & Bricklayers, Gardeners, Clockmakers and Builders’ Merchants – neighbours became friends.
The Master Carpenter, Mrs Rachel Bower, warmly welcomed all her guests, and this year it was the turn of the Master Gardener, Mr David Green CB QC, to respond. The Master Gardener, professionally eloquent and appropriately brief, thanked the Carpenters’ Company on behalf of all the guests for its hospitality – to which there was a concurrent “hear hear” and applause. Friendships strengthened across Livery Companies old and new, all those present looked forward with great anticipation to next year’s event.
The United Guild Service is held a fortnight before Good Friday. A small number of tickets are allocated to the Guild of Entrepreneurs early in the year, and the Clerk offers these to Freemen according to seniority. Lunch is held at Carpenters’ Hall. It is available to all Freemen and guests (though priority is given to those holding tickets to the Service) and must be pre-booked. For more information, please contact the Clerk.