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After 32 loyal years in office, Brian Chappell is no longer Clerk to the Guild of St Bride. He felt that his long period of office should terminate, along with 'several others of a like nature and spend some time trying to sort out the paper at home.'
David Blackwell, who lives in Epping, Essex, and joined the guild in 1984, has taken over.
Here are some of Brian's recollections which go back well before the church was rededicated in 1957:
My first memories of the city of London go back to the 1930's (I was born in 1929), when I lived with my parents in Hart Street, a small street just off Wood Street. The building backed on to St Gile's, Cripplegate and there was a public pathway, which led from Hart Street through to the churchyard. It was here that I remember seeing on many occasions the patrolling constables meeting during the evening for a quiet cigarette. My city memory then goes blank until 1946, when I came to live with my father, who had by then moved into the parish of St Bride, about five minutes walk from the church.
As far as I can recall, my first contact with St Bride's was in 1951. At that time, of course, the rebuilding had not begun. However, there were excavations and some broken down walls and some equally broken pillars. The vestry had been converted for the services which were attended by a small congregation of regulars and it was all pretty basic. There was no choir and I cannot remember if there was any sort of organ or just a piano!
There was talk of the rebuilding of the church, but I was not really involved in this. I was only in my 20's and was not in a position to offer much help. One day, Cyril Armitage told me he wanted to restart the Guild of St Bride. He explained that he wanted it to be all male because so often the congregation seemed to consist of ladies only and he felt that if he were to persuade any members of the staff of any of the newspapers to attend the church, he thought that they would like to find some other men there.
I agreed to join and it was some months later that I asked Cyril if members of the guild should be baptised members of the Church of England. He replied: 'Of course, they all are.' I explained that I was not as I had never been baptised as a child because my mother disagreed with all forms of religion.
Eventually, my baptism was arranged and my godparents were Yvonne and an old school friend. The form of service was 'The ministration of Baptism to Such as are of Ripe Years and able to answer for Themselves from the Book of Common Prayer.' Two weeks later I was confirmed by the Bishop of London in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral. At the same service, Judge Malcolm Wright, one of our churchwardens, was also confirmed. He was a charming man and his early death was a great loss both to the church and to the legal profession.
Yvonne and I were married in 1953 and, while not claiming that it was unique, I think it is fairly rare for a man to marry his Godmother! We were married at Twickenham, where Yvonne lived and we were rather pleased that the local parson was not available on the date and Cyril was able to conduct the service.
One of my many faults is an inability to throw things away, so I still have most of the circulars concerning the reforming of the guild in time for the re-dedication of the church in 1957. Cyril was originally Priest-in-Charge and he was inducted as Rector on 13th April 1954. I have the circular dated 5th January 1953, which says 'We hope to get our St Bride's Guild functioning as from the first Sunday in February' and the first duty rota was issued three weeks later.
The re-dedication of the church in December 1957 in the presence of the Queen was televised. Cyril decided to have a midnight service on Christmas Eve and the publicity only a few days earlier meant that the church was packed. In fact, it was so crowded at the West End that it was difficult to make space to get Cyril to the altar!
Rex Guillaume was Clerk of the Guild from 1953 and he continued in office until February 20 years later, when Dewi Morgan asked me to stand for election in Rex's place. Dewi could be very persuasive, so I did as he asked and remained in that office until this year.
During that time, there have been four Masters of the Guild: The Hon Gavin Astor, Lord Barnetson, Sir Edward Pickering and the present Master, Vyvyan Harmsworth. There have been, in the same period, just three Rectors, Dewi Morgan, John Oates and now, David Meara.
I have enjoyed serving the guild as Clerk, but I now felt that I should give up the office, along with several others of a like nature, and spend some time trying to sort out all that paperwork at home!