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Hornchurch hosts first pearly wedding in 42 years

Lorraine and Terry had  the first pearly wedding in London for 42 years. Pearly Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses from across East London came to celebrate their marriage with them. Lorraine and Terry had the first pearly wedding in London for 42 years. Pearly Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses from across East London came to celebrate their marriage with them.

Monday, December 2, 2013
6:00 PM

The 19th century traditions of the pearly king and queen were brought to Hornchurch on Friday.

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Pearlies in their outfits.Pearlies in their outfits.

Described as the first pearly wedding in 42 years, Lorraine Wells, pearly queen of Tower Hamlets, married her fiancé Terry Sadler at Langtons House Registry Office in Billet Lane.

Pearlies are a group of charitable workers who dress up in suits covered in pearl buttons, in a tradition that dates back to the 1870s.

It was founded by Henry Croft, a street sweeper, who made his first suit aged 13 and began to fundraise in the East End.

And the current crop of Pearlies were out in force for the celebrations on Friday, where 20 of them donned their spectacular outfits.

Terry and Lorraine are now Pearly King and Queen of Tower Hamlets.Terry and Lorraine are now Pearly King and Queen of Tower Hamlets.

“I was taken in a vintage Rolls Royce,” said Lorraine, 56, who inherited her title from her mother,

“I made a special shawl for myself with my title on, using hand-me-down buttons from my great grandfather and mother.”

The pearly ceremony was the first in Lorraine’s family, and she thinks in the community as a whole, since 1971, when her uncle Victor married at St Martins in-the-fields, near Trafalgar square.

“We wanted to come out to a good old cockney song, so we chose the Lambeth Walk, sung by Monica Rose,” explained Lorraine,

Around 20 pearlies attended the ceremony, held in Hornchurch.Around 20 pearlies attended the ceremony, held in Hornchurch.

“She was a friend of my grand parents. It was a lovely touch and it brought a tear to my eye.”

The singing and dancing continued into the night at the reception, held at The Carpenter’s Arms pub in Bethnal Green, where Lorraine works.

She said: “It went in a flash, everyone enjoyed themselves so much. It was a great evening. The pearlies were there in their suits.

“I looked around and saw all my friends and family. I could not wish for anything else.

Lorraine admits she was nervous, but says she felt like the “luckiest woman on earth.”

She met Terry met in the Carpenter’s Arms a few years ago, and after her previous relationship ended, Terry suggested they get married.

“I said ‘I’ve tried that once and I didn’t like it’,” explains Lorraine,

“But a friend of mine died suddenly and I realised, it’s not a rehearsal, this is it.

“He proposed about four weeks after that in July.”

Terry, 66, has now inherited the title pearly king of Tower Hamlets, and Lorraine says he not only supports the tradition, he fits in.

“He always supported us, even before we started seeing each other.

“We live in Harold Hill now, but I would like to go back home to the East End, there is nowhere like the East End.”

Lorraine is passionate about her charity work, and often fundraises for hospitals and children’s charities.

“Pearlies are brought up from a young age to consider other people,” she said.

And as a fourth generation pearly, Lorraine is pleased to be passing on the traditions to her daughters and grand-daughters.

“My daughter Nikki is 18 and pearly queen of Stratford, and Jodie, 16, was given her great grandfathers title, he was pearly king of Dalston.

“It’s hard to get kids involved these days, there used to be 400 of us, but now there’s only just over 100. I raise my hat to the children who carry it on.

“We are a very warm lot of people us pearlies. Sometimes people look at you like you are nothing. But I like to think we are the poor people’s royalty.”

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