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Bowyers' Hall City Walk 16 May 2016

18 Bowyers spent a most enjoyable Monday evening in May on a reprise of the 2015 Bowyers' Hall City Walk, led by Upper Warden Tony Kench, tracing the locations across the City of London where the Bowyers had been based in their heyday as longbow makers between 1300 and 1666.

We started with a toast to our great 1620s benefactor James Wood around his memorial plaque in St Nicholas Cole Abbey, then made a brief stop on St Peter's Hill (see photo), where the Bowyers met between 1651 and 1666, probably in the short-lived pre-Fire Upholders' Hall.

The walk then took us back to our beginnings on Ludgate Hill, which in the 1300s was known as 'Bowyer Row'. This was home to the Bowyers when the first big military longbow orders in London were placed by Edward III in the 1330s and 1340s (prior to the Battle of Crécy in 1346), and was where the Bowyers' Company took formal shape between 1356 (the Black Prince's victory at Poitiers) and 1363 (our first known mention in the tax rolls).

The Bowyers moved away from Ludgate Hill in the 1400s, and we followed the line of the City Wall round to Monkwell Square, by London Wall at Cripplegate, where Bowyers' Hall stood between the mid-1400s and the late 1500s, showing on old maps as a sizeable building that would have accommodated 20-30 working bowmakers. As demand for longbows steadily declined, the Bowyers moved to smaller premises nearby, leased from the Salters' Company from 1561 till the move to St Peter's Hill in 1651.

The final part of the walk took us through the Barbican to the site of Grub Street (now Milton Street), which in the 1500s was where bows were bought and sold conveniently for the nearby Finsbury Fields archery practice grounds, which stretched north to Islington.

We finished our evening in Finch's pub, in Finsbury Square, for an excellently convivial meal.

Download text and images of the City Walk

Master's Weekend in Belgium

A Bowyers' party of 33 set off to Brussels on Saturday April 30th for the Master's Weekend. We were whisked to Gare du Midi on the Eurostar and then, a little confusingly for some, to the centre of Brussels on an underground tram.

Later we gathered in the Club Room Bar of the Belga Queen Restaurant. This turned out to be a converted bank vault where through a half-metre-thick vault door and surrounded by walls of safety deposit boxes, we enjoyed the Master's champagne reception followed by a high-quality dinner in the magnificent old banking hall above.

The Sunday was spent on an enthralling tour of the battlefield at Waterloo. We followed the events of that day from the French start line at La Belle Alliance, and then on to the recently restored Chateau at Hougoumont, the scene of an epic British defense, where we had time to tour the site. After lunch at the new Wellington Cafe we moved to the center of Wellington's line and to the farm of La Haie-Sainte. Our final stop was the site of the lost sunken road that witnessed epic French cavalry charges and the final breaking of Napoleon's Old Guard. All of this was, uniquely, narrated by our fellow Bowyer Major General Andrew Sharpe. Andrew not only explained how the day unfolded but brought to life the heroism and dogged devotion to duty that characterized the leaders on both sides, and how their heroism, their vanities and their hubris had shaped the day.

Back in Brussels after a tiring day reliving the defeat of Napoleon, we dined at the excellent Belgian brasserie Le Taverne du Passage in the Galerie de la Reine.

The final day saw the sun shining on the cobbles and chocolate shops of the magnificent Grand'Place, where the Bowyers gathered for their private visit to the 1698 Maison des Brasseurs (Brewers' Hall) and the Museum of Belgium Brewers. The original trade guilds of Brussels were all abolished in the aftermath of the French Revolution, but today La Maison des Brasseurs is home to the modern Federation of Belgium Brewers - no small role for a country with 180 brewers producing 2,500 different beers - and it's the only trade still occupying its original guild building. A fascinating guided visit to the beer museum left the party reeling at least as much from their new-found insight into the art of brewing, including the differences between top fermentation and bottom fermentation, as from the samples on tap of the different types of beer.

We finished our most enjoyable weekend with a pub lunch at La Mort Subite before returning to Eurostar. We were reassured to discover that La Mort Subite (Sudden Death) was a reference to the original 1920s clientele needing to finish their lunchtime card games before returning to work, rather than any reflection on the food.

David Laxton

'Magritte Archer' cartoon reproduced by kind permission of PRIVATE EYE magazine/Charlie Hankin.
Photographs by Tony Kench, Simon Leach and Tom Ridley.

About the Bowyers

The Worshipful Company of Bowyers is one of the older and smaller of the City of London's livery companies. We celebrate our piece of history, we work hard at our charitable activity, and we provide a convivial sociable environment that keeps our members engaged... Find out more

Spring/Summer Dates

Tuesday 21 June 2016
Joint Shoot with the Fletchers
HM Tower of London

Wednesday 13 July 2016
Master's Installation Service
St Botolph Bishopsgate (11.30)

Wednesday 20 July 2016
New Master's Livery Dinner
Tallow Chandlers' Hall

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