Few high streets can match the Georgian splendour of Hungerford in Royal Berkshire, which perhaps explains why it finds favour with the Earl of Carnarvon’s daughter, Lady Saoirse Herbert, and Viscount Exmouth’s elder son and heir, Ed Pellew, who are among its residents – and why the Princess of Wales’s sister, Pippa, is frequently seen shopping there.
But will their enchantment endure in 2024? I ask because, in the early hours of New Year’s Eve, the idyllic market town witnessed a violent, professional attack of the sort more usually associated with the worst streets of Sadiq Khan’s London, when a masked gang ‘ram raided’ a specialist shop selling rare coins, stamps and gold bullion.
‘There were nine of them, all masked,’ an appalled local tells me. ‘They knew exactly what they were doing. There were three cars, plus a truck which dragged the shop’s security grilles out onto the street with a claw thing. Then they went in and got the safe out, which was loaded onto the truck.
‘They had a fifth vehicle, up the high street, as a get-away vehicle. They were in and out within minutes.’
Unknown to the gang, the raid was filmed by a resident nearby who, woken by the sound of shattering glass, had the presence of mind to hurry to an upper floor window and record everything on his phone.
In the early hours of New Year’s Eve, idyllic market town Hungerford in Royal Berkshire witnessed a violent, professional attack of the sort more usually associated with the worst streets of Sadiq Khan ‘s London
During a long and varied career, Nick Lumley (right) has appeared in everything from Coronation Street and Auf Wiedersehen Pet to The Bill and Doc Martin, as well as making a cameo appearance in Downton Abbey, and a rather longer one – as a convict – in Paddington 2 (pictured)
But for two residents the break-in was almost unbearable – actor Nick Lumley and his wife, Caroline, who, for many years, have not only owned the building used by the coin and stamp dealer but have lived in the adjoining house.
Such was the ferocity of the attack that the entire shop front has disappeared – initially inhibiting forensic investigation, I’m told, as there were fears that the whole building might collapse. ‘There’s a hole in Nick and Caroline’s sitting room wall. It’s visible from the pavement. Anyone can peer in.’
Lumley, 69, is too shaken to speak. During a long and varied career, he has appeared in everything from Coronation Street and Auf Wiedersehen Pet to The Bill and Doc Martin, as well as making a cameo appearance in Downton Abbey, and a rather longer one – as a convict – in Paddington 2. ‘He’s terrified, understandably,’ says a concerned neighbour.
Thames Valley Police tells me that it received a report of the raid at around 5am on Sunday. Confirming that a safe was taken, a spokesman adds: ‘Anyone with information can contact police by calling 101 or reporting online, quoting reference 43230582642.’
No one entered 2024 with a bigger bang than Sir Ben Kingsley, who, turning 80 on Sunday, saw in the new year at his £3.5 million Oxfordshire home.
‘He probably spent up to £30,000 on fireworks,’ an awestruck local tells me, adding that residents were advised of the impending extravaganza so that horses and livestock could be moved.
It’s a sensitive subject: a previous new year was marred when another local let fly without prior warning.
Sir Ben is, of course, familiar with firecrackers — Lady Kingsley, his fourth wife, is Brazilian beauty Daniela, 31 years his junior.
Late Queen’s amazement at ‘girl Hamlet’
Queen Elizabeth, who performed three male roles in pantomimes at Windsor Castle while she was a teenager, was amazed that an actress played Hamlet before she died.
The disclosure comes from Cush Jumbo, who performed the leading role at the Young Vic in London in 2021. Jumbo met the Queen when she collected her OBE.
‘When I met her, she said, ‘I heard you’re playing Hamlet’, and her eyes popped open.
‘She said, ‘I didn’t think I’d see that in my lifetime — a girl playing Hamlet’.’
Jumbo, 38, adds: ‘It was amazing and I feel very privileged to have got to meet her before she passed.’
Madge’s Stella new year
When Madonna married Guy Ritchie in 2000, her maid of honour was Stella McCartney, who designed her ivory strapless bridal gown.
While that marriage didn’t last, the Queen of Pop’s friendship with Sir Paul McCartney’s daughter endures to this day.
Madonna and Stella McCartney celebrated New Year’s Eve together at a lavish party in St Barts, in the French West Indies, wearing headbands with the words, ‘Happy New Year’
And the pair celebrated the dawn of 2024 together at a lavish party in St Barts, in the French West Indies, where they wore headbands with the words, ‘Happy New Year’.
Stella admits she was anxious when she first met the singer. ‘I was running a bath and was totally unprepared. When she tried my clothes on, I told her she had a fat a**e. She laughed… and bought some.’
Comic Ryan slams ‘trash’ Disneyland
A Christmas trip to Disneyland Paris proved to be the stuff of nightmares rather than fairy tales for comedienne Katherine Ryan.
‘Disney Village is like a trash high street,’ declares the Canadian, 40, who lives in Hertfordshire with her partner, Bobby Kootstra, and three children. ‘Everyone was vaping and smoking actual cigarettes whilst pushing a buggy or holding a child’s hand. I’ve never seen so much vaping in my life.’
The TV panellist didn’t see many princesses or Disney stars either. ‘I asked, ‘Where are all the characters?’ she says. ‘It seemed very barren. We saw Jessie [from Toy Story] and the chipmunks and that was it. When I took my daughter Violet there in 2011, there were loads of characters.
‘I did not have a nice time.’
On a new year’s fitness drive, but can’t face Dry January? Jeremy Clarkson has a solution.
The Clarkson’s Farm star has videoed himself at the gym while sipping a beer.
‘When you’re working out, it’s important to stay hydrated,’ he advises. ‘What I recommend is Hawkstone’s new ultra-low-alcohol lager. It’s a wellness lager — the healthier alternative.’ Gwyneth Paltrow he ain’t.