Congregation bids farewell to popular vicar

Jeff Hopwell with congregation and members of the junior Sunday Club, who presented him with a scrapbook of photos.'PHOTO: Tim Williams
Jeff Hopwell with congregation and members of the junior Sunday Club, who presented him with a scrapbook of photos.'PHOTO: Tim Williams

After a 30-year career the vicar of the Old Dalby Group of Churches has retired.

The Rev Canon Jeff Hopewell led his final service at St John The Baptist Church, in Old Dalby, on Easter Sunday.

It was particularly fitting for Jeff as he bowed out leading the same Palm Sunday service he took in Nether Broughton, when he first became part of the Old Dalby Group of Churches.

He has served the churches of Old Dalby, Nether Broughton, Saxelbye with Shoby, Grimston, Wartnaby and Six Hills for the last 11 years.

Jeff said: “The work doesn’t get any easier. Now is the right time for me to retire as I’d like to bow out on a high. I’ve met some wonderful friends who I will miss and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them all.

The 62-year-old, who lives in Old Dalby, plans to move to Billesdon, near Market Harborough, where he will concentrate on writing a book about stained glass windows.

He added: “I’d like to be remembered for my work with local primary schools. I’ve also overseen the restoration of many of the churches I’ve been involved with which I’m very proud of.

“I’ve got lots of fond memories including a wedding I was one time where the guests included 23 dogs of which 17 were retired greyhounds. It’s those type of quirky jobs that I’ll miss the most.”

Jeff was given an emotional send-off during his farewell service by the Old Dalby congregation who gave a speech and presented him with a substantial cheque.

Jeff will be featuring on BBC2’s Antiques Roadshow Detectives programme being screened on Thursday, April 23, at 6.30pm.

The BBC team came to film at Wartnaby and Grimston churches last November as part of their research into Victorian painter Elgar Hicks - once vicar of Wartnaby and Grimston (1895-1931).

Jeff also carried out his own research into the life of Elgar. He said: “I was already well aware of him since he looked down on me from two photos in the vestry at Wartnaby Church whenever I went in. We also have a watercolour painting he did of Grimston Church.”

He added: “It was a great delight to meet Hilary Kay, who is just as charming in real life as she appears on TV.”