We are trying to piece together information from multiple sources to give an insightful look into the world of our profession as toastmasters and masters of the ceremonies. We will do our best to make this site as accurate with its content as is possible.
We are already getting a reaction from some of our visitors, some of whom are able to provide further information which we will be pleased to use as time allows.
Thank you for your interest and please feel free to comment at any time by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 01245 222392 or 07971 409977 at any time.
The Royal City of Bath and the notable Master of the Ceremonies - Richard Nash
The role of the toastmaster has been a unique position in English society for more than 300 years. Its recognisable history began in Bath with Richard 'Beau' Nash, the Master of the Ceremonies in 1705.
Soon after arriving in Bath, Richard Nash became assistant to the city's then Master of the Ceremonies, King Webster.
After Websters death, Richard Nash was appointed Master of the Ceremonies, a position he held for over 56 years during the reign of 3 monarchs.
Richard Nash wore a coloured frock coat, knee breeches, black stockings and black silver buckled shoes. He used a black cane which he would bang on the floor to gain attention, this stayed the accepted dress code until towards the end of the 19th century.
Thanks go to Tony Pulé from Kent, one of our toastmasters in the English Toastmasters Association, for the pictures of the memorial Plaque and the framed drawing of Richard 'Beau' Nash.
Bath is a city that is well worth a visit as it is steeped in history. Richard Nash aided the development of Bath and the social facilities there.
Spending his time between Bath and Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Nash played a major role in the rules of Social Convention which were instrumental in leading if the formalities that we have come to know and love to date.
If you use this information, please acknowledge that you have found it on this site and do not copy it word for word.
City of London toastmaster James Toole
An article in the Pictorial Times 1847 reported that James Toole was born in 1796.
"By his peculiar and happy expession , and perfectly original style, he was the first who established the business of toastmaster; and the extrodinary success with which he carried it out for the last seventeen years, at the city festivals, and in fact all parts of England, has recently created several copyists, who were anxious to share the business.
Notwithstanding this, his engagements, up to the hour of his death, we understand, were very numerous. He always officiated to the Duke of Cambridge, by desire of his Royal Highness, with whom he was an especial favourite. As a toastmaster, his equal will never be found. he was a kind-hearted and generous man, and subscribed to a great number of charitable societies.
He had been twenty-two years in the East India House, where, by his invariable activity in studying the interests of the company, and obliging disposition, his loss is severely felt and deeply lamented both by his superiors and equals."
James Toole distinguished himself by his 'Silence, gentlemen, if you please,' and by his good and genial qualities.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Frank Toole ( the son of the James Toole ) came to work in Chelmsford ( my home town ) and conducted a festival at The Saraccen's Head Hotel in the High Street, Chelmsford, Essex during October 1876. It was reported in The Chelmsford Chronicle on the 20th October 1876 that A POPULAR M.C. AND TOASTMASTER has during the last quarter of a century officiated as a master of ceremonies and toastmaster, at various ceremonials, festivals, and public dinners ( parties - from 12 to 3000 ), in London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Chelmsford, Folkstone, Northampton, Dover, Bristol, Birkenhead, and many other provincial towns: HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, The Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge etc. all as per the article shown on ther left of this passage.
With grateful thanks to Mr. Cai Thomas for this copy of the news article shown left.
James Toole resided in Devonshire Street, Bishopsgate and was succeeded by his son Frank Toole. Frank was educated at the City of London School. He was a very quiet man, but like his brother John Lawrence Toole, loved a joke, and never failed to put in an appearance on "first nights" at the Folly Theatre, King William Street, Strand.
This theatre was opened by his brother (James) in 1879 and renamed Toole's Theatre in 1882, which he ran until 1895. James Lawrence Toole also opened the Globe Theatre, London in 1877.
