When the Guildhall was refurbished, it was felt important to recognise the role of the Guilds in the life of the City. A wall on the first floor of the Guildhall now has the coat of arms of each York Guild on display, along with a resume of their history.

The Master, Immediate Past Master and Master Elect attended the “unveiling” of the Wall of Guilds performed by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Chris Cullwick.

As a Past Master of the Guild of Building, the Lord Mayor is well-versed in the history of the Guilds in the City.

Each year, the Cordwainers award a prize to a first-year BA fashion student at York College, and in 2023, the brief was to design and make a leather accessory. The students spend an afternoon at Bedern Hall meeting members and learning about the Company.

They then research, design and make their garment or accessory and members of the Court spend an afternoon at the College judging their entries.

Our winner in 2023 was Sydney Alicia Newman, who designed and made a leather belt with added pouches. She was awarded a cheque, a medal and a certificate by the Master.

Despite the necessity of moving the Livery weekend, we were still able to celebrate the installation of the new Master as well as our Charter Day.

The installation ceremony in Bedern Hall was a bit of a squeeze, but we managed to successfully swear in the Master and the Court. Eight new members were also sworn in, followed by our member from Pennsylvania at the end of the dinner, as he didn’t quite make it in time. We welcome all of you to the Company.

The Master and Beadle welcome new member Brett Walker, who travelled from Pennsylvania to be sworn in.

The Master hosted a drinks reception where we were joined by our guests, who included the Lord Mayor and Sheriff, the Governor of the Merchant Adventurers, Masters of the Guild of Scriveners, the Gild of Freemen, the Merchant Taylors Company, the Media Arts and the IPM of the Company of Butchers. Also with us was the Master Fellmonger and the Warden of the Mercers, Grocers & Haberdashers of Richmond.

Fifty-two members and friends sat down to an excellent dinner provided by our new caterers, and this was followed by speeches from the Lord Mayor, the Master and his speaker Dr Geoff Thomason, Assistant Research Librarian at the Royal Northern College of Music.

The following morning we were joined by a number of York Masters, along with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, for our Charter Day service.

The preacher was our own Chaplain, Rev Liz Hassall. As ever, visitors to the City were a bit confused to see us processing with badges, gowns and maces, and we were grateful to the Lord Mayor’s chauffeur who cleared a path through the crowds on the Shambles. The coffee and biscuits were most welcome on our return to Bedern Hall.



Rev Liz Hassall

Rev Liz Hassall

The Company of Coardwainers’ own Chaplain, Rev Liz Hassall, has also taken on the role of Sheriff of York’s Chaplain for the year.

I am sure that they will have an excellent year and hope that we will be able to welcome them to some events in their official capacity.

On May 7th, 21 assorted Cordwainers and friends joined the Coronation celebrations at the Sheriff’s Coronation Ball in the Assembly Rooms.

York has a tradition of holding Balls to celebrate the coronation of the new monarch, and 2023 was no exception.

Guests were greeted by the York Guard, resplendent in their scarlet tunics with flags and halberds, and enjoyed a champagne reception before sitting down to a 3-course meal.

Speeches were kept to a minimum, but the new King was enthusiastically toasted and dancing followed.

The Sheriff had tried to replicate the Ball held in 1953, and it was certainly a night to remember.

Our normal colourful procession from Bedern Hall to All Saints, Pavement to celebrate our Charter was, of course, cancelled this year.

However, we were pleased that we were allowed five Court members in the church and were also able to invite the Lord Mayor.

The Master’s recent hip surgery meant that she couldn’t join us and the plan for her to read the lesson from home was failed by technology.  Master Elect Geoffrey Berry read instead.

We were all pleased to meet the new Priest in Charge, Liz Hassell, and to welcome the Lord Mayor, Cllr Janet Looker.  For her this was the first, and last, time that she had attended All Saints this year.

Inside there were masks, social distancing and only a cantor to sing the hymns and the responses, but we were pleased that we were able to attend, even in such a limited way.

The new Master of the Cordwainers, Mrs Ann Deller, was installed at a Zoom meeting of the Company on 8th May 2021.

Like so many other organisations Zoom has become the new normal and restrictions meant that we couldn’t meet in person.

The Master was sworn in by the outgoing Master and Clerk, Mrs. Ann Reid, and thanked the Company for the honour.

Geoffrey Berry was sworn in as Master Elect.

The Officers of the Company and the Court of Assistants were also sworn in.

Since March 2020 when this country went into the first of three lockdowns, and despite the introduction of the Tier system, the Company has continued to hold Court meetings, via Zoom of course.

During the most recent Court meeting in January, the first of 2021, it was agreed that with great regret the Charter Weekend, traditionally held in May, would have to be cancelled.

After further discussion, it was agreed that indeed no definite plans could be made for the rest of the year without a clear idea of how the Coronavirus would continue to affect the country.

An additional important decision was approved that the Court should now meet monthly to keep reviewing the situation.

Congratulations to York College University Centre fashion student Zara Hale, on winning The Company of Cordwainers of the City of York project competition 2020. Zara’s achievement was celebrated via a virtual Zoom call, with representatives from the Company of Cordwainers and her tutors in attendance.

Zara’s achievement was celebrated via a virtual Zoom call

The Company of Cordwainers has supported students studying BA (Hons) Fashion Design & Product Innovation for many years and, despite the COVID pandemic, this year was no different. Students were tasked with designing a garment incorporating leather, inspired by the rich heritage of the Company of Cordwainers, even though face-to-face teaching was suspended and students were working from home.

Although it was not possible for the final designs to be constructed, the Company of Cordwainers commended all participating students for the breadth of their research and the quality of their digital designs and portfolio work in response to the project brief. Recognising the students’ achievements, they announced the competition winner to be Zara Hale.

Part of Zara’s winning submission

Zara’s designs were inspired by the project introduction hosted by the Company at Bedern Hall in February 2020. At the event, The Cordwainers withdrew items from their archive, especially for the students to observe. Zara was able to handle ancient tools used for leatherwork and examine leather samples and products, such as the shoe that is appliqued on the back of her winning design.

Master of the Company, Ann Reid MBE, said: “The Company of Cordwainers of the City of York are delighted to continue their support of the BA (Hons) Fashion Design & Product Innovation course. The students are always thought-provoking and innovative with their projects and this year was no different. Despite the fact that they could not make their final garments, the portfolios that they produced showed us clearly what they would have made in a COVID-free world. Cordwainers were leather workers, which is why we ask the students to incorporate leather in their final design. The decision was not an easy one, but Zara Hale was a worthy winner of the 2020 award.”

Winner: Zara Hale

Zara originates from Somerset and worked in The Mulberry Factory before moving to York to pursue her education in the field of Fashion. Her tutor Rebecca O’Leary is delighted to see her talents recognised: “Working part-time as a key worker and attending evening classes to develop her academic skills, Zara has demonstrated huge resilience coping with the demands of degree-level study. She has developed hugely in the first year of the programme and is a worthy winner of the prize.”

Master and Master-Elect enjoyed a wonderful luncheon hosted by The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London, held at the Stationers’ Hall near St Paul’s Cathedral in London.