A pearl of a christening in Stopsley

ST Thomas’s Church, Stopsley, celebrates its sesquicentenary (150th) anniversary on June 2 and the history of the church, written by Dr James Dyer, is due to be published in time for the event.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 4th March 2012, 11:54 am

The book is expected to include this photo, which appeared in the Luton News on March 3, 1966, of the Pearly King and Queen of the City of London at a christening at St Thomas’s.

The ‘Royal’ couple, George and Sadie Hitchen, were friends of the family of three-month-old Adrian Perry and were asked to be the baby’s godparents.

They attended the christening in full regalia and also at the service, in all their finery, were the Pearly Kings of the City of Westminster and of Hoxton.

The christening was performed by the Rev Francis Estdale, who became vicar of Stopsley in 1961.

Mr Estdale was Stopsley’s longest-serving vicar at 33 years, retiring in 1994 and dying 10 years later.

During his time at St Thomas’s, he carried out 2,500 baptisms and conducted roughly the same number of funeral services and about 1,000 weddings.

Mr Estdale worked in industry and the RAF before beginning his full-time church work in Wolverhampton at the age of 27. He moved to St Thomas’s from Christ Church, Watford, where he was curate.

Our picture shows him cradling Adrian while the baby’s family and the Pearlies look on. Adrian was the son of Ken Perry, chairman of Dunstable, Luton and District Polio Fellowship. Many at the service were disabled members of the Fellowship. Volunteer drivers took them to and from church.

The Pearly King and Queen first met the Perrys five years earlier when they came to Luton to open a fete organised by the Fellowship. In the course of their work, they had been seen by millions of viewers of the popular ‘60s TV programme Stars And Garters.

The Luton News reported that the pair added a vivid splash of colour to the service, particularly the Pearly Queen, whose button-bedecked costume was topped by an ostrich-plumed hat with feathers dyed a brilliant green, red and yellow.

And she soon stopped her godchild crying when she nursed him before the service. Adrian obviously felt the hand of experience as the Pearly Queen had 11 children and 26 grandchildren of her own.