I become increasingly concerned that our Heritage, of which we should be so proud is being gradually airbrushed into the past.  I have decided therefore to dedicate this section to the Ceremonies and Customs which have been in existence for hundreds of years.

I would like to thank Norman Woolley for the following articles, together with the wonderful photographs.  Norman and I  have known each other for many years, maybe more years than we care to count!!!!!!!


The Worshipful Company Basketmakers.

Among the primitive crafts, basketmaking is one of the oldest known. Older than the weaving of cloth, more ancient than the early ceramic art, the interlacing of twigs into wickerwork is in all probability contemporary with first clipping of flint into arrow-heads.

The Worshipful Company Basketmakers was established by an Order of the Court of Aldermen on 22nd September 1569, and is fifty-second in order of precedence among the 103 Livery Companies in the City of London. There are, however, earlier references to basketmaking in the City, particularly in the records of the Brewers' Company for 1422.

        The Company's Chief Officers were known as Upper Warden and Under
Warden until 1846, when their titles were changed to Prime Warden and Junior

        The Basketmakers Company is one of six, out of the Livery Companies
which give the title Prime Warden, rather than Master, to their most senior
Officer. Before 1785 the office of Upper Warden was normally held for two
years and after that date for varying periods. In 1881- following an
occupancy of the Company's chief office for thirty-five years! - the present
practice of the Prime Warden serving for one year only became the rule.

        In 1997 the Company petitioned the Privy Council for a third Warden,
which was granted; the three Wardens now being known as The Prime Warden,
Upper Warden and Under Warden.

The first Christian church in Britain, in Glastonbury in Somerset, had a roof of straw constructed on a structure of wickerwork. Relics from this Church dated first century A.D. have been found preserved in the mud deposits of ancient fenland. The first monastery of Iona founded in 563 A.D. by St. Columba was made of wickerwork as the early chroniclers have written "sent forth the monks to gather twigs to build their hospice".

Thomas Birch, a basket-maker in 1776, erected a scaffold of wickerwork around Islington Church steeple so the ascent to repair the steeple was rendered safe. Some two thousand Londoners paid sixpence for admission to the wicker staircase.

Prior to 1569, English basketmakers obtained their freedom of the City and were permitted to practice their trade within its walls by joining the Butchers' Company, whose members used baskets extensively. In those days, Pudding Lane was largely inhabited by basketmakers, turners and butchers. Like the butchers, the turners not only used baskets but also sold them; and we hear of basketmakers becoming Freemen of the Turners' Company.

Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the Company made its first attempt to obtain a Charter from the Crown. Nothing, however, came of this nor of subsequent applications made in 1682, 1685 and 1698. Eventually a Royal Charter was granted by King George VI in 1937 and was personally presented by Queen Mary, when she attended the Guildhall Exhibition of basketware that year.

The first recorded efforts to obtain the grant of a Livery took place in 1775, but it was not until 1825 that this was achieved, with a limit of thirty members. During the twentieth century there had been a steady increase in numbers to the permitted five hundred. The Basketmakers' Livery currently stands in the region of around three hundred.
In common with many Livery Companies, the Basketmakers Company still maintains a close link with their trade, through the Basketmakers Association, as well as supporting their interest in education.

The Zürich Guilds spectacular visit to London

Norman Woolley, a Past Prime Warden of the Basketmakers Company, with the help of Basketmakers Court Assistant John Clarke, organised a hugely successful participation of the 26 Guilds from Zürich in the Lord Mayor¹s Show on the 8th November.

On the eve of the Show the Guilds hosted a Banquet in Guildhall for 920 Guild Members and guests. Their bands assembled to play in Guildhall Yard as guests were arriving; the wife of a former Lord Mayor, Lady Sally Oliver, stated on television, when she was commentating on the Lord Mayor's Show "a remarkable sight".  At the reception beforehand the new Lord Mayor, Alderman Robert Finch,  graciously said a few words, and to much cheering confirmed that he will be attending the Sechseläuten Parade in Zürich in April 2004.  One of the speakers at the Banquet was Sir Alan Traill, who as Lord Mayor in 1984, invited the Zürich Guilds over; then around 70 Guild Members attended, this year we had 900!  The splendid meal had a typically English theme with the Roast Beef carried in by two chefs for the approval of Raymond Porchet, Honorary Guildmaster of the Zunft zur Letzi, who organised the Swiss side of the visit.


Ceremony of the roast beef





Some 700 Guild members were marching in the  Parade with Raymond Porchet, Norman Woolley and his wife Julie proudly leading the procession at the head of the Swiss banner bearers.  Members from all 26 Zürich Guilds, together with many of their ladies, dressed in their colourful costumes were represented, accompanied by stirring music from their three bands. Also 40 Guild Members rode horses provided by the Household Cavalry.  The Pageant Master, Dominic Reid, said normally a float would take 20 seconds to pass by a fixed point, but the Zürich Guilds and the Basketmakers took four minutes! 




