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Great Fire Anniversary Dinner at Bakers' Hall,
13 September 2016

On 13 September the Bowyers and their guests convened at the newly refurbished Bakers' Hall on Harp Lane to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London with a Ladies Guest Night. With the soaring temperatures and the start point of the Great Fire not far away on Pudding Lane the context was well set. Both the location and date had been carefully chosen by the Master to provide an extra dimension of relevance to the occasion. By holding the event on the 13th, not only was the dinner deconflicted with the celebrations which had taken place across the city the previous weekend, it also marked the correct date of the Great Fire from the Julian Calendar.

Braving the city traffic, a grand total of 71 Bowyers and their guests arrived for a champagne reception in the Court Room before being summoned to dine by the ringing of the Bowyers' Bell by our Beadle, Paul Tredgett. After a few words of welcome from the Master and a suitably succinct and relevant grace said by The Revd John Hayton, our Immediate Past Master, the assembled company sat down to enjoy an excellent Great Fire themed dinner of seared breast of timber smoked duck, flame grilled fillet of beef and crème brûlée accompanied by some carefully chosen fine wines.

Following sung grace with musical accompaniment from our excellent pianist for the evening from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the diners were invited to pass a Loving Cup filled with good West Country cider before being called to join the Master in drinking our four customary formal toasts. Having done so the Master introduced our principal guest and speaker for the evening, Mr Neil Fletcher, Beadle to the Worshipful Company of Bakers and himself a Liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Fletchers, one of our sister 'warrior companies'. Neil delivered a highly amusing speech in which he reflected on the role of the Bakers before, during (Thomas Farynor, the King's Baker responsible for starting the fire, was allegedly a member of the Worshipful Company of Bakers) and after the Great Fire, which was extremely well received by the Bowyers and their guests. He concluded by drawing the attention of the diners to the three impressive John Piper stained glass windows that adorn the far side of the Bakers' dining hall.

Standing to reply to Neil, the Master delivered a similarly interesting view of the impact of the Great Fire on the Bowyers. He concluded by proposing toasts separately to both the Bakers and Bowyers. Of some special relevance was the fact that the toast to the Bowyers was, for the first time, made using the Clerk's Goblet. The Clerk's Goblet is a newly presented piece of antique silver very kindly donated by our webmaster, Mr Alex Barker, in memory of his parents. The goblet will be used at all future Bowyers' dinners by the Clerk to propose the toast to "the Worshipful Company of Bowyers: may it flourish root and branch".

After the Master and Wardens had processed from the dining room the diners were invited to join them for a final Stirrup Cup before setting off into the sweltering night. Overall it was a superb evening, thoroughly enjoyed by all those who attended and a most fitting celebration of this most important piece of City history, with the sort of interesting Bowyer slant that we have all come to expect.

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