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Posted on Apr 26 2023 by Fiona Bailey

Staff and patients will be celebrating the King’s Coronation having been given the “royal seal of approval” by the monarch himself 23 years ago.

King Charles III, formerly known as The Prince of Wales, visited St Andrew’s Healthcare in 2000 to open the charity’s Lowther building which is now used to host the organisation’s Dementia Village. At the time the venue was home to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

An extra Bank Holiday has been declared to mark the Coronation which formalises the monarch's role as the head of the Church of England, and to mark the historic occasion former and present staff have been revisiting their memories of the moment royalty descended upon St Andrew’s.

Philippa Smith, who worked as an English teacher at the charity until she retired in 2013, said: “It was an exciting occasion but, due to safety and security, only two education staff could be at the event itself. That meant we had to hold a draw in the department to see which two it should be. My colleague at the time Linda and I were the lucky ones.

“When it came to it, we were somewhat nervous. We expected Prince Charles would move straight on after shaking our hands, but he surprised us by spending several minutes discussing the importance of education with us. We told him about our plans for helping the young people in Lowther to get the best opportunities they could.

“When he found out I was an English teacher, he explained that he felt it was very important for young people to experience live theatre and he told us he had recently sent theatre tickets to some young offenders he had met.

“It was a very formal occasion, not at all relaxed, but I was impressed by the way Prince Charles listened and responded thoughtfully and appropriately, sharing his relevant experience with us. At the time I was focusing more on supporting my colleagues in making sure the occasion went well and did not really think about the fact that he would one day be King. However, I do feel that meeting him that one time has given me a very small glimpse into the man behind the public figure.”

Tony Griffiths, who is Head of Community Partnerships, said: “My meeting with him was very brief but it has a special place in my memory bank as I will never forget the moment I met the future King. He was a very personable and engaging individual and I remember thinking that he is shorter than I thought he would be.

“I felt truly honoured at the time meeting him and I’m proud that he visited our charity. King Charles represents the continuation of our monarchy and I look forward to watching him thrive over the course of his reign.”

To celebrate the symbolic formality, Workbridge, the retail part of St Andrew’s, is holding a Coronation Craft Fayre for members of the public who may be looking for something to do on the extra Bank Holiday.

The event is taking place on Monday, May 8 between 10am and 4pm and there will be a huge variety of things to do for all ages, with stalls offering various hand crafted items such as candles, jewellery, ceramics, sweets, cakes, woodwork, knitwear and natural remedies.

Staff will also be unveiling the King Charles Tunnel to celebrate his love for plants and trees. This will be used for Workbridge service users to grow vegetables and plants.

Parking on site is free and there will be food and drink available to purchase for all those who visit on the day.