Town ready to welcome the Queen

EXCITEMENT is building on the streets of a Suffolk town for the visit of the Queen to take part in an historic ceremony dating back to the 12th century.

Dave Gooderham

EXCITEMENT is building on the streets of a Suffolk town for the visit of the Queen to take part in an historic ceremony dating back to the 12th century.

Bury St Edmunds will today come to a standstill as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the county for the traditional Maundy Money service.

Thousands of people are expected to descend on the market town while 168 fortunate men and women will actually receive the traditional gift from Her Majesty during a ceremony in St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Canon Michael Hampel , sub dean at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, said: “We are immensely excited about the ceremony and what is so exciting is that we are celebrating voluntary services. The Queen is coming to say thank you to people for years and years of helping out their communities. They are all unsung heroes and it will be a wonderful moment for us.

“It is also great fun having a Royal visit with all sorts of guests coming to the town and the extraordinary sight of all the security.”

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After years of renovation work to Suffolk's mother church, Canon Hampel added: “We feel the visit of the Queen is the icing on the cake and it is very appropriate coming just as we draw this great building project to a close.”

During the service, which begins at St Edmundsbury Cathedral at 11am, the Queen will give out the Royal Maundy to 84 men and 84 women from the area - the number determined by the monarch's age. She will then enjoy a reception at the Athenaeum.

St Edmundsbury mayor Bob Cockle, who will be dining on the same table as the Queen during the reception, said: “This is a great honour for me personally as a mayor.

“With the reputation and history the Cathedral has got, this visit is a complement to Bury and the whole of St Edmundsbury.”

An unprecedented security presence around the town was evident yesterday with cordons around a wide radius of St Edmundsbury Cathedral and a heightened number of police officers on the historic streets.

Despite fears that the public might miss out on seeing the Queen due to the route she is taking, police expect 2,000 people to either attend the service or line the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of royalty.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley, who will be attending today's ceremony, said he thought it was fitting that the Queen should visit the town given the Royal Family's links with East Anglia.

He said: “This underlines the special connection the monarch has with the great historic town of Bury. We all know about St Edmund but it is important to remember the modern Royal's connection with the Cathedral.

“Prince Charles has shown huge interest in the Millennium tower and her Majesty made a very successful visit here during her Jubilee year. The presence of the Queen is reminder to us all at what a distinguished town Bury really is.”