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Tudor Pull 2024

My grateful thanks to ©Chrysoulla.Photography for most of these super pictures

What an amazing Day!

It all started several days before, when the Stela (a section of ancient wooden pipe from the City of London) was returned to Hampton Court Palace ready for this year’s Tudor Pull on 14 May as part of the Annual River Inspection of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen.

On 19 May the Master Watermen and Lightermen and the Master Water Conservator were welcomed to the Garden of the Director of Hampton Court Palace.  This was near the Banqueting House on the Barge Walk.  There they were joined by the Minister and Choristers of HM Chapel Royal and many visitors.  They were also joined by a crew from Lion Films who were making a film for the Royal Palaces.

A table had been placed in the centre of the garden, and on it was the Stela.

The Royal Watermen in their red tunics then processed into the garden with their oars.

The Master Water Conservator welcomed all present, especially the King’s Bargemaster and the Royal Watermen who were to take responsibility for and deliver the Stela to the City of London.  It was great to see so many supporters including members of Livery Companies.  He explained the back ground to this important tradition and ceremony.  It is a celebration of the River Thames, which for centuries has transported goods and people in an environmentally and sustainable way.  It is an opportunity to welcome and celebrate the many traditional craft on the River, including the cutters of the Thames Traditional Rowing Association.

It was also a recognition of the value of water and a celebration of the supply of clean fresh water to the City of London, especially the building of the New River, a 42-mile (68 km) aqueduct, by Hugh Myddelton in 1613 – and in recognition of the Water Mongers who distributed water, and the construction of the network of pipes, to provide water for everyone.

The Master Water Conservator then proposed a toast in champagne to the River Thames and everyone who worked and enjoyed the river.

The Master Water Conservator then said to the Duty Manager:

Ma’am, on behalf of my Company, as we have undertaken to do, I hereby return this Stela made from the timber of an ancient water conduit, that you once again may send it by river to the City of London and in doing so demonstrate the historic use of this Royal highway.

The Duty Manager replied and proclaimed:

Master, I thank you and your company for once again absolving your obligation of returning the Stela to this Palace of Hampton Court so diligently.

Duty Manager then turned to the Master Waterman and said:

Master Waterman, I once again entrust this Stela of ancient London wood into your protection for transportation by water to the City of London. Perform this deed that all may be reminded of the potential of this great river.

The Master Waterman responded:

Ma’am, I take the Stela and pass it to the Royal Bargemaster to accept the responsibility and will deliver this Stela under oars on this tide, that all will recognise the importance of our great river.

The River was then blessed by the Chaplain of HM Chapel Royal, and then prayed:

O God, who are our refuge and our strength and the source of all goodness, heed the holy prayers of thy Church, and grant that we fully obtain whatever we ask for in faith, we beseech thee (whose glory filleth all creation, and who are present wheresoever we go).  Preserve and bless all those who travel on the River Thames; surround them with thy loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Choristers of HM Chapel Royal then sang Psalm 150 (Laudate Dominum) as the Royal Bargemaster, accompanied by the Royal Watermen, carried the Stela to the Royal Barge Jubilant.

After the Royal Bargemaster and Boatmen had boarded and the Stela was safely stowed, there were three cheers for the Jubilant as she gently glided off downstream towards Richmond, accompanied by a flotilla of small boats.

At Richmond the Master Waterman, Master Water Conservator, Thames Warden, their Consorts, and Master Barber Surgeon took refreshment at a riverside hostelry before joining their respective crews.  The Master Barber Surgeon joined the crew of the Company cutter and is to be commended for his prowess.  There were many cutters and other small boats assembling to accompany the Stela down the river.

The Thames Warden and Consort were introduced to their crew of expert oarsmen and women who have looked after the Master on many previous occasions.  The Master was confident that the Thames Warden and Consort would be given safe passage, and a life jacket each.

The Master Water Conservator and Master Waterman and their Consorts then boarded the Londinium III, operated by the Port of London Authority.  This boat would be the pace-setter for the journey to the Tower of London.  While waiting for the flotilla to assemble everyone enjoyed the victuals supplied by Richmond Bridge Boat Club and liquid refreshment provided by the Master Water Conservator.

A Port of London Authority ship set off ahead of the flotilla to ensure that the passage down the river was clear.  The Londinium III followed with the Jubilant leading the large number of boats being rowed down on the receding tide.  There were two rib safety boats alongside as well as a further safety boat bringing up the tail of the flotilla.  They were in regular contact with the Londinium III to ensure that they all kept together and to give any laggards a tow as required.  It was an impressive sight in the sun.

With spot-on timing the flotilla arrived at Tower Pier where with impressive precision the Londinium III docked after careful manoeuvring past tourist ships, in rather choppy waters.  The Royal Ballet could not have done it better.  Slowly the smaller boats drew up alongside the pontoon.  Then the Royal Boatmen were off with the Stela to the Tower of London, followed by the Masters and boat crews.  As it took a while for the crews to disembark, it was agreed with the Tower Authorities to repeat the entry to the Tower of London once everyone had assembled.  By this stage a sizable crowd had built up inside and outside the Tower in anticipation.

The plan had been that the cutter crews processed to the East Gate, made their way to the East Drawbridge and formed a guard of honour across the East Drawbridge to await the Master Water Conservator and Master Waterman, and then, as in previous years, the Master Water Conservator and Master Waterman would arrive with the Stela through the East Gate to the East Drawbridge Gate.  Two Yeomen Warders and the Duty Supervisor were positioned to shut the Gate and challenge the party as follows:

Duty Supervisor:

Pray state your business, Sirs.

Master Water Conservator:

Master Water Conservator and Master Waterman on a duty to deliver this Royal Stela to the Tower of London.

The Duty Supervisor should then have opened the Gate and said:

If you will follow me, Sirs, the Governor of Her Majesty’s Tower of London awaits you.

Instead, the Ceremonial party entered the Tower directly and halted at the presentation table.  The Master Water Conservator and Master Waterman moved forward, and bowed to the Duty Governor.  Masters and VIPs doffed bonnets in a greeting salute.

The Master Waterman said:

Sir, as ordered by the Palace of Hampton Court, the Royal Watermen, escorted by many boats, have this day brought by river from that Royal Palace to deliver here to His Majesty’s Tower of London, this Stela, fashioned from the timber of an ancient water conduit of this City.  This feat has been performed so that all shall recognise the importance of London’s river.

The Master Waterman then presented the Stela to the Duty Governor.

The Duty Governor responded:

Master Waterman: Thank you for the handsome discharge of your duty.  I accept the Water Stela and will see that it is safely housed and returned to Hampton Court Palace within one year of this date so that this ancient use of the Her Majesty’s River Thames highway may be repeated for all to see.

The Duty Governor then directed that the Stela was taken to the green in front of the White Tower for photographs.  Following many pictures at different angles and with different participants (more like the combinations and permutations after a wedding) the Duty Governor invited the Masters and Consorts for refreshment.  It was very welcome!

All the participants then headed to the Dickens Inn in St Katharine’s Dock to rehydrate and for some, to enjoy a well-earned rest and sustenance.

It was a most enjoyable day, and thanks and congratulations to the organisers – the Thames Traditional Rowing Association, supported by the Port of London Health Authority, and the Port of London Authority, co-ordinated by the Clerk to the Company of Watermen and Lightermen.  Our grateful thanks to our hosts at Hampton Court and the Tower of London.



Thanks for the pictures


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