DIGNITARIES visiting Shaftesbury on Saturday for the annual opening of the town’s abbey were greeted by misty, wet and windy weather.
But Mayor and Mayoress of Shaftesbury Simon and Stephanie Pritchard made sure they received a warm welcome at the town hall.
The 60 guests included mayors, deputy mayors and council chairmen from Bournemouth, Chickerell, Christchurch and East Dorset, Gillingham, Glastonbury, Melbury and Cann, Portland, Sherborne, the Stours, Sturminster Newton, Tisbury, Wimborne and Yeovil, as well as representatives from Shaftesbury Town Council and a host of local organisations.
After a service at St Peter’s Church conducted by Team Rector the Reverend Clive Thomas and including a talk by chairman of Shaftesbury Abbey Bill Owen, they processed along Park Walk - many sheltering under umbrellas - to the abbey where Cllr Pritchard pushed open the doors to the grounds.
Once inside, guests assembled at the altar for a short service by Rev Thomas before looking around the museum and returning to the town hall for a lunch prepared by members of Cllr Pritchard’s chosen charity, Hope, which helps people with mental health problems.
A vote of thanks to Cllr Pritchard was given by Su Hunt, chairman of North Dorset District Council.
“It has been wonderful,” she said, “the abbey is so special and Shaftesbury is so lucky to have it.”
Earlier Cllr Pritchard, who steps down as mayor next month, told visitors that during the Middle Ages Shaftesbury had been “a hugely important town” because of the abbey, and the next town of similar importance had been Glastonbury.
“That’s why I extended an invitation to Glastonbury’s mayor to my final civic event today,” he said.
“We should get together and rebuild the abbeys and become more important towns again!”