The Queen’s portrait in Belstone Village Hall
In February the village website posted memories of the days when sixteen locals crossed paths with the Queen (or other royals). Here are sixteen more memories, told to me in September last year, all from Belstone folk unless stated otherwise.
David Emerson was by his front door; ‘all I remember was when we were on holiday in our caravan in South Wales and saw the Queen passing by at Towyn.’
Alison Hastie was driving away to watch the funeral on TV with her 96-year-old mother; ‘my then husband Mark and I were in the front row at Exeter Cathedral during the Queen’s visit on 1 May 2002, It was the first day of her Golden Jubilee year tour of the country. The great west doors were opened and light flooded in as she entered. We were there because our daughter Teff was dancing at the Cathedral for the Queen, part of specially created performances by youngsters including Devon Youth Theatre and Devon Youth Dance. Teff walked up the aisle alongside Prince Philip, just behind the Queen, escorting them on to another part of the Cathedral for the next performance.’
Chris Williams was at White House Services; ‘my father Douglas was an Independent County Councillor for some years at the end of the 1970s. In that capacity he met the Queen at the County Council offices in Exeter and I got to shake her hand. One year my mother Audrey attended a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, in her capacity as Clerk to Belstone Parish Council – she was Clerk between 1981 and 1995.’
Sandra Blackmore (Belstone Corner) was at the Belstone Art Group meeting in the Village Hall; ‘my friend and I were at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in the early 1980s, watching as Prince Philip, audibly cursing, negotiated one tricky obstacle of trees and water in the carriage driving competition. As we stood there my friend poked me to look around, and I found I was standing right next to the Queen. A short time later, we saw both the Queen and Prince Philip standing among the crowd and that is when I took a candid photo of them both. What was interesting was how they just fitted in with everyone, and there was very little security involved. Those were the days.’
Roy Page (Okehampton) was cutting the outfield at Belstone Cricket Club; ‘as a schoolkid I stood outside Cambridge Station as the Queen arrived and drove past us. My son Andrew was a sous chef and cooked for the Queen when she visited Queens College, Cambridge, on 19 July 2019 and he got to meet her afterwards. The menu was local rare breed lamb, dauphinoise potatoes, heritage carrots with salsa verde and to start, Pinneys of Orford smoked salmon with traditional garnish.’
Margaret Martin was on her way to Okehampton; ‘when I was a child in Solihull my aunt bought a TV specially for the coronation on 2 June 1953 – we all piled into her house to watch.’
Andree Davies wasoutside her house; ‘my landscape architect business partner and I worked with the Duchess of Cambridge and the RHS to design a ‘Back to Nature’ garden at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. The Queen loved going to the show and this time she arrived on 20 May. I bowed and curtsied and shook her white gloved hand and she talked about her love of woodland gardens which was a theme of our design.’
Ann was at the Thursday cafe; ‘my father was a lawyer. We lived in Ramsey on the Isle of Man and he was in charge of the local Home Guard during the war, the Captain Mainwaring of the town. Towards the end of the war, 1944 perhaps, King George VI came to meet local people and Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, came with him. I think Princess Margaret was there too. I was 12 years old at the time, Princess Elizabeth about 18. At the tea party that was held all the adults were in one area and all the younger people, which included Elizabeth, were eating their sandwiches in another area.’
Lillias Guyon was also at the cafe; ‘my father John Matthew was an Assistant Bursar at Winchester College. The Queen came to visit one day in 1973 I think; she walked round the quadrangle where all the students were standing, I was standing on some steps watching.’
Martin Hyder was cutting his grass; ‘it was 10 or 15 years ago and I was in central London, I think I was either going to or leaving the Paris Theatre on Lower Regent Street where I was recording a comedy for BBC radio. As I crossed the road a police motorcyclist raced up and told me to stop on the island in the middle of the road. Then more police motorbikes came past, then a Rolls Royce which drew up in the queue of traffic right alongside me. I looked in the window and the Queen was sitting right there, just a few feet from me. It seemed an age she was stuck there but it was probably only thirty seconds. She just looked right ahead.’
Nigel and Melinda Bennetts were outside their cottage. Nigel first; ‘as a three-year-old I was taken from our house in Thornton Heath in south London to watch the Queen pass by on Coronation Day, 2 June 1953. My father hoisted me onto his shoulders so I could see. Later that day, or perhaps it was the following day, we had a street party to celebrate. All the kids had to wear fancy dress and for some reason I was dressed as a pink rabbit and my friend was a penguin.’ Melinda; ‘I travelled up from Penzance specially to see the Queen at the Golden and Diamond Jubilees. In 2002 I think we were on the Mall when the Gold State Coach pulled by eight horses came past and Concorde flew over. In 2012 we were by the Thames in the rain watching as the Royal barge went past, I have a photo of the distant Queen on deck, dressed in white and still waving.’
Philip and Sarah Porterfield were in their garden, Philip first; ‘On 23rd July 2003 the Queen was presenting new Colours to HMS Ocean in Plymouth Sound and afterwards she was to name the new Plymouth Lifeboat at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina. So as I had a boat moored at the marina at the time, I went down to see the events. The ceremony on board HMS Ocean was shown on a big screen on Plymouth Hoe which was packed. Afterwards I walked back to the marina where there was a good view from the marina breakwater. Shortly before the Queen was due to land on the pontoon where the lifeboat was moored there was a bit of a panic. It was about low water so the ramp up from the pontoon was quite steep and possibly slippery so they needed to find something to cover it. Fortunately they found several offcuts of the carpet (not red but pale blue with blue dolphins) that had recently been laid at the Royal Western Yacht Club. These were quickly laid just before the Queen arrived and the naming ceremony went off without a hitch.’ Sarah; ‘On 22 May 1973 I was visiting a relation who was in the newly built Charing Cross Hospital when the Queen arrived to perform the official opening ceremony.’
Simon Hill was out for a walk; ‘I’ve a memory of the new King. I was a pupil at Sticklepath Primary School when the whole school went to North Tawton to stand outside the cheese factory waving flags when the Prince of Wales came to open it in 1974.’
Pat Bray was at home when I delivered the October Beacon. ‘Villager George Chastey was a tenant of the Duchy of Cornwall, leasing Watchet Hill Cottage from them. Edward VIII had made many visits to Dartmoor when he was Prince of Wales and he was due to make another visit to Princetown to meet his tenants and host a dinner. George was invited and planned to drive there and he was going to take my mother and I. We were very excited about the prospect and I was bought a new coat – I was about three at the time. But the trip never happened as Edward VIII abdicated in December 1936.
My first job was at Stirling’s Hatchery in Exeter, probably in the early 1950s. I was allowed to go to the Devon County Show provided I handed out leaflets about the business. While I was out the back Princess Margaret came past and nodded to me.
My daughter Denise and her friend Julie Yelland wanted to see the Queen opening the new Plymouth Civic Centre on Thursday 26 July 1962. The children were both at Sticklepath Primary School at the time. Headmistress Miss Squires gave special permission for them to have the day off. We were right at the front of the crowd when the Queen arrived. I remember she looking very smart in a fawn coloured outfit with brocade. Even my husband Ron, not a royalist by any means, was impressed.
To be continued.