A while back, liveryman Joanna Booth mentioned at a meeting that the time had come for the Gunmakers’ Company to have something more serious to offer to the gently increasing number of women joining the Livery. She pointed out that when a man took his Livery oath, he was presented with a silk tie, in either blue or green, incorporating the proof mark and arms.
When Jonathan Young became Master he picked up on Joanna’s idea and tasked his Upper Warden to research the idea and have a scarf ready by the time she took office as first female Master in November 2018. But, more to the point, with an eye honed by years of magazine-editing, he had an idea for the design. Why not use the replica makers’ Mark Plate hung behind the door in the Receiving Room?
Although not intrinsically an object of beauty, it was nonetheless of great historical importance, being ‘struck’ with the individual maker’s marks from the earliest days of proof (1645 to 1784) thus representing some of the most famous London Gunmakers of all time. But the question was how to make it work.
By a stroke of luck the Upper Warden, at a charity dinner at Pewterers’ Hall, spotted in a brochure of pewter exhibition pieces, a single scarf in silk crèpe de chine. Commissioned by Sir Andrew Parmley when he was Lord Mayor it was patterned with interlaced swans and vines, representing his livery companies. The designer was the metalworker Gordon Robertson and she tracked him down, inviting him to the Proof House.
The former Clerk was dubious that the designer might not ‘get’ what the Gunmakers was all about, and the Upper Warden was nervous it was going to be a wasted trip. Mr Robertson was duly shown round the workshops and the various treasures in the Court Room such as the polychrome carved wood coat of arms and the Company jewel but nothing quite seemed to click – until the Upper Warden pulled back the Receiving Room door and showed him the strike plate. The response was instantaneous. ‘I can do something with that’ – and he started snapping away with his camera.
Scottish-born, but now based in London, Gordon Robertson, it transpired, had begun his career in printmaking and printing on textiles before he moved on to etched metal surfaces for tableware, furniture and jewellery. Pewter became his favourite material and through the Pewterers’ Company he became a QEST (Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust) Craft Scholar, twice winning the Pewter Live award in 2012 and 2013, then joining the Pewterers’ Company as a Freeman. Thus by serendipity Gordon’s combination of training in metalwork and textiles perfectly combined the skills needed to create a design in silk for a Company wholly occupied with metal.
His final design in blue and silver of centrifugal ever-decreasing makers’ marks like a bullet traveling down a barrel, centred by the London Proof Mark, GP crowned was inspirational. Smartly edged in dark navy with a GP crowned in each corner, the design neatly incorporated the Company emblems.
Made in 100 per cent pure silk, from Macclesfield, the original home of English silk manufacture, the scarves are printed on 18oz twill and measure 90cm by 90cm. They have a machine-rolled hem that looks as good as hand-stitched, and bear a Made in England label.
The Company at first commissioned a limited edition of 50, in presentation boxes with a numbered certificate. In addition to one for the first Lady Master, the outgoing Master was able to present Number 1 of the edition to his Consort, Caroline Young at his outgoing Nomination Dinner as a thank you for her support during his year in office.
While each future new Lady Gunmaker will be presented with a scarf when they join the Livery, the Court took the decision that the scarves could be offered for sale to members of the Company and that the design should be replicated for gentlemen’s handkerchiefs (pocket squares).
These may be ordered from the Assistant Clerk, email@example.com or by telephoning the Proof House 00 44 207 481 2695 (press option 5)
Scarves £150 each (includes p&p, and a presentation box)
Pocket squares £50 each (includes p&p, and a presentation box)