2020 Newsletter


Time for Tea by Sarah Mills

Newsletter September 2020

Dear Friends

The Covid virus has had all sorts of longer term consequences but I hope that our ethos of supported living in a small almshouse community has proved beneficial. I am eternally grateful that to date residents have remained virus free. Long may that continue and thanks to all of you who have set up and maintained safe systems. Loneliness is a real risk when normal outside activity is either restricted or not possible and we have been watchful for this.

Community spirit is still developing at Drapers Place encouraged by the manager, Katie Potter. Some residents have replanted the shrubbery at the rear of the building with bedding plants which makes a colourful display to see from their apartments. Sadly some activities in the Bradbury Room organised by the residents such as film nights remain suspended due to Covid.

At Fairford Place residents have been supporting each other with the help of Frances where possible. Gardening is about to expand on a small area of land adjacent to the Warden’s bungalow which has recently been purchased and is in the process of being fenced.

St Giles’ has not been neglected. Extensive refurbishment of one bungalow has been completed and plans for gas fired central heating are well underway.

Holy Cross looks crisp and smart with its new external paint. Longer term work is being planned to replace the two chimneys which were taken down some years ago because of safety concerns.

Member news – I was delighted to hear that past master Nigel Hinton has become a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.  The Royal Historical Society, founded 1868, is a learned society which advances scholarly studies of history. Nigel has been recognised for his research into Shropshire history and specifically the history of the Drapers in recent years. His new book, Wool War and Wealth is now available at £12 50 from Nigel.

Sadly I have to inform you of the death in recent days of Peter Bevan a former Draper who did so much in the very early days to secure the new build at Drapers Place. 

Monica Pemberton and Jim Davies have resigned this year and we will miss them both.

The Guild now has 74 members so we are actively looking for new Drapers to help in the years to come. Please do contact Jan, me or the wardens if you know of people who might like to join us and who would enhance our membership. The elections court meets in January to progress new members ready for Charter Night in March.

Our AGM using ZOOM on the 28th September was well attended. It is a very great shame that we could not physically meet, eat and drink together but in the circumstances this was a good substitute. I think that the meeting went well but I do miss the interaction of the members that is possible when meeting virtually. If you feel that you would like to have raised a point or asked a question but were constrained by the technology let me know. It is never too late! 

At the AGM Gaynor Bowen presented a report on the Jackie Ryan Memorial Award for 2020. If you missed this it is in the AGM papers you should have received.

I am delighted that Tweedmill are willing to offer an excellent opportunity for a student to have a work placement in the textile industry this year despite Covid. It allows continuity of the Textile Competition but on a smaller scale. Unlike previous years there would be no theme as such this year but students could enter an existing textile piece or create a new piece appropriate to the award.

Sarah Mills, winner of the Jackie Ryan Award Award in 2019 has now successfully completed her work placement and has started her degree in Textile Design at Birmingham City University.

We wish her the very best for a future in textiles.

Keep well in the coming month and I if there is anything you would like me to address in the next newsletter a quick phone call or email will ensure I look into your query.

Kindest Regards


Newsletter August 2020

Dear Friends

There is very good news about the Student winner from 2019 Textile Design Competition, Sarah Mills. She has gained a place at Birmingham City University, her first choice, to study Textiles and she starts in September. Sarah’s submission also won the Jackie Ryan Memorial Prize and that gives her a two week work placement with renowned textile company Tweedmill in Flintshire. Due to Covid the placement has been much delayed but is wonderful to learn that she will spend her first week at Tweedmill before she starts university. In addition Sarah has completed a two day placement with Gaynor Bowen, with the remaining three days to be arranged. Sarah is very talented and you can see photographs and a short article by Gaynor about her work in textiles and jewellery on the website: https://www.shrewsburydrapers.org.uk/news/recent

I have given Sarah a note of congratulations and a copy of the book The Golden Thread (How fabric changed history) by Kassia St Clair.  

The Drapers have supported the September Historic Open Days for a number of years but this year the Drapers Hall Preservation Trust has decided not to participate. It is difficult to maintain social distancing while conducting tours in the restricted areas of Drapers Hall. The Trust has assured the organisers that we would wish to take part in future years as normal.