Frederick Toole was referred to in an article in the 'Times' Social Investigation/Journalism - Twice Round the Clock, or The Hours of the Day
and Night in London, by George Augustus Sala, 1859. FOUR O'CLOCK A.M. - BILLINSGATE MARKET An interesting article with a final line referring to the London Toastmaster
BILLINGSGATE MARKET : THE FISH SOLD AT AUCTION
“O ‘tis my delight on a Friday night,
When sprats they isn’t dear,
To fry a couple of score or so
Upon a fire clear.
eats so well, they bears the bell
From all the fish I knows:
let us eat them while we can,
Before the price is rose.”
(Chorus—ad libitum) “O ‘tis my delight,” &c.
You must have three
pennyworth of sprats, a large tablecloth is indispensable for finger-wiping
purposes—for he who would eat sprats with a knife and fork is unworthy the name
of an epicure—and after the banquet I should recommend, for purely hygienic and
antibilious reasons, the absorption of a petit verre of the best Hollands.
To return. As regards salmon, nine-tenths of the aristocratic fish are
brought up by rail in barrels, and in summer packed in ice. Salmon and
salmon-trout are not subjected to the humiliation of being “knocked down” by an auctioneer. They are disposed
of “ by private contract” at so much per pound.
Of dried and smoked fish
of all kinds the best come from Yarmouth; but as regards the costermonger and
street-vender—the modern “ billestres,” of dried haddocks, smoked sprats and
herrings, entire or kippered -they are little affected by the state of the cured
fish market so long as they can buy plenty of the fresh kind. The costermonger
cures his fish himself in the following manner :—He builds a little shed like a
watch-box, with wires across the upper part; and on this grating he threads his
fish. Then he makes a fire on the floor of his impromptu curing-house with coal
or mahogany dust, and smokes the fish” till done,” as the old cookery books say.
There is a dealer in the market to whom all fish-sellers bring the skins of
departed soles. He gives fourpence-halfpenny a pound for them. They are used for
And now for a word concerning the crustacea and the molluscs.
Of oysters there are several kinds: Native Pearls, Jerseys, Old Barleys, and
Commons. On board every oyster-boat a business-like gentleman is present, who
takes care that every buyer of a bushel of oysters pays him fourpence. No buyer
may carry his oysters ashore himself, be he ever so able and willing. There are
regular “shoremen,” who charge fourpence a bushel for their services; so that
whatever may be the market-price of oysters, the purchaser must pay, nolens volens, eightpence a bushel over
and above the quoted rate.
Of mussels there are three kinds: Dutch,
Exeters, and Shorehams. They are brought to market in bags, of the average
weight of three hundredweight; each bag containing about one hundred and sixty
quarts, inclusive of dirt and stones. They are sold at from five shillings to
seven shillings a bag. Of periwinkles—or, as they are more popularly and
familiarly termed, “winkles “—there are four sorts: Scotch, Clays, Isle of
Wights, and Maidens. They are sold by the bushel, or by the “level” or gallon.
Crabs arc sold by the “kit” (a long shallow basket) and by the score. Lobsters
by the score and the double.
At the “Cock,” in Love Lane, and at the
“White Hart,” in Botolph Lane, there is a boiling-house in the rear of the
premises. Each boiling-house consists of a spacious kitchen filled with immense
cauldrons. Here winkle and whelk buyers, who have neither utensils nor
convenient premises sufficient to boil at home, can have it done for them for
fourpence a bushel. Each boiling is performed separately in a wicker-basket; crabs and lobsters may
likewise be boiled at these houses. Half-a-dozen scores of the fish are packed
in a large basket, shaped like a strawberry-pottle, a lid is put between each
lot, and the hot-water torture is inflicted at the rate of sixpence a Score.
