ONE of Ashton-under-Hill’s most familiar couples today celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary.

Gilbert and Peggy Watkins have lived in the Bredon Hill village all their married life.

Gilbert, aged 84, was born and bred in Ashton while Peggy, 82, one of 11 children, was born in Cheltenham as Margaret Edith Youngman but has been known as Peggy since she was a baby. Her family lived in High Street.

As a young man, Gilbert had a motorbike, and back in 1952 he ventured to Cheltenham to a Youth for Christ meeting at Cambray Baptist Church where he spotted Peggy singing in the choir.

Gilbert recalled: “After the meeting I met her outside the church and asked whether she would like a lift home and she jumped on the back of my motorbike.”

The romance blossomed and after Gilbert proposed to Peggy outside the gates of Ashton Chapel, they were married at Peggy’s family church, Zion Gospel Mission in New Street, Cheltenham, on December 12, 1953. The service was followed by a reception at the Cadena Café in Cheltenham.

They set up home in Ashton, initially living in what is now Wood Lane, but since 1972 they have lived in Gilbert’s childhood home in Elmley Road.

Gilbert worked as an apprentice plumber at Averills in Evesham until he was about 20 and after working for Jesse Flint in Cheltenham for several years, he then became a self-employed plumber and painter with his brother-in-law Syd Davis.

From 1969 to 1989, Gilbert worked for Dowty’s in their rubber stores and ended his working life working for Rex Brooks as a storeman. As well as his regular jobs, Gilbert spent 30 years as a driver for Springs Coaches.

The couple have two children, Andrew, 58, and Caroline, 47.

Peggy said: “It’s been a happy marriage but we’ve had our ups and downs and our troubles and illnesses.”

The couple have always been keen gardeners and in the past have opened up their garden for Ashton’s Open Gardens.

They also used to be keen caravanners and since he was a teenager Gilbert has kept canaries.

Asked about their relationship, Peggy said of Gilbert: “He is always there for me whatever the problems”

while Gilbert said of Peggy: “She’s my best friend.”

The Watkins agree with many couple who have enjoyed a long marriage that the secret is “give and take”.

Gilbert and Peggy are celebrating their anniversary with an open house today, and on Saturday are looking forward to a family party.

Gilbert and Peggy have been familiar faces at Ashton Chapel for the past 60 years, the church that Gilbert was carried in as a baby.