John and Tricia Patrick have commissioned a replica of a tapestry whose original is in the Musee National du Moyen Age in Paris. It was designed for a French nobleman and manufactured in Flanders around 1500AD and they wished to make it a present to the Shrewsbury Drapers. The stitching marathon of the piece (over 400 hours) was taken over by two enthusiastic embroiderers Andrew and Mary Thomson of Ellesmere and was completed in the spring and has been undertaken in the style of the 16th century. It was intended to arrange an event to introduce the Thompsons to the Drapers and for them to explain how they had done the work to stitch the tapestry. Sadly this has had to be cancelled for the present and I am speaking with John and Tricia to arrange another date.  Incidentally John will undergo a second cataract operation in September and I am sure you will join with me in wishing him well.

The Guild Management Committee with the Clerk are preparing for the Shrewsbury Drapers Guild AGM. With restrictions being maintained on the number of people gathering it is Iikely that we shall decide to have the AGM via Zoom. This is not ideal but I believe for our safety it is the optimum we can achieve.

I am very pleased to continue to report that our residents remain safe and well. Painting the exterior of Holy Cross is almost completed and it looks very smart. There have been vacancies at Fairford and Drapers Place since March and these have both been successfully relet after small scale refurbishment works. The gardens at Drapers Place are maturing and the residents are contributing labour and plants to extended borders which are looking beautiful at this time.

Kindest and stay well and safe


Newsletter July 2020

Dear Friends

I find that being grounded does not make the time go any less slowly! Despite the relaxation of Covid rules I am still being cautious but still this month has flown by. I have enjoyed telephone calls Drapers I have contacted. Please do get in touch with me if you would like a chat or an update on items which are of interest to you and I do not cover in the newsletter.

I apologise to Brian for forgetting to attach the photograph he referred to in his piece on the renovation of the Abbey Organ last month. Belatedly I attach the relevant photo and it is does put in to context the huge job it is to bring the magnificent organ back in to use for the next hundred years. For those who completed Nigel Hinton’s Quiz – well done and the answers are below. Please mark yourselves honestly!

I am keeping in touch with the Masters of other guilds with whom we share interests and, in a normal year, social occasions.  I attach an interesting response from the Coventry Drapers. I really do hope that their exciting plans for next year come to fruition. Perhaps the Shrewsbury Drapers can think of some way to mark the reopening of their Hall? Ideas welcomed please. 

During this last month I had cause to go to Fairford Place for a very brief socially distanced visit and I must tell you that the gardens looked an absolute picture. Apparently Eric and Frances while in lock down arranged for an independent market garden to leave seedlings and plants in the community room for purchase by the residents. These were swiftly hoovered up and paid for by the residents and the quality is plain to see, as is the care that the gardeners have taken of the plants in the dry period.

Hugh Devlin, chair of The Drapers Hall Trust, and trustee Gareth Williams visited the Hall to check on the fabric and contents of the building in lockdown. Gareth Williams is curator and educator at Weston Park. You may be interested to see their comments. “Apart from the paintings, there were the long tables and the benches in the hall and on the first floor; and the deed cabinet upstairs. The main purpose of the inspection was to see how the contents appear to be faring during the closure due to lockdown. The good news is that there was no sign of damp or mould on any of the items which Gareth looked at. One caveat is that the picture of Degory is screwed so tight to the wall that it was impossible to see behind it. Clearly the furniture has been the subject of excellent custodianship. Apart from old repairs – which in themselves, of course, chart the history of the pieces, the furniture has been well cared for. We did not, of course, inspect the interior of the deed cabinet since it was locked and it would be good for someone to take a periodic check of its interior to ensure that an internal microclimate has not led to any mould. It may, of course, be that this sort of check is already in hand.”

Mother Peters of St Chads, who was kind enough to agree to be my chaplain for my year as Master, was married at Lichfield Cathedral by Bishop Michael as the lockdown was eased. On behalf of the Drapers I have sent a card wishing her and husband Fabian a long and happy life together. Because of the unusual circumstances we have found ourselves in she has not been asked to perform any duties and nor have I been able to show her round the almshouses which I know is of interest to her.

Please continue to stay safe and stay cheerful. I know that many of you have had the opportunity to see family but some still unable to get that all important hug. Virtual hugs and blown kisses are much safer than catching this lousy disease.

Finally a message from Robin Gough:

Just a note regarding the golf day at Condover. I am conscious that October the 25th is not that far off so please “Save the Date.”

It is difficult to give full details as the arrangement for catering are still unclear as the Covid issue is still changing but it would be great if you are interested to put the day in your diary and perhaps think of anyone you may care to invite.




June 2020

Dear Friends

We in the Shrewsbury Drapers take pride in friendship and the mutual interest we share in providing Almshouses for those in need. We also take a pride in our long history and the close association with the Drapers Hall Preservation Trust. For the time being our normal calendar of events is forbidden and it will be some time before we can gather again in
Drapers Hall. We have learned to adapt and to use online meetings although this lacks the personal touch but at least it keeps the spirit alive.