If your servant, the writer, were not precluded by the terms of his
contract from taking any natural rest, he might, pleading fatigue, retire to
bed; and, tossing on an unquiet couch, as men must do who slip between the
sheets when the blessed sun is shining, have fantastic dreams of Ned Ward and
Sir William Walworth : dream of the market-scene in “Masaniello,” and hum a
dream-reminiscence of “Behold, how brightly beams the morning!” which, of
course, like all things appertaining to dreams, has no more resemblance to the
original air than the tune the cow died of. Then fancy that he is a
supernumerary in a pantomime, and that Mr. Flexmore, the clown, has jumped upon
his shoulders, and is beating him about the ears with a “property” codfish. Then
he might be Jonah, swallowed by the whale; and then Tobit’s fish. Then he would
find himself half awake, and repeating some lines he remembered reading years
ago, scrawled in ink on a huge placard outside the shop of Mr. Taylor, the
famous fishmonger, in Lombard Street. Yes: they ran thus—
“ So the
‘Times’ takes an interest in the case of Geils
I wish it would take some
in my eels! What a queer fish Mr. Taylor must have been! Where is he now? Why,
he (your servant) is Taylor—Jeremy Taylor—Tom Taylor— Taylor the
water-poet—Billy Taylor—the Three Tailors of Tooley Street—Mr. Toole, the
toast-master of arts and buttered toast; ann— he is asleep!
More details to follow regarding the Victorian history of toastmasters.
Including Toastmaster Mr. Harker who worked at many major events.
The Easter Banquet at the Mansion House, 17th March 1852, from The Times. The Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress, according to the custom of the season, had a very large party at the Mansion House: and the presence of the new Premier among the company gave more than the usual interest to this year's Easter banquet. Coivers were laid in the Egyptian hall for 351 - a number which, great as it is, can be well accommodated in that noble apartment. The walls were decorated with banners and the tables glittered with massive and elegant plate. The arrangements (under the superindence, as we believe, of Mr Catty, the Lord Mayor's Secretary, ) appeared to be in all respect exceedingly good; those which related especially to ourselves were particularly convenient.
About 7 o'clock the company proceeded from the drawing-rooms into the hall, and took their places.
The dinner, which included every delicacy that could be supplied, was exremely well served. It was provided by Messrs. Staples, of the Albion. Laurent's band played at intervals.
When the cloth had been cleared, the loving cup was sent round, Mr. Harkere, the toastmaster, proclaiming the welcome with a voice becoming his function.
The Lord Mayor then gave the first toast. - "The Queen."
It was drunk amid great applause followed by the National Anthem.
In another article Mr Harker was described thus. From an article in the Evening Herald (Newspaper) October 17th 1861. "The ladies withdrew to the whither. They were soon after followed by the larger portion of the company and dancing was kept up for several hours to the cheerful music of the band of the Grenadiers. Harker acted as toastmaster with his wanted efficiency and the entertainment was one of the most successful, mainly owing to the presence of the gentler sex, that has been witnessed for many years."
Watch this space
Our splendid Toastmasters' Red Long Tail Coat and how it all came together
In 1894, William Knightsmith, a well known and respected toastmaster, working mainly in London, was becoming increasingly incensed at being addressed as ' waiter' by attendees at the various functions where he was working.
His wife Mettie (who he married on September 6th 1881, at Palace Gardens Church, Kensington. by Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bailey, when he was resident at "Cleethorpes" Thorpe Hall Avenue, Thorpe Bay, Essex) suggested changing the colour of his long tailed coat to make him stand out. So, at the Freemasons Tavern (now the Connaught Rooms) in that same year (1894), he wore his new scarlet coat for the second time to give recognition and added dignity to the profession. Other toastmasters who saw it at first considered it a little eccentric, ridiculed him and thought it a joke. They were however soon glad to get a copy of the design and even to borrow his own coat.
When William Knightsmith attended a banquet of about 500 Civil engineers, at which the Prince of Wales was present, he appeared as toastmaster in his ordinary black coat. This was because, at a function that William Knightsmith attended the week prior to this banquet, at the Holborn Restaurant for holders of the Kitchener Scholarships he heard the Prince of Wales mention in his very witty speech, "I don't suppose any of you would relish going onto the Hall dressed in the toastmaster's red coat."
The fact that William Knightsmith was not wearing his scarlet coat was noticed by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward the Seventh) who was heard to say by some of the other guests, "I am sorry to see that our old friend has not got his scarlet coat."