Members of the Basketmakers Company were marching in the procession, with others riding on the blue Michelin Bus generously provided by Richard Walduck of the Imperial Hotel Group who also arranged accommodation for the party of 900 from Zürich.  Also on the bus was a small replica  of the Böögg. The Böögg is the name given to the effigy of a snowman which is burnt in public as a symbol for the banishing of Old Man Winter in the Zürich April Sechseläuten Festival.  It was originally a pagan fire cult to celebrate the return of Spring. The 3m high Böögg sits on a 13m high pile of bonfire logs; at exactly 6 pm the fire is lit and mounted Guildsmen start riding around the blazing fire.  The flames soon engulf the Böögg whose body is stuffed with explosives and, legend has it, when his head explodes that is the defining moment for the beginning of Spring.  The Böögg was featured in the spectacular evening fireworks display on the River Thames after the Lord Mayor's Show, watched from two 500 seater trip boats by both the Swiss and members of those Livery Companies with Guild associations.

Returning to Tower Pier, after the fireworks display, Guild and Livery members enjoyed an evening of celebration, at several locations. Some 400 to Guildhall Crypts, involving an impromptu march through the City streets led by the Schmiden Band playing all the way to  Guildhall!

There are 26 Guilds in Zürich of which six  have associations with City Livery Companies.  Those Livery Companies who participated and hosted events in this Lord Mayor's Show were:-


The Dinner hosted by the Livery Companies in Guildhall on Lord Mayor's Show day was another splendid affair.  Everyone was still in their parade costumes making it very colourful indeed, with sponsors, enabling the hosting of our friends from the Guilds. The Schmiden band enthralled all present with their music, engendering much conviviality as the evening progressed, ending with a mock ceremony for Raymond Porchet, electing him ŒKing of Switzerland with a cloak and crown. On the 11th November Raymond Porchet, Honorary Guildmaster of the Zunft zur Letzi, received the Freedom of the City of London, being proposed by none other than The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor Alderman Robert Finch.  

The visit of the Zürich Guilds to London further emphasised the relationship between the Guilds and the Liveries,  and  provided a unique opportunity to cement the links between two of the greatest financial centres in the world, London & Zürich.  The Basketmakers have had some wonderful publicity and recognition for organising this hugely successful event for which they should be very proud



The Guildhall Banquet


                 When not cruising  the waterways in our canal narrow boat I do tend to get involved with other ‘boating’ activities, one of which is  the wonderful experience of  some memorable voyages on a Royal Navy             

      By way of explanation the  Livery Companies of the City of London derived from the ancient Trade Guilds  who were responsible for the quality of goods manufactured by their members.  They are currently known as ‘Livery Companies’, nothing to do with horses or  livery stables, but adopted the ‘Livery’ title which referred to the gowns and  dress worn by members to distinguish them from other companies. If you have  access to the internet the web site of my Livery Company, The Worshipful  Company of Basketmakers, < > will give you some  useful background history. Most Livery Companies have at their head a Master,  but six companies, including mine, give ‘Prime Warden’ as the title to their  Master. 

Frigate HMS RICHMOND. This has arisen as a result of my involvement as a  Freeman and Liveryman of one of the Livery Companies of the City of  London.

    I am a Liveryman and Past Prime Warden  of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers, and have for many years been the  liaison contact between our Livery Company and our adopted ship in the Royal  Navy, HMS Richmond, a class 23 Frigate which  in 2005 featured in the  news when, whilst on “Drug Busting” deployment in the Caribbean, they  undertook emergency relief duties in the aftermath of hurricane Ivan. Our  Livery Company is most fortunate to enjoy such an association , but my task in  keeping in touch is not always an easy one, for being a ship they go away  around the world, which gives me quite a challenge to keep in contact. Their  many tours of duty, whilst I have been responsible for keeping in touch, also  embraced the last Gulf War. As Commanders, or Captains of the Ship  are  normally appointed for around one year to eighteen months you no sooner get to  know the Commander and his many Officers, than everything changes and you  start all over again.

    Far from being  secretive, the Royal Navy have a very good web site < >  which gives a great deal of information on our naval capability, listing the  several ships who all have their own news page, and reports appear on a  regular basis.

    Rather than recount a particular  voyage, let me extract experiences from those I have enjoyed on board.  

