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The City of London retains many of it’s old customs and ceremonies and hopefully they will not be allowed to disappear into oblivion in the City’s seemingly mad rush for modernisation. You can sometimes see a modern day coach driving down Moorgate into Gresham Street full of soldiers from centuries ago complete with pike staffs and breastplates on their way to a Guildhall ceremony. You may also see men in strange old fashioned garb of officialdom walking along the street on their way to an official duty. As far as I know the subjects below are still in existence at the time of writing. There are so many more ceremonies that I have found out about that it will take me some time to complete this section. I will try to attend and photograph as many as possible in the future.
For more than three hundred years the ringing of bells in the City of London has been the task of the Ancient Society of College Youths. Don’t be fooled by the title, age has nothing to do with it today! It was founded on November 5th 1637 and the first master was Lord Brereton.
The College Youths have been ringing Bow Bells since 1637. They also ring the Sunday bells at Saint. Paul’s, the bells at Saint. Lawrence Jewry which welcome the new Lord Mayor, and on occasion Saint. Michael’s, Cornhill and Saint. Giles, Cripplegate.
At the annual dinner, when over 200 people attend, one of the toasts is: “The memory of the Masters of 300, 200, and 100 years ago” and “The youths of 50 or more years membership”.
Stow commemoration service. Also known as ‘Changing the Quill’. This ceremony is associated with the great historian John Stow. He was a regular member of the congregation of the Church of Saint. Andrews Undershaft, and was buried there in 1605. The stone figure of him upon his tomb holds a quill pen in it’s hand. Every three years on April 5th (or near) the Lord Mayor of London attends the ceremony to change the quill. A notable historian first addresses the congregation which then forms a procession to the Stow monument. He then removes the old quill and passes the new one to the Lord Mayor, who places it in Stow’s hand.
Held on or near the 24th. of June at the Mansion House, this ceremony goes back over 600 years. Even in the fourteenth century planning permission was needed in the City of London. Sir Robert Knollys was sent to the French wars to lead the English forces along with John of Gaunt.
While Knollys was away his wife, Lady Constance, became annoyed with the chaff dust blowing from threshing ground opposite their house in Seething Lane. She bought the property in the absence of her husband and immediately had it turned into a Rose garden. She also built a footbridge to avoid the mud of Seething Lane. Unfortunately she did not have planning permission. The penalty, which was to last forever, was that a red Rose from the garden had to be presented annually to the Lord Mayor on the Feast of Saint John the Baptist.
The word ‘Spital’ meant a place where the poor and afflicted are taken care of. The word ‘hospital’ is derived from it. The sermons were originally held in the open air, at Saint. Mary Spital in what is now Spitalfields, on Easter Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The pulpit was destroyed in 1642, but after the revolution the sermons were held at Saint. Brides Fleet Street, and then Christ’s Church, Newgate Street. After the later was destroyed during the war the venue was changed to Saint. Lawrence Jewry in Gresham Street.
It is attended by the Lord Mayor with his complete escort of Sword bearer, Common Crier, Serjeant at Arms, and City Marshall as well as Sheriffs and Aldermen. They walk to the church from the Aldermen’s Court Room near Guildhall Yard.
The Trial was moved to the Goldsmiths Hall in 1870 as a permanent venue. In the same year the Queen’s Remembrancer took the place of the Lord Chancellor to preside.
From every batch of coins minted over the year a coin is taken and put into the mint box, or ‘Pyx’. They are sealed into bags of 50. At the trial the jury sit with a copper, and a wooden bowl. The Remembrancer enters, makes a speech, and names the members of the jury who then appoint a foreman. The Pyx boxes are opened and the coins passed out. Each juror cuts open the bags and keeps the numbered seal. A single coin is placed in the copper bowl, the rest are counted and placed in the wooden. They are taken away, and the next bags are opened. The single coins from the copper bowls are taken to the assay office in Goldsmiths Hall and tested. Eight weeks later the assay is completed, and in May the Queen’s Remembrancer asks for the verdict. Once given, the Jury and guests attend the Pyx Luncheon in the Livery Hall. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gives a speech in his role as Master of the Mint.
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