Social events are the most important means of developing fellowship, friendship and fraternity within the Company. The full calendar of Court meetings and formal social events is publicised and promoted each year by the Clerk and can be seen in the Members’ Area of the website.
The Company gives a number of lectures each year. In particular, the Junior Warden gives a lecture in the year they are elected.
The Company also holds a number of virtual engineering soirées each year. Some of these are recorded and can be watched on the Company’s YouTube Channel.
In common with other Livery Companies, Formal Dinners are a significant element of the Company’s social calendar. These black or white tie events are held throughout the year – the 4 most important are summarised below.
As the Company has no hall of its own, dinners are held at the halls of other Livery Companies across the City of London. The advantage of this situation is that members of the Company get to experience a wide range of Livery Halls, many of which are architectural masterpieces.
Election Court & Dinner (February/March)
This is the Court meeting when the new Officers are announced and approved by the Court. The Officers and Court then process to the church of St Vedast alias Foster, with the Officers wearing gowns, and the Annual Service then follows.
After the service, the dinner follows, at which the appointments will be proclaimed to the Livery, and the new Officers will join the Master at top table one at a time to take refreshment from the Loving Cup.
Common Hall and Installation Dinner
At Common Hall, the outgoing Master delivers a report on the year, and the incoming Master makes an acceptance speech.
At the Installation Dinner, the new Master delivers a speech, and a Response on behalf of the Guests is delivered by the Master’s principal guest, concluding with the toast to “the Worshipful Company of Engineers – may it flourish root and branch for ever”.
Annual Livery Banquet
(late October/early November)
This is the grandest of the Company dinners – white tie – and typically held at Mansion House. The Civic Toast (to the Lord Mayor, the City of London Corporation and the Sheriffs) concludes the Master’s speech, and is responded to by the Lord Mayor or, if on duties elsewhere, a representative.
THE LOVING CUP
At banquets and dinners, it is customary to include the Loving Cup Ceremony, symbolic of friendship and loyalty. Livery Companies have their own variations on how the ceremony plays out, and the Worshipful Company of Engineers’ tradition is as follows:
The cup is traditionally filled with spiced wine, immemorially termed ‘Sack’.
This custom is said to have originated following the murder of King Edward, the Martyr, who was stabbed while drinking by his step-mother Elfrida at Corfe Castle on March 18th 978 A.D.
Upon rising to drink from the cup, the person to the right and to the left of the drinker also stand. The drinker then bows to the neighbour to whom the cup will pass, who removes the cover with his or her right hand. This ensures that the ‘dagger arm’ is employed and eliminates the risk of treachery.
Meanwhile, the neighbour on the drinker’s other side turns his back on him ostensibly to protect him from attack from behind whilst in the act of drinking. Having sipped (it is rare for the vintage to be of a quality that would encourage quaffing), the drinker applies a napkin to the lip of the cup, the lid is replaced and the drinker and his neighbour bow to one another before passing the cup.
The first drinker then turns about to protect the second drinker from attack. Thus there are always three people on their feet, the drinker being in the middle.
If you do not wish to drink from the cup, it is sufficient gesture of loyalty to receive and pass the cup to the next guest with a slight bow.
After most formal dinners, there will be an invitation to join the Master for a stirrup cup, which means an after-dinner drink.
After Dinner, grace is sung by attendees to the tune of Laudi Spirituali A.D. 1545. The Company’s grace is as follows:
For these and all Thy mercies given,
We bless and praise Thy name, O Lord;
May we receive them with thanksgiving,
Ever trusting in Thy word;
To Thee alone be honour, glory,
Now, and henceforth for evermore.
You can find the words put to musical notation here.
OUT OF TOWN EVENTS
Since 1994, the Company has organised a weekend, usually in September, for social interaction at a venue chosen by the Master. The event typically runs from a Thursday evening through to Sunday, concluding with a Church Service nearby.
Dinners on the Friday and Saturday evenings round off the daytime activities that members and guests may select from optional engineering and cultural visits.
LISTINGS OF PAST EVENTS
You can find an annual listing of Company events from recent years at the links below.
THE SWORDSMAN JOURNAL
In 1985 the second Master, Sir Denis Rooke, was keen to have a newsletter circulated to all members and Gerry Clerehugh (Master 1993-94) started preparing single sheets describing the Company’s activities.
The newsletter continued with occasional issues for a number of years. However, in late 1999 a few months after he had completed his year as Master, David Mitchell, suggested that the Newsletter should be revived and, as always happens, was volunteered to edit and produce a new magazine.
The first edition, which he decided to call The Swordsman, was issued in the spring of 2000 with the Sword appearing on the front cover. David continued as editor for 5 years producing 12 issues, all with the Sword illustrated on the front page.
Raymond Cousins (Founder member No 9 and Master 2002-03), took over as editor in 2005 and managed to produce 20 editions plus a special pictorial Silver Jubilee edition. He retired as editor in 2014 when Past Master David Scahill took over followed by Raymond Joyce, when he was Junior Warden.
The Swordsman is currently edited by Chris Elston. There are now over 45 editions, and may it continue and flourish for many years.
RELIGION AND THE COMPANY
The Livery Movement dates back to the 14th Century and, like many medieval organizations, Livery Companies maintained close relationships with the, firstly Catholic and then Protestant, established Church in England. It is for this reason that many Livery Companies are known as “Worshipful”.
Whilst the Worshipful Company of Engineers is open to members of all faiths or none, like many other Livery Companies it maintains links with the Church.
The affiliated church of the Company is Saint Vedast-alias-Foster (also known as Saint Vedast Foster Lane). Originally built in the middle ages, the church was reconstructed by the office of Sir Christopher Wren following damage in the Great Fire of London. The church was gutted during the Blitz by firebombs and rebuilt again. It has been a Grade 1 Listed Building since 1950 and is noted for its baroque steeple, its small secluded courtyard, stained glass, and a richly decorated ceiling.
The two principal services in the Company’s calendar are the Annual Service held at Saint Vedast-alias-Foster each March and the Carol Service held at the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London each December. Alongside these services, members of the Company also take part in City-wide events such as the United Guilds Service or the Clergy Support Trust Festival Service, held at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Company’s Honorary Chaplain is the Reverend Peter Hartley. The Chaplain attends formal events, both social and Court events, and leads the assembly in prayer or delivers a grace or a sentiment. The Honorary Chaplain arranges and conducts the Company’s Annual Service and contributes to the Carol Service.
The Almoner, Barry Gasper, supported by the Honorary Chaplain, provides solace and comfort to the partners of deceased members of the Livery or to members of the Livery known to be in any kind of distress. The Almoner has established a national network of supporters to assist in identifying need; to keep in touch with members and partners; and to offer friendship and communication and to help manage assistance if required.