For the best royal weddings, talk to Huntingdonshire

WITH speculation rife about the design of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, Burning Bridges brings you an exclusive. It’s probably going to be white.

But the white wedding dress isn’t such an old tradition as you might think. It goes back just 170 years to the marriage of Queen Victoria in February 1840. The young queen’s dress of white satin trimmed with Honiton lace set a fashion that has stayed with us ever since.

The next royal bride followed the tradition but with one important difference. In 1863 the Prince of Wales married Princess Alexandra of Denmark and once again the bride’s wedding dress was white with lace trimmings.

But not Honiton lace. The Devon town was famous for its lace but this time the wedding planners decided that nothing but the best would do. So obviously that meant Spaldwick!

Lace making was a cottage industry in villages in the west of Huntingdonshire, close to the traditional lace making counties of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. The lace was made by hand, often by farm workers’ wives.

The lace for the flounces of Princess Alexandra’s dress was made by Sarah Nurrish of Spaldwick. Lace makers worked by twisting threads round pins stuck into a lace pillow, through patterns of holes pricked onto strips of parchment. Parchment is tough stuff, so Sarah was able to pass her patterns on to her daughter, who became Mrs Eliza Read and moved to nearby Easton.

For the coronation of George V in 1911 the family was called on again. Mrs Read made lace for the uniforms of the postilions in the procession on the same patterns her mother had used in 1863. The patterns are still with us and are on display at the Norris Museum.

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A photograph taken in 1929 shows Mrs Read at the age of 86, still bright and alert and sitting at her lace pillow in the sunshine outside her cottage.

And this week’s royal wedding will have a Huntingdonshire connection too.

Kate Middleton will travel to the Abbey in a Rolls Royce – and the co-founder of that famous firm was Sir Henry Royce, born in 1863 in the Huntingdonshire village of Alwalton. He was also buried there after he died 78 years ago last Friday, on April 22, 1933.

It’s still true - if you want the very best, go to someone from Huntingdonshire!