Tributes to Sudbury’s ‘Mrs Gainsborough’

Beryl Ruse as Mrs Gainsborough.

Beryl Ruse as Mrs Gainsborough. - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to Beryl Ruse, who has died at the age of 85 after a short illness.

Beryl Ruse placing flowers at St Mary's church.

Beryl Ruse placing flowers at St Mary's church. - Credit: Archant

Beryl was a familiar sight at the town’s annual Gainsborough celebrations, playing the role of Mrs Gainsborough.

She would wear 18th century dress to greet the mayor of the day at the artist’s statue, which is decorated with flowers for the occasion, pose for photographs and invite shoppers to join the celebrations at Gainsborough’s House where she was a volunteer steward.

Director Mark Bills said: “She was a joy to work with and her dressing up for Gainsborough Day will always be unforgettable.”

In her working life Beryl was best remembered by Sudbury’s older generations weighing out humbugs and dolly mixtures behind the counter of Dolly’s sweetshop in King Street.

A renowned soprano singer, she sang in choirs and as a soloist all her life, beginning at the age of six when her family lived in Little Waldingfield.

A move in 1947 to Newton Road on the border of Sudbury and Cornard, began a life-long devotion to the nearby St Mary’s Church, which is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

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She sang at the occasional services there after its life as a parish church and she and her sister Pearl Chaplin cleaned and decorated the church with flowers and foliage from local hedgerows.

“They have both played a vital part in keeping St Mary’s alive for the 50 years since it ceased to be a parish church,” said David Tibbetts Chaplin, chairman of the church trustees.

Beryl also sang at St Peter’s in the Market Place when it was a parish church and occasionally in St Gregory’s choir, and she sang regularly at Holy Trinity at Long Melford.

Her funeral service will be held at Holy Trinity Tuesday February 12 at 1.30pm.

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