19th May, 2019

Parade through Droitwich to mark what would have been Nelly Copson's 100th birthday

Tristan Harris 9th Jan, 2019 Updated: 10th Jan, 2019

A SPECIAL parade will take place in Droitwich on Wednesday, January 16, to commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of one of the town’s most famous residents – Nelly Copson.

The procession will start from St Andrews Church in the town centre at midday and head down the High Street to Nelly’s Yard Cafe, which was her former home. It will be the reverse route of her final journey when, in 2011, she was taken from her home to St Andrews Church for her funeral.

At the cafe a prayer for Nelly will be led by Rev Nigel Byard and tributes sent by Royal Worcester expert Henry Sandon and June Rattlidge (Nelly’s great niece) will be read out by the Mayor of Droitwich, Coun Christine Bowden.

Inside the cafe there is a special exhibition to remember Nelly and people are invited to place floral tributes in front of her former home.

Any left over will be taken to her final resting place in the town’s St Mary’s Churchyard.

The event has been organised by local historian Paul Jones who wrote a book entitled Nelly Copson – A Tribute, based on an interview she gave as part of an oral history project.

He told The Standard he would also be interested to hear from people about what they thought of an annual ‘Nelly Day’.

“A lot of people in the town still talk about Nelly who was known fondly in the town as ‘Mrs Droitwich’ and was a highly regarded local historian.

“There are quite a few people in Droitwich who still have hand-written family histories from her.

“She would have done anything for anyone – people used to ask her to look into their backgrounds, she would go away, research them and write the histories up for them.”

But Paul added there would be people who had moved to the town who had not heard of Nelly.

The pensioner hit the national headlines in 2000 when she became the oldest woman to be sent to a British jail over her refusal to pay business rates on her High Street home which was previously a shop.

The local authority claimed 50 per cent in business rates was due but Nelly refused to pay, saying it had been vacant for a long time and was unsuitable for use as a business premises.

She was sent to the then Brockhill women’s prison in Redditch but, after a ‘Free Nelly’ campaign, only served two days.

Paul said: “The business rates incident is probably the thing she will be most remembered for and some will say because of that she should not be remembered but that was only a small part of her life.”

There is a blue plaque outside her former home which remembers her for being a respected local historian.

Coun Bob Brookes, who knew Nelly and has helped organise the event, said: “She was an amazing character who is part of Droitwich’s story and kept the town’s history alive.

“It would be nice if we can also keep her memory going.”

* WHAT do you think of the idea of a ‘Nelly Day’ on January 16 each year? Write to us at the address on page eight or email editor@droitwichstandard.co.uk and we will pass them onto Paul.

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