In the past month I have written to all of our Almshouse residents wishing them well and, inreturn, have had a few replies. One said that some days were difficult but on those days shesat herself down and counted her blessings. We do have so much to be thankful for inShropshire and I hope that when you have those difficult days you can find solace incounting your blessings.


Shrewsbury Abbey Organ by Brian Newman

Drapers will be pleased to know that work on restoring and completing the very fine WilliaHill organ in the Abbey is now well underway. A small silver lining to this current crisis was that, while the Abbey was closed to worshippers and the general public, it was declared bythe vicar as a place of work for the organ builder, Gary Owens Organ Builders of Hereford,who could get on completely unhindered. The attached photograph shows the organsurrounded on all four sides with scaffolding, which was needed for dismantling the organand for cleaning the casework, which is now gleaming. This is the first major overhaul thatthe instrument has received since it was installed in 1911, although there was some cleaningdone in 1957! Needless to say, the pipes and mechanisms were filthy dirty and thewoodworm infestation was more extensive than originally thought. Believe it or not, it wasback in 2004 that the parish asked the diocese for a faculty for this work. It has taken theAbbey this long to raise the £200,000 needed. Some of this has been raised by a number ofconcerts held for the joint benefit of the organ fund and for Shrewsbury Drapers’ projects,most recently the highly enjoyable “Vive La France” concert in the Abbey which benefittedrestoration work at The Holy Cross Hospital alms-houses.

The really good news is that not only will this splendid organ have been completely renewed, with tubular-pneumatics being replaced by electro-pneumatics for the actions,but that we are able to complete the organ to Hill’s 1911 specification. Back then the parish ran short of funds and the organ was never completed, and hasn’t been until this day. We are fortunate to have been able to obtain the missing ranks of pipes and associated wind chests from a redundant organ, also by Hill, in a London church.It is planned to have the project fully complete in time for the wedding of the Abbey’sDirector of Music in early October - always assuming that fully choral weddings will by then be possible of course!

Other News

     Wool War & Wealth, An illustrated History of the Wool Traders of Shrewsbury by Nigel

Hinton will be published in August with 110 pages of text and illustrations. Thesuggested retail price is £12.Nigel is offering the book to Drapers at a special discounted price of £10. No money needs to be sent to Nigel but it would really help him gauge the quantity to have printed in time for the launch, if Drapers and friends send Nigel an email indicating their interest before 6pm on Sunday 5th July 2020.


     Shrewsbury School Scholars Concert has been rescheduled for the 7th February 2021.This normally takes place in October but due covid 19 restrictions has been postponed  Coffee mornings with the Almshouse residents remain suspended for the present time. As soon as it is deemed safe to reinstate I will let you know

     The London Drapers Concert from Drapers Hall on June the 19th was enjoyed by a number of Shrewsbury Drapers. Gaynor and Oliver tell me that the live solo piano recital by Alim Beisembayev was superb and a real treat while we are unable to access live music venues. A glass of wine in hand and a comfy sofa made the performance all the more enjoyable. Alim starts his post graduate studies in September at the Royal College of Music and donations from the performance went to the students’ hardship fund. If you missed the performance and would like to catch up, it is available on Drapers You Tube channel please see the attached invitation which contains the link
 Kw Ma will perform in the next concert solo piano live from Drapers Hall, London on Thursday July 16th. Donations in aid of The Guildhall School of Music, student hardship fund. Details attached

     A reminder that the 2021 Textile Design Competition theme will Rainforest. Good luck with your designs and crafting

     Nigel Hinton has provided a brain teaser of a quiz for your enjoyment.  Answers in the next newsletter

We are taking the first tentative measures in a long and challenging process to find a way of life we find acceptable living with Covid 19. We are not out of the woods so please look after yourselves and your families. Stay healthy, stay safe and stay cheerful.




Newsletter May 2020

Dear Friends

Thank you to all who provided jigsaws to the almshouse residents in lockdown. These have been very well received.

If you look under “events” on the Drapers website you will find photographs of Fairford resident Eric on VE day with the standard of the Royal Airforce Association, one is reproduced below. Eric marked the two minutes silence under the watchful eye of socially distanced Fairford residents.

The Chair of the AMC John Crackett wrote to all residents when the government reviewed restrictions with the variations clearly highlighted.  Please continue to observe the visiting restrictions that the AMC has put in place to safeguard our residents and staff.