Having overheard the remark, Mr. Knightsmith slipped out of the room during one of the speeches and hurriedly changed into his scarlet coat, which he had brought with him. When he re-entered the hall in his new scarlet coat, there was enthusiastic clapping by the company, in which the Prince joined and there were approvals of the colour.
Within a year, virtually all the toastmasters in London were wearing the long tailed scarlet coat, similar to the 'hunting pink' .
An article written nearly a century ago by William Knightsmith stated that, "The toastmaster, on whom the success of a banquet depends to a large extent, is now always expected to appear in a scarlet coat. It distinguishes him from the hundreds of guests in ordinary dinner-dress and marks him out as a man who has a unique part to play in the ceremonials.
A toastmaster must appear to be a member of the gathering and yet must stand apart.
I have had to politely refuse many famous men who said, "Have one with me," because I have seen so many toastmasters ruined by a taste for conviviality. And yet it is more interesting to be outside the circle and watch those who are dining and speaking. You see many humorous incidents and hear many remarks which are missed by those who have enjoyed the banquet."
Like Richard Nash, William Knight smith served 3 generations of Monarchs, appearing before 7 European Monarchs who heard his voice, King Edward and King George, two kings of Denmark, and the Kings of Spain Italy, and Norway, many Princes and innumerable aristocrats.
William and Met tie Knight smith celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary with a dinner at the Palace Hotel, Southend on Sea, Essex on Monday 7th September 1931. A two-tier wedding anniversary cake was provided by one of their daughters, Mrs. Stevenson from Banwell, Somersetshire. The guests included Mr. Edward Francis Lanscelles, who is a distant relative by marriage to Lord Harewood, was present with his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Knightsmith's two daughters and son, all of whom were married, and the seven grand children, were all at the gathering.
William Knightsmith had been a toastmaster for 40 years and sadly passed away in his arm chair due to heart failure, after a bout of influenza at the age of 73, in his home in Shepherds Bush on Friday 12th February 1932. His funeral took place at Hammersmith Cemetery at 2.30pm on Wednesday 17th February 1932.
Mr. Knightsmith who was a vocalist as a boy, had a wonderfully impressive and resonant voice. He started his working life as a teacher of dancing, but because of his majestic voice was soon advised to become a toastmaster. William Knightsmith was not only the most famous toastmaster in the world; he virtually started toastmastering. He was the first toastmaster to make a full-time profession of it, and the first to invent a uniform to do it in.
It was law that the hunt was not allowed to pass through the city of London and therefore toastmasters generally do not wear the red tailcoat, otherwise known as 'hunting pink',( but only similar to and not an exact copy of, the hunting pink ) in the city. It is widely thought that the hunting pink got its name from the tailor, a Mr. Thomas Pink, who created the original design.
A toastmaster is brought in to preside over an event and must be immediately recognised. The tradition that he should be even more splendidly dressed that the guests goes back to one of the earliest toastmasters/Masters of Ceremonies, Beau Nash, the 18th century dandy and professional gambler who lived and worked in both Bath and Tunbridge Wells.
Even 'toast' has a lurid history. It was a slang expression in the 17th century, meaning either a naked lady or a spicy crouton.
The role is not exclusively male, although ladies prefer to be known as toastmasters rather than toastmistresses.
In the words of William Knightsmith, at an interview with Fenn Sherie," I once heard an after-dinner speaker say that "Toastmasters step in where angels fear to tread." These were indeed true words spoken in jest, for I cannot imagine any profession which calls for greater discretion, tact, and diplomacy than that of the toast-master at an important social or political function."
The picture of William Knightsmith (above) taken by Richard Palmer, courtesy of the Cafe Royal, Regent Street, London, where the painting hung in the Tudor Rooms until December 2008, is owned by the National Association of Toastmasters.
The picture below is available courtesy of Getty Images depicting William Knightsmith at the London Olympic Games in 1908
In the words of William Knightsmith " I have a certificate from Lord Desboroughin in appreciation of "services rendered" at the "White City", Shepherd's Bush. I acted in the capacity of megaphone man at the Stadium during the Olympic Games, and I believe I was the first man ever professionally employed as a megaphonist."
