Brief Encounter actress is one half of couple thought to be the oldest newlyweds in the UK

07 September 2018

The newly-weds Margaret James and Rob Cave on their wedding day, last Friday

The newly-weds Margaret James and Rob Cave on their wedding day, last Friday

TWO churchgoers with a combined age of 183 have overtaken two others to become the oldest couple to be married in the UK, it is thought.

Margaret James, aged 92, married Rob Cave, aged 91, in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, last Friday afternoon. Their wedding comes after that of Frank Bird, aged 88, and Muriel Kodritsch, 79, who were married in All Saints’, Nynehead, last month (News, 10 August).

Mrs James is the former actress Margaret Barton, who is best known for her role in the 1945 film Brief Encounter. She played Beryl Walters, a girl who works in the railway station buffet, and is the last surviving member of the cast.

Mrs James and Mr Cave were both widowed in 2016, within three months of each other, having both been married for 66 years to their spouses Raymond and Mavis, respectively.

The two couples became acquainted when they took turns to drive each other to St Margaret’s Chapel on a Friday morning, instead of the Sunday service at the Minster, near by, a fellow parishioner and press officer for the Minster, Anthony Oliver, explained.

“They had a rota system, and someone else drove them on the alternate Friday,” he said on Monday. “This continued after both Raymond and Mavis died, and Margaret used to be dropped off at her house before Rob went home.”

The pair began to have lunch together, and found they had much in common, including a love of opera and ballet. They also both served as sides-people at the Minster.

Mrs James said: “It is so beautiful; we have companionship, and it grew from there.”

Her son Michael was the assistant organist at Wimborne Minster before his death from cancer at the age of 30. She and her husband, Raymond, founded the Michael James Music Trust in his memory. The charity gives annual awards to advance education in music, “particularly music performed in a Christian setting for the enrichment of worship”.

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Mr Cave’s son died in a car crash. His daughter, Julia Palmer, was a bridesmaid for Mrs James. His best man was a former colleague from his time in the civil service.

The marriage was conducted by an Associate Priest for Wimborne Minster and the Northern Villages, the Revd Suzie Allen. About 150 were in attendance. Ms Allen said on Saturday: “Yesterday was a wonderful celebration of a very real love between these two very special people.

“Since becoming a couple, then having got engaged, they have shone such a powerful light of love across our church community and town. They have been (and will continue to be) a great witness and testimony to the power of love.”

An afternoon-tea reception was held in the coffee lounge of the Methodist Church after the service, to which everyone was invited.

Ms Allen continued: “Marrying couples is always an honour, but, regardless of their age, I can honestly say that this was one of the most sincere weddings I have taken.

“Margaret and Robert had eyes only for one another; they said their vows with such depth of love for one another and God, that everyone in the building was left with no doubt that God had drawn them together. It was a memorable occasion for all the right reasons.”

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