SOUTH Street Bonfire Society stalwart Tony Shephard is a well-known and popular figure around Lewes.
But surprise surprise - this particular Bonfire Boy actually hails from London’s East End. In fact, Tony and the future Forces’ Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn were fellow pupils at the same junior school.
In 1941 the Shephard family were bombed out of their home in a German air raid. When schoolboy Tony returned next day all he was able to salvage were his treasured 1937 Coronation souvenirs, a commemorative cup and saucer honouring our present Queen’s parents. These precious pieces were to form the nucleus of a lifetime’s interest in royal memorabilia.
Fast forward to the Swinging Sixties and Tony was the successful owner of a Brighton antique shop. After a visit by Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, he was inspired to turn his interest into a full-time hobby.
To mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Tony is mounting a magnificent exhibition of items from his Royal Collection in Offham Church.
Among so many other gems there will be a Page of Honour’s full court uniform worn at George VI’s Coronation by the Marquis of Anglesey, several Coronation chairs and, poignantly, the original complete seating plan for the Wedding Breakfast of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981.
Tony generously does not charge an entry fee and over the years has raised thousands of pounds from donations to charities from his Royal Exhibitions.
The exhibition in Offham Church (BN7 3PX) is open from 10am to 5pm from today (Friday) until Monday, June 4, with all day refreshments in the adjacent Church Hall.
Organisers understand that if you can successfully demonstrate you are the owner of a corgi dog there’s a free glass of wine waiting for you!
Tony is a mine of information about all things royal and will be pretty hoarse at the end of the Jubilee after he’s shared his knowledge with all those visitors.