Schoolchildren in Victorian costume, lacemakers and artists welcomed Prince Charles to the Higgins in Bedford today.
The Prince of Wales was greeted by members of the public at the entrance of the renovated museum and art gallery, before a tour of the galleries where he spent time talking to arts and crafts people.
The Higgins visit was followed by a short walk to the Market Square where hundreds of people had turned out to meet the Prince.
Prince Charles arrived in Bedford by helicopter, landing in Russell Park and talking to local residents who had waited to meet him.
Cadets stood to attention as Prince Charles arrived at the Higgins, before a welcome by the Lord Lieutenant, and then being introduced to a group of dignitaries including Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson and Bedford MP Richard Fuller.
The Prince first met with a group of artists, funded by Carers In Bedfordshire.
One of them, June Baker, who lives in Brickhill, said: “The Prince said that it must be really hard to care for someone who is disabled and did I get a lot of support, which I do coming here. It has been fantastic.”
Greeting the Prince in Victorian style were pupils from Beachamp Middle School, who wowed the heir to the throne with their wonderful costumes.
Year 7 and 8 pupils Olivia Nahajowska, Rachel Warner, Rachel Hunt, Rhianna Maddocks, Jessica Gherman, Toby Emsley and Jack Kelly talked to the Prince about their school and how they had been learning about different materials.
More Beachamp schoolchildren welcomed him to the William Burgess Gallery, where 12-year-old Behram Vandriwala explained how he was making a copy of one of the exhibited works.
He told the Prince: “I told him it is a different interpretation. He really liked it and he liked the colours. And I told him my nephew was born on his birthday.”
Imogen Zuco, 12, also met the Prince in the gallery. She said: “He said do you enjoy art and who is your art teacher? I said I liked the art lessons.”
The Prince went on to meet property owners from Bedford High Street, where Samat Lakha, owner of the Newsfayre building, explained about a project there.
He said: “He was really thrilled by the way it was done. He has great support for this type of work.”
A delighted Samat added: “It is unbelievable to meet him and shake his hand - it’s just not true!”
The Prince got down on one knee to meet pupils from Elstow Lower School who were busy playing dominos and also having fun with a model of Noah’s Ark.
Year 5 pupils Ashwin said: “He asked us if dominos helped us at maths club and how many times did we go.”
A gift of Bedfordshire lace on a Christmas decoration was presented to Prince Charles by lacemakers as he neared the end of his tour of the Higgins.
Aragon Lacemakers Marilyn Two, Sandra King and Sue Stead were busy demonstrating their craft for Prince Charles, who asked about Bedfordshire Lace.
Marilyn said: “He asked us about techniques and how we make the lace, and I explained about the edging and how we only use four bobbins at one time.”
Sandra added: “He was very knowledgeable about lace and said he would never be able to do it himself!”
The Prince signed the visitors’ book before leaving the Higgins to walk the short distance along Castle Lane where crowds were lined up in the High Street, before a visit to the Christmas Tree Festival at St Paul’s Church.