Tower Hamlets’ ‘Queen’ has first pearly wedding for 40 years
- Credit: Archant
The Pearly Queen of Tower Hamlets married her Prince Charming in the first pearly wedding for more than 40 years on Friday - giving the borough a new “king”.
Lorraine Wells wed fiancé Terry Sadler at a ceremony in Essex attended by dozens of other East End pearly families.
Pearlies are a group of charitable workers who dress up in suits covered in pearl buttons in a tradition that dates back to the 1870s.
It was founded by Henry Croft, a street sweeper, who made his first suit aged 13 and began to fundraise in the East End.
And the current crop of Pearlies were out in force for the celebrations, where 20 of them donned their spectacular outfits.
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“I was taken in a vintage Rolls Royce,” said Lorraine, 56, who inherited her title from her mother.
“I made a special shawl for myself with my title on, using hand-me-down buttons from my great grandfather and mother.”
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The pearly ceremony was the first in Lorraine’s family, and she thinks in the community as a whole, since 1971, when her uncle Victor married at St Martins in-the-fields, near Trafalgar square.
“We wanted to come out to a good old cockney song, so we chose the Lambeth Walk, sung by Monica Rose,” explained Lorraine,
“She was a friend of my grand parents. It was a lovely touch and it brought a tear to my eye.”
The singing and dancing continued into the night at the reception, held at The Carpenter’s Arms pub in Bethnal Green, where Lorraine works, while the wedding itself was held at Langtons House in Billet Lane, Hornchurch.
She said: “It went in a flash, everyone enjoyed themselves so much. It was a great evening. The pearlies were there in their suits.
“I looked around and saw all my friends and family. I could not wish for anything else.
Lorraine admits she was nervous, but says she felt like the “luckiest woman on earth.”
She met Terry met in the Carpenter’s Arms a few years ago, and after her previous relationship ended, Terry suggested they get married.
“I said ‘I’ve tried that once and I didn’t like it’,” explains Lorraine,
“But a friend of mine died suddenly and I realised, it’s not a rehearsal, this is it.
“He proposed about four weeks after that in July.”
Terry, 66, has now inherited the title pearly king of Tower Hamlets, and Lorraine says he not only supports the tradition, he fits in.
“He always supported us, even before we started seeing each other.
“We live in Harold Hill now, but I would like to go back home to the East End, there is nowhere like the East End.”
Lorraine is passionate about her charity work, and often fundraises for hospitals and children’s charities.
“Pearlies are brought up from a young age to consider other people,” she said.
And as a fourth generation pearly, Lorraine is pleased to be passing on the traditions to her daughters and grand-daughters.
“My daughter Nikki is 18 and pearly queen of Stratford, and Jodie, 16, was given her great grandfathers title, he was pearly king of Dalston.”
“It’s hard to get kids involved these days, there used to be 400 of us, but now there’s only just over 100. I raise my hat to the children who carry it on.
“We are a very warm lot of people us pearlies. Sometimes people look at you like you are nothing. But I like to think we are the poor people’s royalty.”