As the capital of South West England, the city of Bristol played host to over forty members of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers over three days in early June. This was the Master’s Outing of 2022 and can, on reflection, be regarded as a tremendous success. Of independent spirit, Bristol was the first British City to be named the European Green capital, in which we were wined, dined and introduced to its history, culture and spirit.
Bristol has a rich maritime history and our first visit was to the SS Great Britain. Now a museum ship of some grandeur maintained in a special dry dock in the heart of the City. Once a famous former passenger steamship (the cabins were tiny!). The largest in the world crossing oceans between 1845 and 1854, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, she plied the trans Atlantic service between Bristol and New York City as well as voyages to Australia. Following our extensive tour of the ship, we walked the length of the harbour side along Wapping Wharf by the side of the Avon, to our very first Bristolian dining experience at the aptly named Harbour House Restaurant, where believe it or not, each and every individual was given instruction by the Master in the manufacture of a true wax candle from a sheet of beeswax!
The following morning found the assembled throng on Sion Hill at the side of the Clifton Downs in the west of the City, divided into two groups to visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge spanning the Avon Gorge.
Built in 1864, the Clifton Suspension Bridge towers over the muddy brown River Avon as it passes through the Avon Gorge from the Bristol Channel. First, the morning visit encompassed also a tour of Clifton “village”, the Clifton Downs and the Observatory. Once on the actual bridge we were quietly informed that the bridge was also known as the “suicide bridge”, and spied the plaques advertising the telephone number of the Samaritans. Some of us were told the story of a 22-year-old woman named Sarah Ann Henley who survived a suicide attempt off the bridge when her billowing skirts acted as a parachute and she landed in the thick brown mud of the banks of the River Avon at low tide; Sarah subsequently lived into her eighties! Past Master Sue Green disappeared whilst we were in the Observatory grounds viewing the suspension bridge; Sue later appeared waving from inside a special cliff platform in the Giant’s Cave on the side of the gorge.
The afternoon was first taken up with a well earned rest and welcome lunch refreshments, before being whisked off in a super modern “upstairs” German coach to the Royal Estate of Highgrove, the private residence of HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire.
The Highgrove gardens, 15 acres of flora and fauna, was a real highlight of the Master’s Outing, a master stroke to get the booking! The Stumpery, carpet garden, wild meadows, sundial garden, topiary, hedging, vibrant colour schemes, all the nooks and crannies, the tree house built for William and Harry, the excellent guides with their anecdotes, humour, in depth botanical knowledge all added to the wonderful experience.
Pre-dinner drinks were then taken in the outdoor garden area, before a splendid dinner in the Highgrove Restaurant. We were then both entertained and educated by Sir Tim Smit from the Eden Project in Cornwall. Some of us did not then reach our hotels back in Bristol until midnight.
On the final morning, early at 9.30am we all assembled at the University of Bristol Botanical Gardens for a very special experience in marked contrast to the Highgrove one. Our introduction to the gardens and the research taking place there was given by Dr. David Lawson, who we remembered from the Trinitas School Art/Science Workshop at Saint Vedast Church back in March. The main emphasis within these gardens was setting out the very first plants to be found on our earth, and then taking us through each of the great geological ages and their associated development. A fascinating experience and different from Highgrove.
Our thanks go to the Master, Anthony Bickmore for all his hard work and planning an excellent three days in Bristol. Memorable.
Liveryman Toby Hufford
The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers
Wax Chandlers’ Hall
6 Gresham Street
London EC2V 7AD