A FARMER’S wife hopes to win back the world record she once held for the biggest collection of royal memorabilia, 20 years after setting it.

Passionate Royalist Anita Atkinson clinched the Guinness World Record in 2001 with 1,781 individual items, which she had spent four days counting as part of a fundraising event for a play scheme in upper Weardale.

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Her record was subsequently dwarfed by a woman in Australia who had 12,000 items – but Mrs Atkinson’s collection kept growing.

She has staged hundreds of talks and displays, for groups like the Women’s Institute in aid of charities such as the Stanhope and Weardale MS Society, and even created a themed museum and temporary tearoom at her Harperley home near Crook, County Durham, to share her collection.

Then, in the spring, the 64-year-old grandmother of four was forced to slow down her usually-hectic pace of life.

Shortly after retiring as editor of The Weardale Gazette she fell from a barn loft, landing on her head and suffering a bleed on the brain.

She said: “It was just a few days before lockdown, I don’t think I realised just how serious it was at the time, but with retiring, then that and lockdown I thought I had time to start counting and recording my collection to see if I could get the record.

“I registered my attempt, have two verifiers who can come and check any time and am recording everything meticulously in notebooks then onto a spreadsheet on the computer.

“I need 12,001 and I wouldn’t say I’m confident but I’ve got up to 9,207 and am half way round the museum so I might have it.”

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Mrs Atkinson’s fascination with the British monarchy began as a little girl, when her mother Annie Pinkey told her tales of getting married in ‘the year of the three kings’ 1936.

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She started collecting items when she turned 21 in the year of the Silver Jubilee, 1977, and by 1981 was a self-confessed ‘royal nut’.

A reporter who spotted Mrs Atkinson's passion in hospital, as she read about the monarchy after having her first of three children, wrote about her and the story spread.

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Mrs Atkinson’s reputation as a passionate and knowledgeable collector has grown and people from around the world have sent her items they can no longer keep, knowing she will look after them.

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“People have been very kind, I had a wagon arrive recently with boxes full of books a man from Lincoln had inherited from his mother’s collection and I’ve made friends with a lady in Colorado who has sent lovely items, neither would even take money for the postage.

“I think people know they are in safe hands, I have mass produced trinkets to some very rare and valuable pieces and I couldn’t part with any of it.

“Now I’m recording it for the record attempt it is wonderful to look over it all.

“I’ve had the euphoria of having a world record before but to be able to do it now, with my four granddaughters around, would be wonderful.”

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Mrs Atkinson added: "I’m not blinkered about the Royal family at all, some them get right on my nerves, but I really feel the Queen and a constitutional monarchy is as relevant today as ever.

"They aren’t elected and that is the point, they have been in training their whole lives for a job that serves the people, when the Queen speaks people listen.

"I always loved the stories and I’m a bit of a royal history nut, it is like a real life soap opera.”

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