    The Ship is based at Portsmouth, so apart from  the “Family and Associates” days out on the Solent which are organised from  time to time, over the years I have been privileged to have several overnight  voyages on board Richmond when they have been on courtesy visits around the  UK. Most of these have been an overnight voyage from Portsmouth to the Pool of  London, where on such courtesy visits Richmond takes up a mooring alongside  HMS Belfast. It is quite an experience coming through Tower Bridge, with the  bascules fully vertical and tugs attached fore and aft, somewhat different  treatment when I have come under Tower Bridge in our canal narrow boat,  ‘Bruin’! I imagine that it is often the first voyage you have on such a Ship  which leaves the biggest impression, never having been on board a Naval   Frigate before. My previous experiences were on overnight ferries from  Harwich to Esbjerg and Southampton to Lisbon, so a Class 23 Frigate was  something entirely new. Every possible opportunity for training the Ship’s  crew is taken, and whilst on passage to London I watched a demonstration of  fire fighting and man overboard drill. It is interesting to find out that  large baulks of timber are stored throughout the Ship with which to carry out  emergency repairs to damage where  the hull may have been breached. There  are various states of readiness, either when carrying out certain exercises,  or when in busy shipping lanes. Whilst the Ship is in port the several  watertight doors in the bulkheads are all open, and you can see from one end  of the Ship to the other, quite a vast distance, being some 436 feet in  length, but in a high state of alert all bulkheads are shut and have to be  opened and closed behind you as you progress through the Ship. At night the  only illumination throughout the Ship, other than in your cabin, is by red  lights which takes some getting accustomed to, particularly when you go onto  the bridge which seems to be in total darkness until your eyes get used to  your surroundings. Fortunately I have good night vision which is a great  benefit. On my first trip on board, my companion, a fellow Basketmaker, and I  had our overnight bunks in the Wren’s cabin, but we got it slightly wrong as  any Wrens on board were being accommodated elsewhere.  The weather was  quite rough on this first trip from Portsmouth to London, and although my  fellow Basketmaker and I were given sea sick pills he had to take to his bunk  at one stage. Prior to this trip I never realised that when a ship comes up  the Thames estuary two Pilots are taken on board, the Estuary Pilot, at an  inspiring location, Sunk Buoy, who at Gravesend goes ashore to be replaced by  the River Pilot. It was dark when we picked up the Estuary Pilot off   Sunk Buoy, and as I watched from the bridge some 30 feet above sea  level, the Pilot Cutter disappeared in the trough of the wave before  reappearing on the crest of the next wave, so I concluded it was somewhat  lumpy! We then anchored overnight off Southend ready to make passage up river  to London the following morning. On raising the anchor it became fouled in  some cable which had to be removed before we could leave. The River Pilot came  on board at Gravesend and the Estuary Pilot went ashore. Coming up river  provided a better view from the Ship’s bridge than I had some years before  from my canal narrow boat coming back from the Medway. Two tugs joined us near  the Woolwich Ferry, one taking a line at the bow and the other at the stern to  guide us through the Woolwich Barrier and later Tower Bridge. My most recent  trip on HMS Richmond from Portsmouth to London was in February 2005 when we  came through Tower Bridge just before dawn; what a wonderful sight to see  London and Tower bridge illuminated during darkness, a different scenario  which should be experienced.

    I was again  accompanied on this last trip by a fellow Basketmaker, and we had the amazing  experience of a flight in the Ship’s Lynx helicopter. This was just after we  left Portsmouth, having suffered a delay when a problem was discovered with  the steering gear, so by the time we took to the air it was approaching dusk.  We both had to be dressed in survival suits, just in case we ditched, and you  will see from the photograph that we looked rather like a pair of aliens. It  was a memorable flight as we twice buzzed the Ship which was going at a good  speed to make up for the late departure. As you can appreciate landing on the  flight deck of the fast moving Ship was quite  something.

    Another memorable occasion, in  February 2004, was when I joined the Ship at Hull and sailed overnight to  Portsmouth. The Ship was due to leave Hull at 10.30, so I travelled North the  previous day, and stayed nearby with some friends overnight, so that I could  board at 08.00 to be in good time before the Ship was due to depart. On the  Monday evening before boarding, I enjoyed a visit with my friends to ”The  Deep” in Hull, a wonderful experience to watch sharks and other sea creatures  in this vast aquarium, to which I would certainly recommend a visit, but  perhaps not on a Monday, as Hull seemed totally dead that evening, with many  restaurants closed, but we were fortunate in finding an “eat as much as you  can” Chinese restaurant where we enjoyed a splendid meal.  

    The Ship was moored in  King George Dock  and required assistance from a tug to navigate through the lock which was a  very tight fit for both vessels in the same chamber. Once through the lock we  made our way out of the Humber estuary and seemed to be heading North along  the shipping channel, rather than as I expected, South. The number of oil rigs  in the area was amazing, almost like a small forest, and once clear of this  area we headed South towards the English Channel. The navigation aids on  board, as one would expect, are to a mere canal boater, most sophisticated,  being able to plot the course and speed of any vessel within radar range. At  one point we had to take evasive action to avoid the many fishing boats, where  our range of speed became very useful as the Ship was manoeuvred through what  became a veritable fleet of fishing boats.  On this voyage, as on most  previous occasions,  I was given accommodation in the cabin of an Officer  who was on leave, but on an earlier one my bunk was on the waterline, quite  unnerving to hear the sea washing by my ear literally inches away, happily on  the outside of the steel hull. We docked in Portsmouth the following day at  13.30, from whence I returned home by train.     

