New Master Butcher elected for 2023-24
Published on: 15 September 2023
At 12pm noon on Thursday 14th September 2023, Common Hall took place at Butchers' Hall, 87 Bartholomew Close, London.
Liverymen answered the annual summons to elect the Master and the members of the Court for the ensuing year.
Mr Chris Wood was elected The Master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers for 2023-24.
A copy of The Master's address to Common Hall is below:
"Wardens, Assistants, Past Masters, Fellow Liverymen, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I stand before you today with immense pride and great trepidation.
That a man from the Midlands who made a living from killing a few pigs joins the illustrious ranks of being the Master of our glorious and ancient Livery, truly demonstrates that strange things can happen in life.
Needless to say I am only available for this huge honour as a result of my family's support.
My brother (Liveryman) John backed me 100% when I joined Court and covered my absence from the family business, without his help today could have never taken place.
Greater than that commitment is the support and guidance lavished on me by the constant rock in my life Fiona, now relishing in the grand title of Consort. Putting up with the meetings and phone calls and seemingly endless Zoom interruptions whilst away on holiday, she hardly ever complained.
Regarding the trepidation it is vital that all Liverymen understand the perilous state of the Company finances. We stand today in a Hall which is fit for purpose, in a modern age, that all visitors can admire . But as a result of the expenditure incurred to achieve that, we now have debts of £3.5 million.
More significant than the debt itself, due to Covid and then Mr Putin, the London corporate scene is not fulfilling expectations.
Bovingdons, our catering partners, are finding the marketplace challenging, Hopefully you are all aware of the recent Hall relaunch under the name 87 Bart’s Close for commercial clients. The early reports on new bookings is promising.
However, due to these market conditions we have traded at a significant loss for many years and clearly this cannot continue. We have completely eroded our reserves which forced the sale of the Master's flat.
You have my commitment that all things are being considered and that my personal goal is to ensure the future control and long term ownership of our Hall.
Undoubtedly I will return to this issue through my year in office and report back when a credible business plan is on the table. It is always difficult to align 650 members, but, as your Master, if any of you have ideas or suggestions I will definitely listen and consider all proposals.
The unfortunate reality is that to date our tireless Finance Committee have ran the numbers over countless options and permutations.
They have presented the Executive Committee with difficult choices. Currently the only credible solution is dependent on the relationship with Bovingdons and their new owners Rhubarb - and ultimately Oakview Group the American corporation.
I must take this opportunity to thank Past Master Parker for is unstinting leadership over what seems many years. His time as Master during Covid and then again in the bonus year just completed. I am already becoming aware that the job comes with many challenges.
It is important that we all strive to position our Livery at the heart of our great industry. Meat has been consumed for thousands of years and I am confident that it will continue to be a vital constituent in meals and diets.
I hope that in my year the relationship with the BDCI can grow and strengthen, already closer ties and possible financial support with educational opportunities are being discussed.
The Charity and Educational work funded by the Livery is one of our core pillars distributing more than 100 thousand pounds each and every year, with underlying investments ring fenced solely for that purpose.
That we rank twenty fourth in the list of all Livery Companies says much about our ancient ties with the City of London and we must continue to support City traditions.
My first request as Master is to ask for sponsorship to help fund the Boar's Head Ceremony. It is truly one of the Livery highlights of the year, when we process from our Hall and down Cheapside to present the Lord Mayor with his rent token at Mansion House.
The fact that we now have to finance the security for this Company tradition is a sad indictment of modern life.
My second request is to ask for sponsorship and support for my Masters Charity Banquet to be held on 3rd May 2024 at Guildhall London. It is a break from tradition as we are to miss a Court lunch on that day to ease the pressures on people’s diaries.
The event will be to raise funds for the Hall but also my chosen Charity - Huntington's Disease Association, My mother -in-law suffered with this terrible condition and potentially passed it on to Fiona. When in late life this disease was diagnosed, it was a horrific dangerous fact that there was a 50% chance of genetic transmission.
With help and support as a family, we considered the implications of genetic testing to establish if other generations were affected. I am eternally grateful to be able to share with you that Fiona did not inherit the genetic fault.
In conclusion I would like to paraphrase the words of John F. Kennedy:
“ Ask not what the Livery can do for you , but ask, as Liverymen, what can we do for the Livery“
With your help and support, I am confident that this financial problem can be addressed and the Livery Fellowship can continue in our magnificent Hall.
Thank you all once again for this great honour you have bestowed upon me today.
Please, please feel free to approach and if necessary rebuke me during my year. With the help of your chosen Court, I am up for the challenge.