Sulgrave volunteers pick up Queen's award for running village’s thriving shop

The volunteers who ensure Sulgrave retains a shop and post office have been handed another reason to celebrate – the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

By Richard Howarth
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 9:18 am
Sulgrave Village Shop and Post Office - it's bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside!
Sulgrave Village Shop and Post Office - it's bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside!

They are not unaccustomed to being recognised for keeping their shop alive when many other villages have been unable to do so – but it was a special moment when they heard at the start of the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend that they were to receive the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK.

It was created in 2002 to celebrate Her Majesty’s golden jubilee and recipients are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

A representative from the volunteers will be making a presentation at a lunch event organised by the Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire on July 1 and a village party has been arranged for this week to celebrate the award and encourage a new generation of volunteers to join the existing team. Two volunteers will also attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2023 along with other recipients of the award.

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Taken from a Sulgrave Shop and Post Office celebratory booklet produced to mark 17 years since it opened in 2004 - among the many memories captured in it was this visit by South Northamptonshire MP MP Andrea Leadsom

Village website editor Colin Wootton said: “This represents a very public recognition of the dedicated work for the shop by countless numbers of volunteers over 17 years, some no longer with us, having sadly passed on or moved away.

“Since the very beginning, the shop established a reputation for reliability, which has been maintained through various crises including the pandemic, shortages of volunteers and a number of malicious break-ins. Nothing daunted, the volunteers returned to clear up the mess and re-establish their cheerful service with a minimum of delay.”

In a special booklet he produced last year marking 17 years since the shop came into being following the demise of the long-established village shop, he said: “Sited in the old village reading room, the shop is tiny but customers often liken it to Dr Who’s Tardis and are amazed at the range of products available. In addition to all the basics, the shop has a delicatessen, sells fresh fruit and vegetables, locally-produced free range eggs, freshly baked bread, pasties and sausage rolls and stocks chilled food and drinks, frozen ready-meals, a carefully chosen wine selection, newspapers and many, many other items.

"Freshly brewed coffee and other hot drinks are available and, at weekends, the aromas of hot croissants and pains-au-chocolat prove irresistible to passers-by. The Post Office has proved a godsend to residents (especially the older members of the community) who can now draw cash and receive their pensions without having to travel to Banbury or Brackley.”

In terms of the Queen’s Award, one of the volunteers, Digby Lewis, added: “As you can imagine, all of the volunteers are delighted to have received this award. I have just spoken to the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire who, as well as congratulating us, confirmed what we already knew - that the selection process for a QAVS award is very stringent and many deserving applicants fall by the wayside. We were the only similar organisation in Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire to be given this award in 2022 so I think we can be justifiably proud.”

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