Past Steward David Aggett – A Tribute to a Model Plumber
I am most grateful to Past Steward John Carnaby for his significant contribution to this tribute, to Past Master Rodney Cartwright for some of the images and to London Walking Tours for its permission to reproduce its fine article and images of David’s Old London Bridge model.
David Aggett 1930-2021
A Model Plumber
David, who had been close to being the oldest heart transplant person in the world, was given the heart of a 14 year girl in 1984, some 37 years ago, the operation being carried out by the famous surgeon, Sir Magdi Yacoub. After his operation he continued with his position in the Metropolitan Police and later rose to the rank of Detective Superintendent in the Fraud Squad.
He became a liveryman of the Plumbers Company in 1983 and was the Company’s second Steward in 1985. He was an active member of the Plumbers Company and sponsored and seconded a number of liverymen into the Company. David became a life member of the Guild of Freemen in 1971, a liveryman of the Fan Makers in 1998 and more recently a liveryman of the Master Mariners. He was also a member of a number of City of London Ward Clubs – Bridge, Cripplegate, Castle Baynard, Coleman Street and Farringdon. He was also a member of the City Livery Club, the Royal Society of St. George and a life member of the Friends of St. Paul’s.
David was a very keen and prolific model maker, best known for making the model of the Old London Bridge that is on permanent display in the Plumbers’ Company Church, St Magnus the Martyr. He started this major project a year or so after having his heart transplant. This very large model has been shown on TV and covered in a number of media articles. Many hundreds if not thousands of people have visited St Magnus to see it.
The London City Walks website gives a wonderful account and description of this impressive model:
THE MODEL OF OLD LONDON BRIDGE
……… in 1987, David T. Aggett, a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers decided to create a scaled model of the old bridge which captured in exquisite details, not only the bridge itself, but also the sheer frenetic confusion that must have emanated from the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who would have crossed the bridge, day in and day out, throughout its medieval existence.
The section of the model showing the southern portion and entrance onto the bridge from the south bank at Southwark
And, to see it, you just have to step inside the church of St Magnus the Martyr, where the replica of the old bridge occupies pride of place just inside the inner doors of the church.
The attention to detail is truly impressive. From the grooves of the lead tiles to the building themselves, some of which totter precariously over the river, looking as though they might, at any moment, plunge into the raging waters.
Over nine hundred tiny people are crammed onto the bridge, amongst them a miniature King Henry V, who can be seen processing towards the City of London from the Southwark side of the bridge.
The miniature of King Henry V
THE CHAPEL OF ST THOMAS
A chapel dedicated to St Thomas Becket (1118 – 1170) used to stand at the centre of the bridge, and this used to be a gathering point for pilgrims who were about to set out along the dusty byways to the south of the bridge en route to the saint’s shrine at Canterbury.
It must have made a picturesque sight; and, indeed; it still does in miniature as it has been recreated on the model, enabling us to picture how it would have appeared to those long ago medieval pilgrims.
The model Chapel of St Thomas on the Old London Bridge model
WISE MEN AND FOOLS
Another aspect of the bridge that the model captures is the number of arches that spanned the river between the north and south banks of the Thames.
There were twenty of them in total; and, since the width between the arches was around 30 feet, this used to funnel the Thames through the arches to create a drop of some six feet as its waters passed under the bridge from west to east.
The resultant rapids led to the dangerous activity of “Shooting the bridge” whereby boats would attempt to pass beneath the bridge without capsizing.
Inevitably, however, the boats would be overturned and the passengers would be tipped into the river and drowned.
The more sensible would climb out of their boats on the west side of the bridge, have the boat pulled through on a rope, and cross over the bridge to rejoin their vessel on the east side.
This gave rise to an old proverb “London Bridge is for wise men to go over and fools to go under.”
And, sure enough, looking at the model, we are treated to a frozen moment as a boat approaches one of the arches of the bridge and prepares to engage the rapids.
Of course, we’ll never know if the occupants made it!
