Hitchin mourns The Queen among the silence, the sadness and the stillness at St Mary's Churchyard and Market Place

By Layth Yousif

9th Sep 2022 | Local News

Whatever your politics and views on the monarchy, the overriding sense in Hitchin following the sad news of the Queen's death has been one of loss.

For many, The Queen was a such a unifying symbol of the nation, which saw people in Hitchin, and beyond, measure their lives against Her Majesty's - with her passing greatly impacting on their own sense of grief and anguish.

In grieving for the Queen, perhaps in turn, we also mourn people who we have lost in our own lives.

This feeling was amplified in the heart of Hitchin on Friday afternoon (September 9).

When Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully aged 96 on Thursday afternoon at the Balmoral estate in Scotland, where she had been staying over the summer, it prompted heartbreak, melancholy and contemplation in many in Hitchin.

As the deliberately muffled bells of our town's evocative St Mary's Church pealed at midday, many Hitchinites gathered in the gentle autumn sunshine along the grassy churchard, to pay respects to our longest reigning monarch in their own, quiet, dignified way.

While, inside St Mary's Church, many lit candles in front of a black and white image of the Queen smiling.

Nub News met curate Martha Inch who spoke for many when she shared her feelings.

PICTURE: Curate Martha Incha and Jessie. CREDIT: @HitchinNubNews

"The atmosphere has been really sombre," Martha said. "There has been a collective mood of grief, shock - I think people are just trying to come to terms with it all.

"We always knew this time would come eventually, but actually never expected it to be so quick...she's the only Queen we've known [there's] a real sadness.

"I thought she was amazing, so personally, it's just really sad."

As a tribute to the late monarch, St Mary's bells were muffled for the midday chimes, meaning they were prevented from making the same kind of booming noise as they normally do.

"It's a form of respect. It's a form of mourning," added Martha, "The joyful noise of a bell is actually done in a different way when we're in this type of mourning. It's a way of honouring her and her role and who she was [as a person]...honouring her life and all the years she gave in service."

PICTURE: St Mary's bells were muffled as they rang out as a sign of respect.. CREDIT: @HitchinNubNews

Hitchin resident Deven Thakeria was also present in the churchyard as the evocative soundtrack of St Mary's cast iron bells rang out.

"Initially there was that shock, a feeling of 'was this news real?'' Deven asked plaintively. "I felt very confused about it and took a walk around Hitchin town centre earlier this morning. There's a quietness, there feels a sombreness. Disbelief.

"Even despite knowing The Queen was 96 and with problems around her health, until it actually happens you don't really absorb it - 'The Mother of the Country can't go'. Speaking for myself I feel somewhat lost after the news.

"What it all means for the country and what it means for the direction of where we are heading at such a divisive time."

PICTURE: The number of flowers laid in tribute are growing by the hour in Market Place. CREDIT: @HitchinNubNews

A short walk along the cobbled street to Market Place saw another form of tribute to the late monarch.

After her sad passing, in a move reminiscent of people's reaction to the death of Lady Diana a quarter of a century ago, many in Hitchin started laying flowers in Hitchin town centre as a sign of respect for the passing of Her Majesty.

Queen Elizabeth II became, through the course of her long reign, not only the oldest sovereign in the country's history but also its longest serving, serving the country through unstinting loyalty, duty and acclaimed perseverance.

A young, Elizabeth declared to the nation prior to assuming the throne that she would devote her entire life - whether it be long or short - in service of the people - with her actions from that moment onwards fulfilling her pledge over the following 70 years.

Back at churchyard, Deven underlined a sense of shared belonging.

"I think many people's reaction was that they just wanted to be a part of something here in Hitchin," Deven said.

"Something mirrored in each other is comforting in a way.

"Among the silence and the sadness and the stillness, there was a very real feeling of 'we're in it together,' which was apparent despite all our individual feelings of what we agree with and what we don't agree with on wider matters - it felt so important to be part of this.

Deven noted the change in atmosphere around our town. "Even in the gym this morning," he explained, "it felt all very different.

"The usual pumping dance anthems were absent. The 90s dance anthems were missing. [They played] Simply Red and Sinead O'Connor and those types of musicians instead. You can feel [mourning] in the quietness here in Hitchin."

Deven Thakeira came to pay his respects at St Mary's Churchyard. CREDIT: @HitchinNubNews

Similar to Deven and others, Roz Down was another Hitchin resident who came to St Mary's Churchyard to pay her respects to the late Queen on Friday lunchtime as the bells pealed ahead of King Charles III addressing the nation.

The former Prince Charles, now 73, became the new monarch immediately after the Queen died, and is expected to speak to the country later today.

Speaking to Nub News, Roz said: "Like many people I imagine, I feel a bit lost right now.

"I spoke to my mother - who is 97 - on the phone after the news, and she was very sad. It hit her hard. We only just lost my father so it's a very sad time. We thought the Queen would go on forever."

Hitchin resident and artist Roz Down came to St Mary's Churchyard to pay her respects. CREDIT: @HitchinNubNews

Martha adds that from 830pm tonight there will be a short period of reflection at St Mary's.

On Saturday the church will be open all day for people to come in and pay their respects and condolences and there will be candles to light and spend time in reflection and prayer. Sunday services will run as usual, at 8am and 10am, with people able to drop in whenever they like.

........

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