The English Toastmasters Association offers training to the highest standard for those wishing to become a toastmaster, and alignment days for experienced toastmasters wishing to join the English Toastmasters Association. This training includes a course module on the history of toastmasters. The English Toastmasters Association is currently the fastest growing Association for toastmasters in the UK. Please visit the website for further details.
Information about William Knightsmith as shown on this page and presented by Richard Palmer from the English Toastmasters Association is checked for correctness and accuracy and is fully backed up by proper documentary evidence of that correctness. This information is the copyright of Richard Palmer of the English Toastmasters Association
I am extremely grateful to the family of the late William Knightsmith for their help, support and kindness that they have shown to me and to The English Toastmasters Association.
Please be aware that the name William Knightsmith is properly shown in this form and is not correct when shown as William Knight - Smith or William Knight Smith.
History of English Toastmasters from the 1950s
Bringing the history of our profession a little more up to date and moving on to the organisations representing toastmasters, the first such organisation to be formed in 1953 was the Society of London Toastmasters. The first president of that society was Harold Dean who wrote the book My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, which was first published in 1957 by John Long & Co (Publishers) Ltd., of 178 - 202, Great Portland Street, London W.1. As a point of interest, this book was printed by the Anchor Press Ltd., in Tiptree, Essex which is only a few miles from the headquarters of the English Toastmasters Association.
Harold Dean began to keep a permanent record of his engagements from 1925 and noted that he had worked at a great many different types of functions as diverse as a staff ball for the servants at a block of flats, a Masonic Ladies' Festival, a dinner for city tradesmen, a meeting of tailors and outfitters, a local political club dinner, a society ball at the Hotel Cecil and not least in interest, the farewell reception given to the All Blacks Rugby Football team.
Back in 1957, Harold Dean referred to William Knightsmith as "the doyen of toastmasters", commenting that "he was a law to himself. Strict as a judge in every point of etiquette, he would stand up to any man, guest or servant, who tried to outface him when he was sure he was in the right".
For toastmasters who still do not attend weddings at churches, temples, synagogues and other venues, it may be noted that this has been happening, at the clients' request, since the 1940's. Brides and grooms get real benefit from this services and it raises the bar on service and care on what is after all a most special day for all concerned.
For those interested, here is a revue of this book by J. MCCARRAHER "James" (South Coast)
James joined the English Toastmasters Association at the end of October 2011
This review is from: My Lords,Ladies and Gentlemen (Hardcover)
I doubt if this note will get many reads, but for the few who find it, let me give you an insight into a Harold Dean's world. Dean was the best of the second generation of Toastmasters, having worked alongside the likes of Knightsmith in the early Twenties. He worked almost exclusively in the Square Mile and covered about 10,000 events in his career. His book gives us a wonderful insight into a truly honourable profession and offers us a window into customs and personalities that prevailed at the time. The style of the book is now a little quaint, but it is nevertheless delightful and historically very important. A must for every Toastmaster.
If you are interested in obtaining an original copy of this book please contact the head office of the English Toastmasters Association on 01245 222392 or 07971 409977 Limited copies are available at £125.00 including postage and packaging.
The start of the Association of Toastmasters and Masters of Ceremonies.
After the second world war, with men returning to
'Civvy Street' in the late 1940s and early '50s the banqueting world found new interest from the populous and functions
were became more popular. Around 12 Toastmasters who had worked as toastmasters before the war returned to their previous work but found with the level of demand increasing, they could not cope with the increased workload. More interest in our profession came from some
men who now they were no longer in uniform, were finding that the idea of becoming a Toastmaster
and Masters of Ceremonies was very appealing. New faces were starting to build good reputations. Some of the older
Toastmasters who thought that an 'elite' organisation would be useful to close ranks formed a Society
within the profession based primarily in London.
