Fair Wind for Blackfriars.
We left early to catch the 8am river bus from fair Putney to the chartered streets of Blackfriars and the City. We walked the few hundred metres from the jetty to Vitners’ Court. For this was the day that Vivien would honour her father and grandfather and become a Vitner. The Vitners’ Company had been around since 1215 and late in the day 1446 had moved into its present address. It was wiped out by the Fire of London 1666 but survived the Blitz.Through Patrimony direct descendents can join. The Vitners are one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies who have been around since the middle ages to organise religious and charitable duties. And in the process have acquired no little pomp, circumstance, tradition and history.
Vivien had bought a special outfit I wore my wedding suit. Along with eleven others and “their loved ones” we were ushered into an oak panelled room. (see link)Although mid morning the chandeliers twinkled and the servants of the company stood in their robes. All around full length portraits of the Stuart kings looked down.
All Rise for the Master. Fur lined Master Robert Rolls and his side kicks came in, heralded by a processional staff. One by one the debutants swore allegiance to the Queen and her descendents, to the mystery of the Vintners. They signed the book. The book was taken to the Master. He stood. The debutant came forward. Hands were shook, greeting made and a pack of books, leaflets and certificates handed to the new Vitner. The Master beamed like a village butcher throughout. A regular Mr Chuckles. Somewhere a vintage clock chimed the hour. Another debutant stepped forward, and another. Wolf Hall,a slow mo speech day, applying for a TV licence. It had it all.
And then it was into the great, grand hall complete with more chandeliers and a musicians gallery for a glass of welcoming champagne. And then onto the nearby Guildhall to receive the Freedom of the City of London. By then I had escaped for a lunch in Soho. The new Vitner went on for something grander complete with five vintage wines.
Will the new Vitner allow whisky in the afternoon, a third bottle at supper, cocktails at lunch? The Vitner’s consort at Thompson Hall in fair Putney can only hope.