A family-run stable that was told it had to raise £40,000 for repairs or lose its home celebrated a renovation, helped paid for by the community, with a royal visit on Wednesday.
Princess Anne paid a visit to Teddington’s Park Lane Stables, which is involved in numerous projects for children with disabilities but was given an ultimatum in August 2014 that meant the group would be forced out if the cash for much-needed repairs was not found.
Natalie O’Rourke, who has run the stables since 2009, said: “There was an initial threat of closure but we managed to secure a new lease with the help of (former Twickenham MP) Vince Cable.
Princess Anne was hosted by Natalie O'Rourke (far right)
“Part of that agreement was that we had to repair the building, which was in a poor state.”
Ms O’Rourke said when she first told the bank she would find the money the idea was laughed at, but with the support of groups including local artists, restaurants, architects and builders, the money was raised and the repairs have been completed.
She said: “People in the community have given us little bits of money, whatever they could afford, and that has amounted to a lot.
“We have literally raised the £40,000 in 10p instalments by doing quizzes and cake sales and things.
"It has been hard work but the results have been amazing.”
Fundraising included a pizza party held at Hampton Hill’s Il Casale restaurant, a painting of the stables by Teddington artist Liz Knutt, of which prints were sold to raise cash, and a pledge of £5,000 from the RFU.
Andrea Meneguzzo, head chef at Hampton Hill’s Il Casale, helped raise funds with a pizza party at the restaurant
Architects Astronaut Kawada worked on the project on a pro bono basis and Ms O’Rouke said construction firm Reed charged her far less than they should have for their work.
Simon Dillon, director of Reed Construction, Hampton, has a daughter who has ridden with the stables for about eight years and agreed to do the construction work at a cut-price.
He said: “I said to her yes, we can get it all done. They do such good work there and it was just a really good cause.”
Upon the project’s completion Ms O’Rourke reached out to Princess Anne to see if she would like to hear more, but said she never expected an actual royal visit.
Ms O’Rourke said: “It is just a fairy tale really. it has been a real struggle but it was just a fairy tale come true.
“She was such a lovely lady and was so interested in what we do at the stable.
“I just want to thank everybody in the community that stood by us and we want to continue to serve the community as best we can.”
Princess Anne outside the stables (Credit: Teri Anne Scoble)
Twickenham MP Tania Mathias, who attended the royal visit, said it was incredible to see so many people with an interest in the stables show Princess Anne what an important part of the community it was.
Dr Mathias said: “It was amazing to see so many residents out supporting Park Lane Stables and even people who have moved out of the area but are still riders and supporters who came to Teddington especially for this royal day.
“I am proud such a community service is in the heart of Teddington next to Bushy Park.”