The Queen: Church service at St Mary’s in Fratton recalls treasured community memories of the monarch’s visit

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The service at St Mary’s Church on Saturday evening saw residents, community leaders and MPs for Portsmouth North and Portsmouth South come together to reflect on the Queen’s death and her 70 years on the throne.

Led by the church’s vicar, Father Bob White, the service paid tribute to Her Majesty’s sense of duty and devotion.

Among the congregation was a family who saw these qualities in the Queen firsthand, when Her Majesty visited the Fratton Community Center in 1980.

Julie Tipler, her daughter Hollie and Julie’s mother Noreen Stoat at St Mary’s Church for a special service dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Keith Woodland (170921-68)

Julie Tipler has the moment her four-year-old self came face-to-face with royalty preserved in a treasured photo – which remains framed in the Fratton family home.

The 46-year-old said: ‘I couldn’t believe she was there. It was lovely.’

She added that a visit from Prince Charles to create a family tradition would be “amazing”.

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Four-year-old Julie Tipler watches Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as she visits the Fratton Community Center in Fratton.

Julie’s mother Noreen Stoat, who attended the visit with her daughter, said the occasion remained a “beautiful” day in her memory and she was “devastated” by the Queen’s death.

The 74-year-old said: “We thought she was going to last forever.”

Regarding the Queen’s in-state visit, she said: ‘I wish I had gone, maybe if I was younger. It shows why events like this are so important.

For Julie’s 10-year-old daughter, she and her friends couldn’t understand how “weird” it was for them to experience the loss of such a long-reigning monarch.

Penny Mourdan, MP for Portsmouth North, ties a leaf to a tree with a message of sympathy to the Royal Family. Photo: Keith Woodland (170921-50)

She said: “It feels like we’ve been through the pandemic, and now something even bigger has happened.”

Among those who delivered readings at the church service, Penbridge Junior School headmistress Karen Denton said one of her students summed up the nation’s mood.

She said: ‘One of the kids summed it up nicely saying it looked different.

“Last Friday morning we held a school assembly and watching over 400 children fall silent and still out of respect for the Queen was a powerful moment. It reminded us that while we may not be able to say how, Queen Elizabeth has touched all of our lives.

Pictured: Charlie Omara, Jill Haycock, Sara Gingras react at the end of the national anthem during the service at St Mary’s Church. Photo: Keith Woodland (170921-46)

The head of family support charity the Roberts Center also delivered a reading, which paid tribute to the Queen’s ‘extraordinary courage and dedication’ to public service.

Carol Damper said: “Her extraordinary faith and concern for the welfare of others is what I hope will sustain us all at Portsmouth.

“That kind of role model makes good people do great things.”

During the final reading of the service, Fratton Community Center manager Julie Crook said the Queen’s visit in 1980 helped to ‘elevate’ the sense of history, community and purpose of the ‘organization.

On the impact of the Queen’s death during a cost of living crisis which has hit the community hard, Julie said: ‘I think people are pulling together. We see many people working together and helping.

After the service ended with a chant of God Save The King, the Vicar of St Mary’s, Fr Bob White, confirmed that his post as Queen’s Chaplain will see him become one of 33 Chaplains to the King.

He said: “I am excited, delighted and honored. It’s not quite sunk because of everything that’s happened.

St Mary’s will broadcast Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral live on the big screen on Monday at 10am.

Father Bob said: “I’m going to watch a live broadcast here so people don’t have to be home alone.”

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