Vintners' Company Procession, LondonThose who bemoan the sometimes grimy state of our cities today should think carefully before saying how good things used to be. The annual installation procession from Vintners' Hall in Upper Thames Street in the City to St James' Church, Garlick Hill, bears witness to changes for the better.
The Vintners Company has existed for many centuries (its first charter was granted in 1364), and has been making the annual procession from hall to church where thanks are given for the wonderful trade its members are involved in for just about as long. Spectators seeing the procession will note the Wardens and members wearing traditional uniforms and costumes, and carrying posies - the latter a reminder of the stench that used to be everywhere in the vast city before its sewage system was installed in the nineteenth century, as the posies would be held near the nose to mask the noisome stink.
The other reminder is the Vintners' Company porter who precedes the dignitaries and members. The porter is dressed in a rather strange mixture of clothing: a medieval-style white smock; and a Victorian top hat. But more significantly he carries a besom broom, as his medieval equivalent would have too. These days the broom‚s twigs sweep for ceremonial reasons, perhaps stirring a little dust - the event does take place in the first half of July after all - whereas his ancient colleagues would have been brushing aside something far more weighty and slippery, and, the installation ceremony taking place in July, far more malodorous. This was a very necessary duty if the dignified Vintners were not to slide in the ordure and sully their finery.
More British Folk Customs?