Surprise call reveals husband’s role in Archbishop’s ceremony

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A SURPRISE telephone call led a woman to realise the role her late husband had played in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s enthronement as head of the Church of England.

Elizabeth Witton did not see the ceremony but she later received a telephone call to see if she realised her late husband, Colin, had had a hand in making the staff used by The Most Rev Justin Welby to knock on the door of Canterbury Cathedral during proceedings.

Mrs Witton of Grewelthorpe, near Masham, learned her late husband, a wood-turner by hobby, had made the shaft for the crook made by Keith Pickering, known as the Stick Man, whose workshop is in Helmsley.

Mr Pickering, who makes handmade walking sticks, was commissioned to make the crook in 2011, for the new Archbishop, then the newly-ordained Bishop of Durham.

She said: “Keith Pickering, The Stick Man, rang me: ‘Liz, did you see the Archbishop of Canterbury being installed in Canterbury Cathedral?’

“I replied that I had seen it on the news. ‘Well I suddenly thought you would like to know that the shaft of the staff was made by Colin,’” Mrs Witton said.

“He went on to explain that when Justin Welby was made Bishop of Durham, The Stick Man was commissioned by his previous church to make a Bishop’s crook or staff as a gift. He did so and used one of Colin’s sticks for the shaft.

“Its just so touching to me.”

She said of her husband: “He was such a quiet man, he did not say a lot, but he would have been delighted.”

Mr Witton, a former probation officer, who died at the age of 72 in 2011, spent days in his garden shed, making stools, children’s chairs and other items, that he would then sell at craft fairs.

Through his work at craft fairs, he met Mr Pickering and they developed a working arrangement where Mr Witton made the shafts of some walking sticks for the Stick Man.

“You appreciate that the clever bit was the really beautiful hand carved heads which were created by the Stick Man, but the shafts of the sticks were made using special chair making tools which are not very common these days, but Colin had them, in his shed,” Mrs Witton added.

The Archbishop was enthroned at a service in Canterbury Cathedral, earlier this month, attended by more than 2,000 guests including the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Pickering said the staff used by the Archbishop featured an African Rock Hyrax carving on the horn crook as a reminder of his days working in a mission in Africa.

He said he had wanted to use a darker wood to create the crook and had asked Mr Witton if he had any suggestions – and he came up with an unusual source.

“He said he had some mahogany. It was a reclaimed bar top, from a bar that was being refurbished.

“It had been a bar top in a pub for about 200 years.”

Mr Pickering said it had been used to make around six or seven crooks for Bishops.

He said: “I had no idea it was going to be used but my wife taped the ceremony and she said: ‘Oh your stick has been on.’

“When he was banging it on the door, I was shouting don’t you break that thing!”

“I thought it wasn’t really meant for doing that,” he quipped.

He said he felt very proud that his work had been used on such a momentous occasion. “Its a legacy that Colin has left and he would have been so proud,” Mr Pickering added.

Mrs Witton added that she was thrilled that Mr Pickering had taken the trouble to ring her when he realised the significance of their joint work

The ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, which was held earlier this month, marked the formal start of Mr Welby’s public ministry.

For the first time in history, a female cleric, the Venerable Sheila Watson, Archdeacon of Canterbury, formally enthroned the Archbishop.