At the time of writing the excellent news in that none of our residents have showed any signs of Covid infection. All are coping well with the restrictions. The families of residents are being extremely supportive with shopping and transportation for medical visits etc.

In consultation with the Clerk I have decided that the Trinity Sunday service and supper will be cancelled this year. I am sorry but this is the only reasonable response to Government information on Covid restrictions indicating that church and restaurant openings are to be delayed until much further in to the year.

The Strategy Group continues its work despite the lockdown. Doug, Louise and Robin have had interesting discussions with BASE architects in Shrewsbury and will be in a position to make a presentation to the SDHC board in early summer. It is intended that this will form the basis of a visual presentation to the Autumn AGM of Shrewsbury Drapers Guild. The AGM (Covid allowing) will be at Drapers Place so that the presentation equipment can be used.

Huge Devlin, Chair of the Drapers Hall Preservation Trust, provides the great assurance that the group of Trustees is monitoring the Hall and that this continues on a daily basis.  SDHPT held its AGM and Board Meeting, also using Zoom, on 14th May.

Other than monitoring and maintaining the Hall and keeping in touch with the tenant, a group of us will be discussing a strategy for post lockdown. We have no firm idea when or in what circumstances, or with what restrictions, the business will reopen. So we will be considering various potential management options and the likely financial and other consequences of those.

The 10th Annual General Meeting of Shrewsbury Drapers Holy Cross Ltd was held on Monday 18th May. Over 30 members of SDC joined the historically unique virtual meeting using Zoom. Three votes to conclude the business of the AGM were carried. Below you will read my thanks given at the AGM to those people who made it possible.


The preparation of accounts for SDHC is, in normal times, time consuming for Andy Haselwood. This year because of the furloughing of staff at Whittingham Riddell and additional procedural requirements required by law the task has been more arduous. Throughout Andy has been patient, thorough and kind. On behalf of the members I would like to say a huge thank you to Andy for a job exceedingly well done.

Andy will be retiring as Financial Director next May. We need the help of all members to find a replacement. If you know anyone who might be interested in joining the Shrewsbury Drapers and assisting the board with this vital role please do let me or any board member know.

Gordon Woods has pulled all the company information together for the Board. The report produced is our window to the world. It sets out what we do, how we do it and how we comply with Charities Commission rules. You can see from the size and detail of the report how long it must have taken on top of the day to day running of the board. Gordon has also been responsible for setting up the virtual meetings so we have been able to continue to operate legally and safely and look after the almshouses, employees and volunteers. For this and all the unseen actions on the behalf of the Board and members that Gordon has made in the last year, Thank you.

The prime charitable purpose of SDHC is the provision of almshouses. The board delegates the day to day running to the Almshouse Management Committee chaired by Junior Warden John Crackett. They have faced exceptional challenges by any standard during the first third of 2020 ensuring that our buildings and management processes are working extremely well and kept up to date to reflect what has been a rapidly changing situation. By this means our residents are kept safe and secure. The SDHC board and members appreciate all that has been done by John and all those on the AMC team. Thank you.

To Jan for distributing reports, for work on the proxy voting and minute taking this evening thank you.

To Mary Rose for the legal advice enabling the AGM this evening to take place virtually and for her work on the proxy voting system plus the note taking. Thank you


Both Hugh Devlin and I are indebted to Gordon Woods for all the IT help which he has given us to enable both the Hall and SDHC AGMs to take place remotely.  I would also like to thank Richard Clowes was pulling electronic strings to keep the Hall AGM in order

I wish that you and all your families and friends very best wishes and stay safe.


Covid 19 Newsletter

Dear Friends

I have lost track of day, date and time. The wackiest idea for keeping fit I have heard is playing table tennis solo against a wall and losing! But running after the ball, bending and stretching is great exercise.

Gareth Jenkins tells me he has 900 Facebook friends and would like some more. Daily viewing figures between 1000 - 4000.  For the last 20 days he has uploaded a magic trickwearing a different one of his extravagant shirts. It is fun to watch him. Which will end first -the supply of shirts, supply of magic tricks or the lockdown?

I have found it uplifting to speak with so many of you in the last weeks. Finding out how you and your families are coping with this strange and worrying time has been a privilege. It has been good to share news good and bad, but also to hear some wonderful stories of how people are supporting family and friends. There are a number of Drapers with worries about children who are working on the front line in hospitals in Shropshire and across the country. Please remember them in your prayers or in your kindest thoughts.

