THE Countess of Highclere Castle helped villagers in Kingsclere to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their monthly market.

Lady Fiona Carnarvon cut a cake at Kingsclere Village Club, in George Street, last Saturday and chatted to regular stallholders at the market, which is held monthly to raise money for the village club and St Michael’s Hospice, in Basingstoke.

The wife of the eighth Earl, whose home is used as the set for popular ITV series Downton Abbey, browsed the stalls at the event before cutting a ribbon to mark the anniversary.

She told The Gazette: “I think it’s great to buy home-made food and jams – they taste so much better.”

The market was started by Josie Norton and has a range of stalls including home-made cakes, jams, pickles, candles and cards.

Helen Gore, who now runs the market with her husband Alan, said: “We are highly honoured to have Lady Carnarvon to open Kingsclere Market at the village club on its 20th anniversary. It’s run for the village as a social event once a month.”

Liam Murtagh, nine, ran a stall at the market to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, after being inspired to fundraise following his grandfather’s death from cancer last year.

He said: “We sell cakes and I made bookmarks. I did it in memory of my grandpa Bill Broomhead.”

Liam, who lives in Kingsclere, managed to raise £340.

St Michael’s Hospice also runs a stall to raise funds for the charity, in Aldermaston Road.

Janet Jones, who set up the hospice stall in 2012, said: “I like doing it because you meet people, and it’s for a good cause.” The 79-year-old, from Kingsclere, is given donated items to sell on the stall each month.

Daisy Mitchell, community events co-ordinator for St Michael’s, said: “Janet is fantastic. It generates regular income for us.”