    HMS Richmond is at present  in dry dock at Portsmouth undergoing a major refit, so communication with the  Senior Naval Officer in charge during this period is made easier as he is on  dry land for a while.

    As my wife and I own a  canal narrow boat, ‘Bruin’,  my main boating interests are centred on the  inland waterways, where as you are well aware we tend to navigate by the pubs  rather than GPS, but I also enjoy sea sailing, and count myself so fortunate  to have the opportunity of such a variety of pursuits on the water, whether it  be fresh or salt.

Kindly written by Norman Woolley

The Joy of Navigating the Inland Waters.

Life in the Slow Lane

   I am one of the two members in the City Livery Yacht Club who own a canal narrow boat, and I have been asked to relate some of the pleasures of navigating the inland waters of the United Kingdom. As a Yacht Club, accounts of voyages enjoyed by our members relate to sea passages, so perhaps I may give a flavour of the pleasures and enjoyment derived from several voyages which my wife Julie and myself have undertaken during the 15 years we have owned our own boat ³Bruin². She is of steel construction, 59 feet in length and 6 feet 10 inches beam with a draught of 2 feet 5 inches. With only an air draught of 5 feet 5 inches most low bridges can be navigated.

   The English canal system in recent years has seen a boom in restoration with many redundant canals being reopened, for example whereas only one route was open across the Pennines, the Leeds and Liverpool canal, two more have recently been restored, the Rochdale canal and the Huddersfield narrow canal, adding many more miles to the 6,000 of canals and rivers available to cruise.

   We started our pleasure boating in hire boats way back in 1975, great holidays for the children, and had our own boat built in 1989. Since then we have covered most of the English waterways. It is quite surprising how many cities can be visited by canal, Guildford on our local waterway the river Wey, Maidstone and Tonbridge on the Medway, yes we have been sighted off Southend pier, Bath and Bristol, the Severn estuary was quite an experience, Worcester, Coventry Chester, Leeds, Skipton, York, Wigan, Oxford, Cambridge, Lincoln, Boston and of course the much rejuvenated centre of Birmingham; the list is endless.

   Now earlier I mentioned the pleasures of boating on the inland waterways, which when I mention Birmingham may be difficult to imagine. I am certain that many of you must have woken in the early morning on your mooring to a mist hanging over the water which was slowly cleared as the sun came up at the dawn of a glorious day, something very precious to treasure in ones minds eye. Even more special if you happen to be moored in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales with the prospect of a wonderful day¹s walk through magnificent scenery ahead of you. A trip on a steam train perhaps, I tell you riding the Settle Carlisle railway is magnificent, or perhaps exploring an ancient castle such as at Skipton.

   On occasion we have set off before dawn, either to catch the tide when navigating a connecting link between waterways, or to avoid the heat of the day as was the case in many instances last summer. The early morning mist rising off the fields, in the hedgerows the cobwebs glistening with the early morning dew, and of course the many fantastic sun rises, the best time of the day when everything is so fresh does make it so very worth while making the effort to rise early. When it comes to refuelling the inner man, or woman of course, good pubs and restaurants abound along the waterways, we found a splendid fish and chip restaurant in Skipton, a meal to die for!  We don¹t need GPS by which to navigate the canals, many use the pubs as their guide. Our boating is not confined to the summer months, Bruin is in commission all the year round, for we spend Christmas and the New Year on board, very snug with our coal stove and central heating. Many occasions in times when winters were more severe, prior to global warming disrupting the seasons, we broke our way through the ice on the canals and have been known to brave the odd snow storm.

   One great advantage of boating the inland waterways is that, apart from  occasions when rivers go into flood, our itinerary tends to be more predictable perhaps than sea sailing, and one of our sailing friends who came with us several times was always amazed that we were at the appointed meeting place at the time arranged for when she joined us. On another occasion she enjoyed the experience of picking lovely juicy blackberries from the bow of the boat; well you know the best fruit hangs over the water where it cannot be reached from the bank.

   I hope that you may appreciate some of the joys which can be experienced boating on the inland waterways which I think can be likened to the Heineken advert, in so far as passing through remote areas away from the rush and bustle of modern living and inevitable traffic jams, you can reach parts which cannot otherwise be reached. Life flows at an easy pace on the canals, one year we covered 1,000 miles at an average speed of 1 3/4 miles per hour, now if that isn¹t living in the slow lane I don¹t know what is! 

Norman E. Wolley