Can you guess the international landmark where Cromer couple Hilary and William are getting married?
08:56 16 October 2012
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012
Scores of north Norfolk residents will be spending part of Twelfth Night at one of the world’s most iconic buildings to watch a former Cromer mayor wed her medal-holding fiancé.
A place in history
The famous domed St Paul’s Cathedral was designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666 gutted its predecessor.
The church has been a national focus for centuries of celebration, thanksgiving and mourning.
The funeral of Lord Nelson was held there in 1806 and his body is entombed in the crypt. The funerals of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill were also conducted at St Paul’s.
In modern times it was the venue for the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer.
But it was during the London Blitz in 1940 that St Paul’s played one of its most important roles, as defiant symbol of Britain’s bulldog spirit and hope.
The cathedral was struck four times during the worst of the Nazi bombing, between September 1940 and April 1941, yet miraculously survived.
A photo taken in December 1940 shows the intact dome of St Paul’s rising above a mass of smoke, flames and wreckage. It has become one of the most instantly-recognisable and famous photos ever taken.
After more than 20 years together, Hilary Thompson and William Cox have decided to tie the knot - in St Paul’s Cathedral, where Norfolk’s most famous son, Lord Nelson, is entombed.
At 11am on January 5 next year, Ms Thompson will walk down the aisle wearing a Victorian-style costume and hat hired from the Sheringham Community Wardrobe, watched by more than 100 family and friends.
As the pair sign the register, the congregation will be entertained by a St Paul’s trumpeter.
The wedding party and their guests will then board a train back to Norfolk to continue celebrations through the evening at Cromer’s Cliftonville Hotel.
Ms Thompson, 61, proposed to Mr Cox, 68, on Leap Year’s day in February. They knew that, as the holder of an MBE, Mr Cox was entitled to marry in the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire, in the crypt of St Paul’s.
But the couple, well-known community stalwarts in north Norfolk, feared that as both were divorcees and Methodists, cathedral chiefs might turn down their request.
Many phone calls, emails, letters and visits later, their wish was finally granted and the pair are the proud holders of a special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury, giving his blessing for them to marry in the cathedral.
Their long wait for permission saw them travel to London three times for interviews with clergy chief at St Paul’s, including an appointment in Amen Court with its dean, the Very Rev Dr David Ison, who will conduct the service. The couple’s own Methodist minister from Cromer, the Rev Sharon Willimott, will also take part and Cromer lifeboat coxswain John Davies will be giving a reading.
“I almost want to pinch myself and say: ‘Is it really going to happen?’ I wanted to share the day with everybody and give people the opportunity to actually go down and be part of something like that, in St Paul’s, where most people haven’t been before - that opportunity is a real thrill,” said Ms Thompson.
Her fiancé added: “For many people it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’re looking forward to it very much.”
The couple have known each other since childhood days in Mundesley, where Ms Thompson’s parents ran the former Sea View Hotel, and Mr Cox’s father was a fisherman.
Both married, had families and divorced before their paths crossed again in Mundesley where Ms Thompson was working at the Sea View during a “rowdy reunion” of Mr Cox’s family.
Ms Thompson eventually moved to Cromer to be with Mr Cox and they ran Cromer Social Club during which time she was named as national steward of the year.
They went on to run The Cottage pub, on Louden Road, Cromer, until retirement.
Mr Cox also combined his job as a crab fisherman with 40 years’ service as a retained firefighter in Cromer, including 17 years as station officer in charge.
He also spent 20 years as a member of Cromer’s lifeboat crew and was made an MBE in 2002 for services to the community.
Ms Thompson has been a Cromer town councillor since 1999 and has more recently become both a Norfolk county councillor and a north Norfolk district councillor, representing the Conservative party.
She has raised many thousands of pounds for local charities, mainly supporting young people, with sponsored feats including a trek to Everest base camp, skydiving, kayaking from Cromer to Yarmouth, and cycle rides in Germany, France and Britain.
She is also a Methodist lay preacher and standard bearer for Norfolk Royal British Legion’s Women’s Section, and its Cromer branch.
Her son Adam Hutchinson will give her away in St Paul’s where Mr Cox’s son David will act as best man. Mr Cox also has a daughter, step-son and grandson while Ms Thompson also has two daughters and four grandchildren.
The pair were delighted when the Dean of St Paul’s willingly allowed them to pick a hymn for their wedding which was not among those listed as suitable by the cathedral.
They have chosen Mr Cox’s favourite: “One more step along the world I go”.
Ms Thompson said: “That’s exactly what we’ll be doing - taking one more step along the world.”