Essex village stalwart to receive New Year’s Honour

Sybil King, who has been awarded a BEM

Sybil King, who has been awarded a BEM - Credit: Archant

A Thaxted woman says she was “staggered” to be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community in the New Years Honours announced last week.

Sybil King, 78, of Church House, has lived in the village since 1960 and has been heavily involved with community projects and education over the past 56 years.

Sybil founded the Thaxted Society in 1964 to encourage preservation of historical buildings in the village as well as aiming to develop and improve public facilities.

As a former headmistress of Debden Primary School, Sybil trained headteachers and later became an Ofsted inspector during her lengthy career in education.

She was also instrumental in the restoration of the Lincoln organ at Thaxted Parish Church in 2014, which is famed for being used by English composer Gustav Holst during his writing of the Planets Suite.

Sybil led the eight-year fundraising that made the restoration possible, and the organ will form an important part of this year’s centenary Thaxted Festival, which will celebrate the village’s links with Holst through concerts and events.

Sybil said: “I was staggered to receive the letter. When it came through the post, I thought it was a tax bill but I was amazed when I actually read it.

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“You are sworn to secrecy of course, so I didn’t tell anyone but it’s a great honour. I feel very proud to have been awarded the medal, and in many ways it’s a shame a lot of people can’t come with me to collect the award because everything I have done has always very much been a team effort.

“But I am thrilled, as were my two daughters and four grandchildren, and I look forward to attending a garden party at the palace in the summer. Funnily enough my daughter went to one last year through her involvement with the WI so it will be nice for me to go also.”

Sybil has also been involved with WI meetings, has spent time on the Cancer Research Committee and co-chaired the village’s Millenium Committee.