WORK to restore a Witney church got the Royal seal of approval yesterday as the Princess Royal paid a visit.

Princess Anne, above, centre, spent more than an hour at St Mary’s, which dates back to the 13th century, meeting members of the congregation before giving a short speech.

She described the church, in Church Green, as “very special” and backed the £2m campaign to make the historic building fit for the 21st century.

Work to repair the roof, the first phase of the project, was completed in December last year, after a £300,000 fundraising effort. The second phase, to replace the pews and fit under-floor heating, is expected to cost a further £600,000.

The remaining £1.1m will be needed for later phases of the project.

The Princess said: “St Mary’s Church is very unique and very special and I wish you well in the fundraising.

“This will be a really useful building for many years to come.”

The Rev Toby Wright, the rector of St Mary’s, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Princess Royal to Witney and for her to lend her support.

“It’s hugely exciting and I think we were able to see that in the excitement on people’s faces.”

After her speech, Princess Anne was presented with a bouquet of flowers by May Manning and Andrew Hunt, inset, both 10 and pupils at The Batt Primary School, in Marlborough Lane.

Andrew said: “I found it a bit nerve-racking, because I’ve never given anything to a princess before, but she was very nice.” Picture: Jon Lewis