“Shooting the Bridge”
A MOMENT FROZEN IN TIME
So, the next time you find yourself wandering along the busy Lower Thames Street, along which the traffic makes its way through the arches of new London Bridge; take a few moments to dip inside the church of St Magnus The Martyr, and let the model of Old London Bridge spirit you back to a long ago day in the early 15th century as the citizens of London jostle with one another on a bridge that was, quite rightly, considered to be one of the true wonders of Europe.
Over the years David also made a number of table decorations for various City Clubs and Livery Companies. In 2000, having seen David’s Cripplegate Ward table decorations, the then Lady Mayoress, Lindy Martin, asked him to make a model of the Mansion House to give to her grandson. This took 5 months to make and when finished David was invited to the Mansion House to present it to the then Lord Mayor, Sir Clive Martin and his wife Lindy.
His next significant model was that of our own former Livery Hall, compulsorily purchased and demolished in 1863 for the building of Cannon Street railway station. This was presented to the company in September 2003 at a Court Ladies’ Dinner in Cutlers’ Hall, by Sylvia Moys consort to the then Master Peter Lerwill.
A photograph taken in 2003 at the Guildhall with (L to R) Steward John Carnaby, Liveryman Michael Cooper (Chairman of Bridge Ward Club), Past Steward David Aggett, Master Peter Lerwill, Senior Assistant John Lockyer and Liveryman Leonard Pearson
The Old Plumbers’ Hall model
In 2005 David, with the help of his police friends, decided to start celebrating the major anniversaries of his heart transplant in great style. His 21st “birthday” dinner was held at Armourers’ and Braisers’ Hall, complete with the support of the Pikeman and Musketeers to add to the pageantry. This first major event was supported by a large contingent of senior police officers from the City Police Fraud Squad, who had worked with David, two Justices of the Peace, Past Masters and Liveryman from the Plumbers, Fanmakers, Wax Chandlers and Basketmakers Livery Companies, along with David’s City Livery Club and Bridge Ward friends. The evening raised a considerable amount of money that David donated to Harefield Hospital.
In 2007, Bridge Ward club arranged a weekend away to Grantham and Southwell. While there (amongst many other things) he and the party were invited to Burgage Manor, the previous home of Lord Byron’s mother, and the home of Geoffrey Bond, Past Alderman and Sheriff of the City of London and Past Master Glazier. David later made a model of Burgage Manor and presented it to Geoffrey and his wife at their home.
The Burgage Manor model
David with Geoffrey Bond, taken in 2015
At an annual Bridge Ward Club Civic luncheon at Fishmongers’ Hall the following year, David presented a model of “The Monument” to the then Lord Mayor Ian Luder.
David presenting the model of The Monument to Lord Mayor Ian Luder
In April 2009, a London Bridge Gala Luncheon was held in Fishmongers Hall to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the completion of old London Bridge. After the lunch everyone was invited back to St Magnus the Martyr to view David’s splendid model.
Later that year, a grand 25th heart transplant celebration dinner was held on a packed HQS Wellington on the Thames. In 2014, David now aged 84 years, had his most prestigious event to celebrate the 30th year of his heart transplant. The grand luncheon was held in a very full Fishmongers Hall, arranged by Michael John, one of David’s police friends.
David celebrating his 30th anniversary at Fishmongers’ Hall. If you click on the picture you can see a short video of him processing into lunch
Another raffle was organised at the event, the prize being a lovely model of Fishmongers’ Hall and the winner was a very lucky Bridge Ward Club member. All proceeds from the raffle again went to Harefield Hospital.
The Fishmongers’ Hall model and lucky recipient
Over these entire years David’s very close friend was Joan Beavington, a Past Master of the Wax Chandlers. Joan had hoped that David would be able act as her consort when she was Master in 2018, but unfortunately he was now unable to travel and walk well and had to decline.
David with Joan Beavington
In October 2020 David now aged 91 yrs and very frail was taken by friends to Belvedere House, The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, Banstead to be cared for. He died peacefully on Monday 18th January 2021.