The Countess of Wessex  returned to St Mary’s College, Bexhill, ten years ago this week.
The Countess of Wessex returned to St Mary’s College, Bexhill, ten years ago this week.

Fond memories of a royal visit from Sophie Countess of Wessex to Bexhill ten years ago.

The sun shone for Sophie Countess of Wessex when she returned to St Mary’s college ten years ago this week.

By Colin Jenner
Friday, 24th September 2021, 9:30 am
Updated Friday, 24th September 2021, 9:32 am

Having arrived by helicopter from an earlier visit to Udimore Sophie charmed staff and students alike and told them it felt like “coming home”.

She spoke of how much she enjoyed visiting them in Wrestwood Road and won over all who saw her with her easy warmth and friendliness.

She was dressed in a light grey shift with short sleeves plus towering Louboutin heels in which she easily negotiated the various surfaces she had to walk across.

She was welcomed on arrival by Gail Pilling, chief executive officer of the Trust, who was “delighted” she came for the official naming of a college building which she opened in 2009.

The Mayor of Bexhill, Cllr Stuart Wood, and the Vice Chairman of East Sussex County Council, Matthew Locke, were also there.

The Countess of Wessex was met and escorted by the Deputy Lieutenant, Baroness Stedman-Scott, of Rolvenden, to St Mary’s College for a tour around the college.

Sophie was accompanied by Gail and Head of College, Craig Ribbons, as she met with and talked to students and learned about the courses they are following.

The tour included meeting youngsters in a Social Skills Group, a horticulture lesson (some of which have begun their RHS Level 1 course), and learning about the four elements of work that the students undertake as part of their BTEC studies.

The highlight of the visit was when Sophie was asked to unveil the plaque to name the building which has been called ‘The Bagnall Building’ in honour of the late Myrtle Bagnall, to commemorate her time as a Governor at the Trust.

Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex then spent time chatting with the students who had gathered together to wave goodbye. Gail Pilling remarked on how supportive Sophie has been of St Mary’s Wrestwood Children’s Trust and everyone was delighted to watch her with the children.

Bexhill College was contacted a few weeks earlier for permission to land the royal helicopter on its recreational field.

The College had been chosen because it has sufficient space for landing and is near St Mary’s.

Press officer Emma Meeres said staff and students stood at the side of the field waiting for the arrival at 3.15pm.

The Countess was driven away and her two pilots, Nick Kidd and Ian Field, enjoyed refreshments inside the College until she returned at 4.15pm.

The helicopter then departed to take the Countess to her next engagement.

Emma commented: “The staff and students were thrilled to have the Royal Helicopter landing here at Bexhill College. Her Royal Highness was very courteous and her visit caused much excitement.

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