Day of contrasts as Kate and William open supercar plant and a refuge for the homeless

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In a corner of Barnsley, the counterpoint to the birthday banquet being served for his father could not have been apparent.

The Duke of Cambridge emerged from the kitchen carrying a simple wooden tray on which sat three bowls of chicken soup. For the “clients” of the homeless charity Centrepoint, this was lunch.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at the Centrepoint centre in Barnsley

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at the Centrepoint centre in Barnsley

William, assisted or perhaps guided by his wife, was preparing soup and bread for young people who have been helped by the organisation, a national charity which provides housing and support in London, Yorkshire and across the North.

William has been its patron since 2005.

He and the Duchess looked relaxed as they chatted with staff and young people, with the Duke acknowledging that the fare differed somewhat from what he said was a “normal lunch”.

As they sat down to eat red pepper and chorizo soup, William hugged one of his fellow diners.

Chelsea Jenkins, 23, said: “We talked about how much Centrepoint has helped us.

“He gave me a hug at the end. They’re really nice people and I’m glad I met them.”

She did not finish her vegetable broth, she said, although the Royals ate all theirs. “I’m not a big eater,” said Ms Jenkins.

The recipes had been developed after a recipe competition and are being sold through Waitrose, with 20p going to the charity.

Lewis Gwynne, 24, helped William with the soup.

“I was just standing there and talking about my past with him. He seemed like a normal person,” he said.

Gareth Bradbury, also 24, helped the Duchess with the bread cutting. “That’s not cut bread, they’re more like doorstops,” he heard William say.

“They were a really calming presence. He puts you at ease and he talks to you on a nice level,” Mr Bradbury said.

William and Kate opened the centre’s new Andy Norman Learning Hub on Barnsley’s Quarry View, which has been built to provide a dedicated space and resources for the more than 60 young people who come in every day.

They are among the 7,000 young people in Yorkshire to have approached their local authority in the last year because they were homeless or at risk.

As if to underline what had become a day of opposites, the Duke and Duchess had arrived there after had opening a £50m McLaren supercar factory, 16 miles away at the Advanced Manufacturing Park between Sheffield and Rotherham.

William and Kate – wearing a blue Eponine dress – were joined by the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who is one of McLaren’s main shareholders.

In 2011, he had defused a potentially embarrassing diplomatic incident over human rights by declining his invitation to their wedding, amid continuing unrest in his kingdom.

McLaren’s Composites Technology Centre aims to be a world leader in innovating the lightweight carbon fibre tubs that are integral to the agility of the firms’s supercars and sports cars, and William said he looked forward to seeing more of them on the roads.

The firm’s first factory opened in Woking seven years ago and now more than 90 per cent of its products are exported worldwide.

McLaren’s chief executive Mike Flewitt described the new Yorkshire site as “more than simply a factory”.

“Although manufacturing is an important part, it’s an innovation centre, a place where new technology will be developed,” he said.

“We already have over 50 talented, dedicated pioneers working here in the region, many drawn from the local area, many met the Royal Highnesses this morning.”

By 2020, the site is expected to employ more than 200 people, bringing McLaren’s total workforce to 3,500.