THE FOUNDING OF THE GUVNORS CLUB
Formed by the then chairman of Bovis, Hon. Guv. Vincent E. Vincent, in October 1929, the Guvnors Club has remained unique within the industry. A total of 56 members attended the inaugural dinner in 1929. At the inaugural dinner VE Vincent told the assembled press of the period about the origins of the club’s title, explaining “the Guvnor is known to the world as the general foreman, to his men he is often known as something else – and sometimes he is even called the Guvnor.” Hence the Guvnors Club. Since that first meeting, the Guvnors have survived and thrived, through the depression and World War II, recessions and major changes within the Bovis group.
ALWAYS A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
Once a year the members of the Guvnors Club gather in London for the annual dinner. Since the inaugural dinner certain traditions have been handed down through the years and are now a ritual part of the occasion.
Any gathering of thirsty Guvnors requires liquid refreshment and plenty of it. Tin tea cans, once a familiar item on building sites, are now carefully preserved and brought out each year, filled with beer.
Cans are carried to the tables on notched broom sticks, in much the same way as tea was served around the sites. The service now comes from waiters, free for an evening from dinner jackets but wearing instead cloth caps, scarves and even string around the trousers.
CANS PRESENTED DURING THE EVENING
Life Guvnor Cans: To ‘Guvnors’ who have been made life members of the club – usually upon their retirement.
Guvnor of the Year: To one member from each branch who has been particularly supportive during the preceding year.
Sid Capon Trophy: To the ‘Guvnor’ responding to the toast ‘The Club’. Named after Sid Capon the last surviving founder member, and first presented by him to Guvnor Paul Nathan (Southern branch) at the 55th anniversary dinner in 1985.
Guvnor: Any member of the Bovis Group site supervisory staff and who has completed six months service.
Associate Guvnor: Any other member of the Bovis Group, or the Club), who has, in the opinion of the Management Committee, rendered distinguished service to the Club.
(The above categories all wear blue ties).
Life Guvnor: Any previous member may be invited to become a life Guvnor; this usually occurs when a member has retired from the group’s employ. (They wear maroon ties).
On the tables are the ‘physical menus’, which are now an essential part of the annual dinner. There is strong competition between the regional branches to provide the basis for the menu and the many ideas used over the years have been varied and ingenious.
Since its foundation the Guvnors Club has amassed a variety of much prized memorabilia. The foundation building was designed by a noted architect of the period, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (designer of Battersea Power Station and the iconic red telephone kiosk), who was a guest at the inaugural dinner. New members to the club used to be initiated by signing a stone which they added to the foundation building. In 1966 the principal guest was the distinguished architect, Sir Donald Gibson CBE, PPRIBA, who was invited to design a new monument for the club. His monument, which reflects all elements of the building industry, includes four main base blocks – representing the client, architect, quantity surveyor and contractor.
Always a feature at the president’s table at the annual dinner is a solid silver model of a hand-operated concrete mixer, which doubles as a working cocktail shaker. It was presented to the club at the inaugural dinner jointly by Bovis Limited and Ransome Rapier Limited. Also made of silver are the Chairman’s can, engraved with the names and years of office of the six chairman since the club’s foundation in 1929; and the principal guest’s can recording the names of distinguished men who have replied for the guests over the years.
Another annual tradition is to present the principal guest with a cartoon designed by a Guvnor member.
OUR DISTINGUISHED GUESTS
It should be no surprise to find that many of our guests are connected in some way or other to the Bovis Group’s activities in the construction, property development and allied industries. At the inaugural dinner, the guest was Mr Ben Carter of Carter & Stephens. Since then, we have entertained many of our clients; representative of the architectural, engineering and quantity surveying professions; the general secretary to the TUC; and other distinguished people from many walks of life.