Basketmakers' Livery Dinner

Wednesday 30th January 2019

Whilst achieving its Royal Charter as recently as 1937, the Basketmakers' Company has a history that can be traced back to medieval times being first recognised by Order of the Court of Aldermen in 1569. City records show it existed much earlier in the 15th Century. With that said, the craft itself is truly ancient with examples held at the British Museum that have been dated back to 3,000 BC. Happily, our Company enjoys a strong relationship with the Basketmakers and this year we are both celebrating notable anniversaries. Just as we will celebrate 400 years since the formation of our First Company, so the Basketmakers will celebrate 450 years since its formal establishment.

It was a great honour to be invited to their Livery Dinner, held at Skinners' Hall and to process with the Prime Warden and my fellow Livery guests. We were lead in by two Stewards, one bearing a banner bearing the Basketmakers' coat of arms whilst the second carried a basketwoven head of a griffin on a pole. This latter totem was a very fine thing.

Upon arrival at my place at table, I was struck by the sight of a most extraordinary piece of silverware positioned right in front of me. It was one of the Basketmakers' treasures that rarely sees the light of day, a large snuff box fashioned in the form of a plumed hussar's cap or busby. More than that, it was charged with snuff! This was was a great kindness extended by the Prime Warden to make me feel at home.

The evening had a distinct military feel to it as it marked the first occasion that the Basketmakers were able to demonstrate their support for their new affiliation with 8th Batallion The Rifles, the newest infantry battalion in the British Army Reserve, formed in 2017. Guests enjoyed a carpet guard, a military fanfare to announce dinner and a speech from the Principal Guest, Brigadier Charlie Collins. It was a wonderful and affirming occasion that reinforced the strong relationship between Livery Companies and the Armed Forces.

The final joy for the honoured guests were presentations of basketry gifts with each piece selected having some relevance to the guest. The Master Wheelwright received a basketwoven tray in a wheel design, the Master Pattenmaker received a basketwoven overshoe and I received a basketwoven snuff box! I have decided that it shall be put to a different purpose as it is large and holey. A perfect case for my smoking cap!