A CHURCHGOING couple in the diocese of Bath & Wells celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary on Monday of last week with friends and family who gathered in their front garden at a safe distance.
Nancy Kingston, who will be 100 in October, and her husband, Eric, who is 98, met in 1938, when Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister and King George VI was on the throne. At the time, Eric was working on a farm. Nancy, who knew him by sight, had asked her brother to arrange a meeting.
Nancy and Eric Kingston on their wedding day, 1 June 1938
Two years later, they were married at St Mary and All Saints, Meare, a village near Glastonbury, where they worshipped for several years. Mr Kingston said: “We never missed a Sunday; it was always very important to us that we went.” Mrs Kingston, who was a caretaker at the church for a time, said that it was a “lovely church with lovely people”.
More recently the couple worshipped at Holy Trinity, Blackford, but, owing to health restraints, they have been receiving communion at home for the past few years. The Vicar of the Isle of Wedmore Benefice, of which Blackford is a part, the Revd Richard Neill, who visited them regularly before the lockdown, said: “Faith is part of the fabric of their existence. Like many of their generation, they don’t talk about it with everyone, it was just there for them, that quiet faith. Churchgoing was an outward expression of that.”
He continued: “Eighty years of marriage: it’s almost beyond our comprehension, really, but their relationship is still so strong, the love and regard they have for each other, and the sense of humour they share is very evident when you meet them. It shows what unity and loyalty can achieve.”
Although Mr and Mrs Kingston were unable to receive visitors in their home on Monday afternoon, family, friends, and neighbours stood at a safe distance from each other in their front garden, joined by the Blackford Singers, a community group, who led a musical tribute.
Mr Neil said: “It was a wonderful occasion, as many villagers, together with Eric and Nancy’s family, turned out to wish them well on their anniversary. All went well. They were clapped and cheered as they came outside and sat at the end of their drive with their son, Stephen, and were greeted by a row of villagers holding up cards spelling out ‘Congratulations to Eric and Nancy’. The local community choir sang ‘Happy Together’.”
The couple have five children, 11 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, and 14 great-great-grandchildren. Mrs Kingston said of her husband: “He’s always been very kind. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we do still love each other very much.”
Their son, Stephen, said: “Mum and Dad are quite young in their outlook; they keep up to date with all that’s going on; so they don’t seem as old as they are. . . They have traditional family values — they raised their children during difficult times, when it was often hard to feed a family; so I really do feel they are a great inspiration.”
Oak is the traditional gift for an 80th wedding anniversary. An oak garden bench has been placed in the churchyard in their honour, and there are plans to plant an oak tree in the autumn on land across the lane from their home.