When the Duke of Edinburgh came to Clayhidon last week he was probably the first royal visitor to the parish in its 700-year history.
He flew in by helicopter as guest of local company Fenix Carriages and the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers. It was a private visit. The media were not told he was coming and virtually no-one in the parish knew about it.
Prince Philip’s enthusiasm for competitive carriage driving prompted Mark Broadbent, head of Fenix to invite him to join a Worshipful Company trip to see the work he and his colleagues are doing in designing and building carriages and restoring old coaches.
“We had a wonderful tour of the workshops,” said Mark, who has known the Prince for years and competed against him many times. “The Prince was very complimentary and it was an honour and privilege to have him visit.”
His Royal Highness is a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers which, despite its name, has only one actual coachmaker member – Mark. All the rest are from the automotive and aerospace industries.
The prince, who drafted the rules when carriage driving first became an internationally recognised sport in the early 1970s, was especially interested in Fenix’s latest high tech competition carriage and in a carriage developed by Mark for wheelchair-bound drivers, for which he received an industry award from the Worshipful Company.
As well as meeting members of the Company he was introduced to Fenix’s employees. He also visited the coach house where historic vehicles are housed, including a former state coach owned by King George IV, a carriage which carried Prince Albert from London to Manchester and the original Quicksilver mail coach, which carried news of naval battles from Plymouth to London 200 years ago.