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Mourning: Crossroads stars Susan Hanson and Ronald Allen

Queen of Crossroads Noele Gordon was buried yesterday in a country churchyard alongside her mother.  The mourners were led by the stars of the show which made her one of Britains's best-loved TV characters.  They were joined by close friends and more than 400 fans who turned up to say a sad farewell to 'Nolly.'  Some fought back the tears as the coffin was lowered.  But for many other it was too much and they wept openly.

Noele, who played motel boss Meg Mortimer in the top TV soap opera until her shock sacking in 1981, died last week after a brave fight against stomach cancer.  And like many top stars she kept one sectret to the the grave - her exact age.  Showbiz friends believed she was between 61 and 64, but the brass incription on her coffin revealed that Noele was in fact 65 when she passed away.

Ever-popular Nolly - her stage career began when she was two - was buried in the country town of Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.  It was where she made her home during her years with Crossroads.  She lived in her mansion Weir-End for 15 years with her mother, Jockie, who died in 1979.  The 700 year old St. Mary's parish church was packed for the 40 minute service taken by Noele's close friend Canon John Thursfield.

Crossroads was represented by four leading stars.  It was thought a full turnout might attract too many fans.  Jane Rossington, who plays Noele's screen daughter Jill, sat with red, puffy eyes as she listened to the service.  Next to her were Ronnie Allen and Sue Lloyd who star as David and Barbara Hunter.  They were joined by Susan Hanson - waitress Diane - who was in the original cast with Noele 20 years ago.  In the front pew was Noele's long-time friend, comic Larry Grayson, looking pale and drawn. 

The order of service, including the hymn Fight the Good Fight, had been planned and chosen by Noele before she died.  Canon Thursfield said:  "Noele gave joy and pleasure to countless millions of people.  It might surprise some people to know that Nolly was a woman of prayer.  Not a night went by without her thanking God for past favours and to ask for strength for tomorrow."  He added:  "It was a rare thing for Noele and Jockie to miss their worship on Sunday.  Noele's belief in God was as firm as a rock and may she join her mother nearer to the presence of God."

Floral tributes filled the church porch and many more were lined up alongside a stone wall.  One from Jane said:  'In memory of my other mother.'  Other stars including Danny La Rue, sent flowers.  Lord Grade, the man who discovered Noele and was her agent in the 1950s wrote:  'With fondest memories and affection, Kathy and Lew Grade.'

The coffin was taken to the churchyard led by Scots piper David Power playing the lament My Lodgings in the Cold, Cold Ground.  Sad Sue Lloyd was overwhelmed.  Ronnie slipped a comforting arm around her back as tears rolled down her cheeks.

After saying a silent prayer over Noele's grave Larry Grayson said:  "I've lost my closest friend and a great pal.  She was loved by millions and brought happiness to lots of lonely people.  They watched her in Crossroads and believed in her.  She loved her audience and was always loyal to them.  She would have loved all this - she really would."