They were selective and pulled in members from the 'old guard' and
many of the new contenders found themselves unable to join as they performed as Masters
of Ceremonies during the dancing. These newer entrants recognised that an essential part of their capabilities at
that time related to the people that wanted to be motivated and entertained.
During 1955 a group of 8
Toastmasters and M.C.s, at the invitation of Maurice Lewin, met with a view to
forming another organisation. The Association of Toastmasters
and Masters of Ceremonies (A.T.M.C.) was thus formed with broader terms of reference for their
members and encompassing the whole of the United Kingdom.
for the A. T. M. C. were to:
1. Establish and maintain the highest standards of professional
activity and behavior.
2. Exchange ideas and views on the whole of the
3. Interchange work between themselves.
discussions on protocol and procedure with the intention of sustaining those
standards and assuring accuracy of knowledge.
5. Generally to represent the
professions of Toastmaster as an important and vital part of the banqueting
Numbers of members were on the increase as the volume of work was growing. During the
1970s and early '80s, the necessity to be an M.C. became
less important, as the type of dancing and music had changed almost beyond recognition. As the era of
Rock and Roll, the Twist and other modern dances took hold, there was less demand for the newer bands to play the old style music which was fast losing popularity. During 1973
it was thought prudent to change the old name of the A.T.M.C. to The National Association of Toastmasters
because the need to act as a Dance M.C. was no longer a necessity.
Ivor Spencer was acknowledged to be Britain's leading and highest paid and
most travelled professional Toastmaster and Master of Ceremonies. The Rt.
Worshipful The Lord Mayor of The
City of Westminster has said he is the doyen of professional
He was Life President and Founder of The Guild of International Professional
Toastmasters, one of H.M. Deputy Lieutenants for and in the county of Greater
London, and was the first Toastmaster to have achieved the honour of officiating
at well over 1,000 Royal events, and this was mentioned in the House of Commons
on the 3rd February 1992.
He ws an author, after-dinner speaker, lecturer and broadcaster in television
and radio, and ran the famous Ivor Spencer International School for Butler
Administrator/Personal Assistants in the U.K. and U.S.A. and the Ivor Spencer
School for professional Toastmasters.
He was a professional
Toastmaster for 40 years, and was often called upon to organise very
special events. His client list reads like the Times Top Thousand Companies,
many were international names including Harrods and Marks & Spencer, and
included many leading newspapers. "I, Ivor Spencer, am very proud to have
created "The Best After-Dinner Speaker of the Year" Award in 1967. The Award now
known as, "The Ivor Spencer Best After-Dinner Speaker of the Year" Award will
continue sponsored by The Guild of International Professional Toastmasters of
which I am the Founder and Life President. Recipients of the Award have been
former Prime Minister of Great Britain Baroness Thatcher, Bob Monkhouse, Lord
Tonypandy, Jimmy Tarbuck, Sir Peter Ustinov and many other eminent speakers."
The Ivor Spencer School for Butlers has been established 20 years, and the
Ivor Spencer School for Professional Toastmasters for 30 years.
CITATION: The Executive Officers and Fellows of the Guild of
International Professional Toastmasters award to Ivor Spencer, The Guild of
International Professional Toastmasters Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award,
the first Toastmaster to receive this Award for services to the Toastmaster
profession, for being the first and only Toastmaster to have officiated at well
over 1,000 Royal events, and in recognition of Ivor Spencer's relentless efforts
and superb contribution to the Toastmaster profession for over forty years.
TOASTMASTER OF THE YEAR 2000: This award was presented to Ivor Spencer
by the Guild of International Professional Toastmasters.
The above two awards were presented by the former Prime Minister of Great
Britain The Right Honourable Baroness Thatcher.
If you are looking for a wedding toastmaster or a toastmaster for any type of function please visit our website. Any one of our members would be pleased to discuss your requirements further.
For further information
01245 222392 / 07971 409977 / 01245 225511
Last Updated 13.49hrs Thursday 14th November 2013
For Essex Wedding Professionals and Wedding Professionals in Essex see http://www.essexweddingprofessionals.co.uk