Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Church stalwarts thrilled to be honoured by Queen

THE work of three Hambleden parishioners was recognised at the Royal Maundy service.

THE work of three Hambleden parishioners was recognised at the Royal Maundy service.

Christine Wells, Harry Sloper and Charles Gray have all been involved with the Hambleden Valley Churches for more than 50 years and were nominated by Rev John Wigram, the rector.

The trio were honoured at the service held at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford on March 28, the first time in more than 400 years that the ceremony has been held in the city.

Her Majesty, who was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, presented two purses of money to 87 men and 87 women, to correspond with her 87th year.

Each received a red purse containing a £5 coin and a 50p coin commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation in 1953 and a white purse holding the traditional Maundy money in the form of silver one, two, three and four penny pieces equalling 87 pence.

The recipients were retired pensioners who have served the church and the community in the diocese of Oxford.

Mrs Wells, who lives in Hambleden, said she felt honoured to be chosen.

“I was very shocked as the invitation was in a pile of junk mail when suddenly this lovely envelope from Buckingham Palace jumped out,” she said. “It was very exciting.”

She has completed more than 55 years as organist and director of music at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Hambleden and more recently has helped out at other churches in the parish.

Mrs Wells said: “I lived near Pangbourne when I was younger and while I was studying at the Royal Academy of Music I was in a reference library in Reading and saw an advert for an organist at Hambleden church for £100 a year.

“That was jolly good in those days and my mother said that Princess Margaret went to Hambleden so I had better go along and apply. I fell in love with the place and have been her ever since.” Mrs Wells was accompanied to Oxford by her nephew Andrew, who was a chorister while at the university’s Worcester College.

She said: “The service was right up my street because it had wonderful music. I just wish I could have been directing myself. I thought the Queen was absolutely wonderful — she looked so happy and really so young, although she is 87.

“I am still showing the purses to interested people such as my choir children, who are all fascinated. It was a fantastic experience.”

Mr Sloper has been involved with the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Fawley since moving to the village as a child.

He said: “I could not believe it when I received the invitation as the reverend did not tell us so I immediately thought it was a scam. It was not until we went on a retreat in January that he asked me if I had received any interesting letters in the post.

“I came to Fawley at the age of 13 and within a week I was a choirboy. After being confirmed at the church, I became a server and remained so until I joined the army.

“When I returned after two years I was involved in the church again. I was a server and then a member of the parochial church council, lay vice-chairman and a churchwarden for 23 years.”

Mr Sloper, who was a chauffeur for Lord McAlpine, as his father had been, was accompanied to the service by his daughter Judith.

He said: “It was quite the occasion and I felt so honoured — I am just an ordinary working man.

“To meet the Queen and to have her say to you, ‘This is for you’ and hand you the two purses is fantastic. The lunch was absolutely super, too. We had a wonderful day.”

Mr Gray, from Hambleden, has a been choirboy, server and churchwarden.

“I have served the church all my life and have also worked for the community and in the village as the chairman of the sports club and as a school governor,” he said.

“It was such an honour to be presented with the purses by the Queen. She looked absolutely fantastic — you would not have realised that she had been poorly. She looked really lovely in her blue.”

Mr Gray, who took his next-door neighbour Sarah Larson as his companion, added: “It was a wonderful occasion. It was really marvellous and everything was so beautifully organised and it was a wonderful ceremony.”

Rev Wigram said: “We have lots of great people who give their time and talents to support our churches and I was delighted to be able to nominate Christine, Charles and Harry in recognition of their many years of service.

“Christine has been director of music at Hambleden church for almost 56 years and continues to do a fantastic job, playing the organ wonderfully, running two choirs and organising great concerts.

“Charles and Harry are both ex-churchwardens, founts of community and church knowledge and long-standing pillars of their churches — a great support for their latest rector as they have been for many previous rectors.”

More News:

Genie appeal

A DIGITAL community alert service for Goring is ... [more]


Injured owl

AN injured owl stranded in the middle of a road ... [more]


POLL: Have your say