Bright sunshine welcomed His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester to the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Eaton Bray, as part of its 800th anniversary celebrations.
The visit to the church concluded HRH’s three-part tour of Bedfordshire, with Prince Richard having been to Bedford School and Wardown House Museum and Gallery during the Wednesday morning (May 15).
HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis, accompanied His Royal Highness on his visit.
Other dignitaries present included the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire Meryl Dolling, the Bishop of Bedford The Rt Revd Richard Atkinson OBE, the Chief Executive of CentralBedfordshire Council Richard Carr and the Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller CBE QFSM MStJ DL.
HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis, said: “It was a great pleasure for me to welcome HRH The Duke of Gloucester to Eaton Bray in this three-part visit to Bedfordshire. His Royal Highness visited some very special places in the county which showed many different and successful aspects of living in our vibrant community. We hope His Royal Highness enjoyed his visit”.
The visit was hosted by St Mary’s church warden Catherine Hayden who introduced His Royal Highness to the Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough Rev Joy Cousans, the former retired Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough Revd Canon Malcolm Grant and the Reader of the Parish Gordon Gray.
The visit commenced with a Service of Dedication and Thanksgiving led by The Bishop of Bedford and Rev Joy Cousans during which a choir comprising pupils from the three schools in the parish (Dagnall Church of England School, Eaton Bray Academy and Edlesborough School) sang the anthem ‘Look at the world’ by Rutter.
After a blessing from the Bishop, His Royal Highness signed the Visitors’ Book.
His Royal Highness has a background as an architect and Revd Canon Malcolm Grant, who has undertaken extensive research on St Mary’s Church and has written a book on its history and architecture, provided a guided tour of St Mary’s. He explained the marked difference in architectural style between the North and South arcades and highlighted several connections with the Royal Household, including the work of Reginald Bray, after whom the village was named and who was architect and builder of St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
After His Royal Highness was presented with three books on the history of the church and village (Malcolm Grant’s book plus two by the village historian Peter Mayne), dignitaries moved outside the church to join members of St Mary’s congregation and parents and pupils from the schools.
His Royal Highness was introduced to tree specialist Brian McMahon who explained that the tree to be planted was a whitebeam that would grow to a medium height and prove a most attractive addition to the Churchyard.
Having ceremonially planted the tree, His Royal Highness spoke with members of the congregation and the choir children before being bid farewell by Rev Joy Cousans and the Lord-Lieutenant.