David Perrin reports that he is recovering well from the virus and Sally is making slow but sure progress on the respiratory ward in the RSH. She is asking for things to be sent in which is a good sign. I know David would appreciate a phone call or a message.

Drapers Hall Preservation Trust have set up a rota within their trustees to include on their daily constitutional a walk round Drapers Hall to check for any problems. If you are in the vicinity of DH and see something not quite right, such as unsecured or open doors or windows, please give Hugh Devlin a ring. {07818 456531)

At the time of writing none of our residents has shown symptoms of the virus. Frances and Katie keep in touch with the residents who remain secure and currently without the need for our new 'phone a friend' or shopping volunteer support.

John Crackett and his team on the Almshouse Management Committee have done an immense amount of work to comply with government guidelines and keep the fabric of the properties safe and the residents and staff content. This is all hard on the heels of theflooding and the same volunteers have come forward to support the work of the AMC. A huge thank you to you all.

The Charities Committee has suspended all fund raising events until September. With enormous regret the Textile Design Competition and Exhibition 2020 has been cancelled.

You will have received information from Company Secretary Gordon Woods on how the AGM of Shrewsbury Drapers Holy Cross Ltd is to take place. Shortly you will be receiving the reports and accounts please send any questions to Jan in plenty of time so we can answer your queries fully.  I look forward to seeing you on the 18th of May via Zoom.

Keep safe



Newsletter April 2020

Dear Friends

Charter Night turned out to be perhaps the last normal gathering of Drapers for the foreseeable future. I felt hugely privileged to become your Master and was extremely grateful to Tom and Mary for their unstinting work on behalf of the Shrewsbury Drapers both locally and nationally. It was a most enjoyable and relaxed evening with little comprehension of what was about to happen. Even then, aware of the virus, the loving cup ceremony was celebrated without drinking but with a lot of hilarity, many trying to work out how to make it work.

As Covid-19 has progressed there have been a number of Drapers’ families who have been affected by it with different levels of seriousness. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been laid low by the virus. Please continue to let me know if there are problems so we can offer help and support during this time of health and economic uncertainty. These are unprecedented times for all of us and kindness and compassion will be needed in our communities. Our residents have observed the government instructions and remain virus free at the time of writing.

After a memorable evening I walked back home, crossing the English bridge the water flowing swiftly and darkly below but, thankfully, now within its normal banks, I thought this was the first time in many months that the paths had been dry and mud free. And yet another flood warning was issued on the 9th of March with a peak identified for the 11th March. Thankfully, although the wardens were again on high alert, the almshouses were unaffected. I was grateful to receive the final flood report from the Almshouse Management Committee and know that our policy for such events worked but lessons have been learned and it will be updated and lodged on TRM for future use. TRM is our management recording software tool that Shrewsbury Drapers Holy Cross Ltd has adopted to lodge a wide variety of documents and information. These include board papers including articles of association, memorandum, board papers and reports, policies, maintenance schedules and reminders, insurances, accounts etc. 

Huge Devlin, Chairman of the Drapers Hall Preservation Trust, invited me to attend an ordinary meeting just before the shutters came down. I was interested to observe the depth of knowledge of the historic building and how it was cared for by the members.  The economic impact of Covid -19 was beginning to being felt by the restaurant management and the Trust discussed how in future they may be called upon to support the business to ensure that it survives.  Under discussion also was the wonderful historic lead cistern. This will be emptied and refilled with an insert to retain the compost and reduce the load imposed on its side walls and new plants to set off the Drapers Coat of Arms.

Cancellation of events that I expected to attend or participate in accelerated during the second and third weeks of March. The diary swiftly became blank except for telephone conference meetings, hastily arranged and a new experience for many but all in all successful. After a week of lock down and in the knowledge that socialising and meetings are going to be banned for a long time the Drapers Guild and SDHC Ltd began to look at the essentials of what had to be maintained and a number of decisions were taken and recorded to reflect the new operating environment. It is intended that the SDHC AGM will be on the 18th May as planned but the format will be different. The Company Secretary will be in touch shortly with further details. The Guild Management Committee may take the decision to postpone its AGM until the autumn. Please watch your emails for information.

I encourage you all to think to the future. Society will survive although it might undergo some fundamental changes. Whatever happens the companionship of the Drapers and our charitable aims will continue on for many years to come.

Keep safe.   Christine




Vacancies in our Almshouses occur from time to time.. If you would like to register your interest please complete our Application Form and we will contact you when vacancies occur. Details of the accomodation are on this website look under Almshouses