It seemed a fitting way to honour the memory of Her Late Majesty, with the two lamps erected at the entrance to New Palace Yard, just outside Westminster Hall, where she had lain in state.
The occasion was special for another reason as East Hampshire’s Morris Singer Art Foundry, based in Lasham, made the unique bronze sculptures featured at the base of the lamps.
Representing the heraldic beasts of the United Kingdom – the Lion of England. The Unicorn of Scotland, the Dragon of Wales and the Irish Elk of Northern Ireland - the sculptures ware cast by the expert team at Morris Singer, working closely with sculptor Tim Crawley.
The commissioning committee selected Tim’s traditional, Pugin-esque design - whose own designs are evident in several elaborate lamp standards around the Palace of Westminster- which includes lanterns that reflect the shape of St Edward’s Crown.
I had been fortunate to see the work in progress at the foundry last year, and it was a privilege to attend the unveiling, as King Charles met company owner John Berelowitz, employee Harry Major and the wider team responsible for the gift.
Extraordinarily, Harry is himself a third generation employee at Morris Singer, following his father and grandfather into the business, and is now training as a wax moulder, fettler and furnace-man.
These are ancient and expert skills and it is wonderful to see them brought to life in a way that will be part of our national heritage for decades to come.
Morris Singer was founded back in 1848 and is recognised as the oldest fine art foundry in the UK, working with both traditional and contemporary craftsmanship. With a staff of 18 it continues to recruit locally, with vacancies across all departments including metal workers/chasers.
The event reminded me of another unique local business, the Edward Barnsley Workshop in Froxfield, who handcrafted the wonderful suite of office furniture that I had the privilege to use during my time as education secretary, originally made back in 1960 for David Eccles, the-then education minister.
The workshop is a centre of excellence for furniture making, offering apprenticeships and teaching opportunities to help preserve and develop these highly-prized skills.
Also local to East Hampshire is the Future Skills Centre in Whitehill & Bordon, opened in 2017 and offering a wide range of specialist construction courses, designed to meet the needs of employers in today’s construction industry.
And of course there are a range of T-level qualifications now available that enable students to combine classroom study with direct work experience in a range of fields, including construction and engineering among others.
Alton College was one of the first further education institutions to offer T-levels, and I applaud the work they do to develop the vocational skills so much in demand across our economy.
As we come to the end of 2022 and reflect back on the year, the passing of Her Majesty is the moments we will all always remember with sadness but also gratitude for her life of service.
She would I’m sure wholeheartedly approve of the new lamps shining brightly in New Palace Yard and I will appreciate both their symbolism and their connection to East Hampshire every time I have the opportunity to walk past.
Looking forward to the start of a new year, there are certainly challenges and difficulties ahead but there is also optimism and hope, and I would like to wish everyone a peaceful and joyful 2023.