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Exning couple sparkle on special diamond wedding day

A romance that began on a ward at Newmarket hospital blossomed into a marriage which has endured for 60 years.

Today, Robin and Joan Fleet of Burwell Road in Exning are celebrating their diamond wedding and have received a Royal greeting from the King and Queen to mark their special day.

The couple, who are both 80, have lived all their lives in Exning and were pupils together at the village primary school and at Exning Methodist Chapel’s Sunday school.

Robin and Joan Fleet celebrate 60 years of marriage today
Robin and Joan Fleet celebrate 60 years of marriage today

Robin, who celebrated his birthday on Monday, went on to Newmarket Grammar School at Foley House, while Joan was a pupil at Newmarket Secondary Modern.

It was as she was cycling home from a service at Soham Methodist Church that Joan was badly injured when she was hit by a car. She was taken to Newmarket General Hospital with a broken leg and concussion where she spent six weeks recovering and was never short of visitors led by Robin. "We were the bane of the ward sister's life,” he said.

The couple were just 18 when they got engaged and two years later were married at Exning Methodist Chapel. With some help from an aunt they bought the house they still call home where they raised their two sons Michael and Richard. They have four grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

Robin and Joan Fleet on their wedding day in 1964
Robin and Joan Fleet on their wedding day in 1964

Robin initially worked for British Rail at Bury St Edmunds station and had been promoted to head of payroll before he was made redundant when offices were amalgamated and he did not want to move to Norwich.

Instead he joined Newmarket caravan makers CI Caravans, which in its heyday was producing 27,000 vehicles a year, and worked for the Fordham Road company for 28 years ending up as its financial manager. His last job, before retirement, was with Haverhill firm Ardex one of the world's leading manufacturers and suppliers of specialist building materials for flooring and tiling.

On leaving school, Joan worked for Harpers Music in Newmarket but later was a machine operator at the Magnetic Devices factory in Exning Road. She also worked at Newmarket Hospital before the birth of their children.

An accomplished pianist Joan has always loved music. In her younger days she played the organ at Exning Methodist Chapel but while her piano still has pride of place in the couple’s sitting room arthritis now restricts her playing.

Music was in her family. Her younger brother, Roy Starling, had played with the Bilroy Sound Band in Newmarket through the 1970s and been a member of Newmarket Town Band and his death from Covid in 2020 at the age of 72 is something from which she has struggled to recover.