Tributes paid to former priest in Wotton

WOTTON-under-Edge is in mourning after saying goodbye to a former priest, described by many as "Mr Wotton".

The Reverend Michael Chappell, 80, had strong ties to the town throughout his life, from his birth at The Butts in Wotton to the end of his life on the Bearpackers Almshouses estate, passing away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, December 23.

His connection with St Mary’s Parish Church started with his baptism and would remain a permanent part of his life working in several positions with the church, eventually being ordained as deacon in 1987 and as priest a year later.

He continued to serve the community, taking services until the very end.

Vicar of St Mary’s, the Reverend Rob Axford, said Mr Chappell was a good priest and a good colleague, a man of great faith and wisdom.

"Michael knew and loved the community that he served, he knew the people, their stories and the history of the town, all of this coloured and ran through his ministry," he said.

"We are unlikely to see again a priest like Michael who knows the community so well, having lived here all his life, and able to serve it with such a personal knowledge and gentle but effective ministry."

After completing his national service with the RAF in Gloucester, Mr Chappell started work for HW Tily & Sons on Long Street in Wotton where he met his future wife, Muriel, with the pair tying the knot on October 18, 1958 in Synwell.

The former Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School student decided to purchase the greengrocer P W Mann & Son on Wotton’s High Street in 1979 where he served the community until his retirement at 68.

A trustee to many Wotton charities, Mr Chappell also spent many years as a projectionist at the Wotton Picture House in Market Street and was chairman of the Wotton-under-Edge Historical Society for many years.

His daughter Diana Pawlowski paid tribute to her late father, describing him as a traditionalist but still open to change.

"Every morning he would go up the street to get his daily paper and this would often take him as long as three hours. Residents said he will be known as Mr Wotton as he knew so much of its history and its town's folk," she said.

In 2005, Mr Chappell was said to be overwhelmed when the local community started a collection to help pay for his hip replacement, which had rendered him housebound for several months He leaves behind daughters Sylvia Hyam and Diana Pawlowski, grandchildren Stew, Sheph and Sheldon Hyam as well as Josh and Mike Pawlowski. He also leaves behind great grandchildren Charlie, Lily and Rose. His funeral was held on Monday, January 7. A memorial service will be held at St Mary’s on Saturday, January 26, at 11am.

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