The chandeliers were lit in every room at Offord Hill house when its owner Simon Embley with his girlfriend Maria, gave a tea party on April 5" to celebrate Vera Arnold's 100th birthday.
The front door was thrown open to the spring sunshine and the rooms sparkled as Vera's family, friends and three Vicars managed diminutive sandwiches, bite sized éclairs and homemade chocolate cake. The house was built at the turn of the last century by the Thackrays, a local family, still here today, who designed it in the style of Lutyens.
When Simon Embley took it over nearly ten years ago it was a sad ghost of a place, the land at the back, once graceful gardens, now filled with car wrecks. When Vera Arnold worked there as House Parlour maid during the 1930s it was a grand house, with a cook, housekeeper and gardeners, owned by the Mayor John Stables who gave tennis parties in the gardens at the back of the house.
Today the rooms are bright and pale. When Vera worked there the decorations had not been updated since it was built, so the interiors were dark Victorian and Edwardian shades.
Simon first met Vera when Kate Hadley at the Porch Museum asked him to allow the museum people to film Vera at the house and let Miss Arnold wander through rooms she had polished, past fireplaces she laid and lit every day at 6.30am, into the cosy little servant's bedroom she had adored and the large kitchen where she and the cook used to listen to the wireless with a mid morning cup of tea.
While making this film Upstairs, Downstairs with Vera Arnold, Simon promised Vera that when she reached a hundred years old he would give her a party.
So here we all were true to his word. Some tea party guests were given a tour of the house by the beautiful hostess, Maria.
Vera's great great nephews, Joseph and Jake raced up and down the many stairs front and back of the house and had a grand time especially as Simon who has two boys of his own, let them run about as they pleased and reassured their mother Sam Usher that she was not to worry.
Vera was also accompanied by her niece Sandra Sturgeon and an old friend Connie Jacques (née Connie Thompson), who went to the same school in St Ann's Lane as Vera, but is just a girl at 97.
The tea party guests were thrilled when she showed everybody her beautiful card sent from the Queen.
Then Vera was exceptionally happy at the wonderful surprise Simon planned for her. It was a cheque for £250, in her name to Godmanchester's church, St Mary the Virgin, and received by the delighted Vicar David Busk.
This wonderful lady of our town has come a long way in from her birth on April 16 at 6.30am in 1916, one of fourteen children, seven boys and seven girls, and an early life without hot and cold running water or inside lavatories, normal for all residents in this town, she has gone through a major War and seen unimaginable changes.
Where once people travelled by horse and trap, now the roads are full of cars. Aeroplanes soar to foreign places.
The Health Service takes care of a populace which could not afford a doctor when she was a girl. What hasn't changed is that her good manners win hearts. As she says Its manners which make a person.