Astronaut Major Tim Peake has praised his home city, Chichester, after he received the Freedom of the City.
At a special ceremony held on Sunday, Major Peake was presented with the scroll by Mayor Cllr Peter Evans.
The event at Chichester Festival Theatre was witnessed by around 1,000 fans who gained free tickets.
Among them was Bognor Regis Town Mayor, Cllr Phil Woodall, who attended the occasion in a special waistcoat made by his seamstress.
He said: “It was an amazing experience to be able to attend the Freedom of the City event for Tim Peake at the Chichester Festival Theatre at the weekend.
“Having followed his journey while he was on the mission to the international space station and visited the exhibition in Chichester, this event was the final piece to the puzzle to actually see Tim Peake – a local man who has done us so proud.”
In a speech, Major Peake said: “I’d like to say how delighted I am to be back here in my home city and what a huge honour it is to receive the Freedom of the City of Chichester.
“I’d like to say a huge thank-you to the Mayor, Peter Evans, and to the city council for bestowing this honour upon me. Of course, Chichester and the local area holds a very special place in my heart. Not only because it was the place I was born and I spent the first 18 years of my life.
“Also, it was the decisions and influences of those formative years that really shaped the rest of my life and, ultimately, led to a journey in to space.
“That journey would not have been possible without the help and support of many, many people.”
Major Peake thanked Glynis and Derek Chaffer from the Westbourne Cub Scouts, describing them as ‘giving hundreds of children like myself their first taste of adventure and outdoors, building confidence and resilience in our younger generations and in the words of the Scouts, giving them skills for life.’
Glynis Chaffer, Cub Scout leader for 39 years at 1st Westbourne, said: “Tim was one of my Scouts. I am so proud of him. Knowing one of our Cubs has been in a spaceship is a very proud feeling.
“As a Scout, Tim was really enthusiastic. It makes us really proud of Westbourne, too, and puts us on the map and gives us a place in history. “
Tim also thanked the high school which he attended until 1990 before he went on to Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
Major Peake continued: “I’d also like to thank Chichester High School and all the amazing teachers who dedicate so much of their time to helping students to get the best start in life.
“Not just in terms of their education but in terms of guiding students through the difficult choice we all have to make during our teenage years.
“And, finally, none of this would have been possible at all without the immense support of family and friends.
“Despite choosing a career path from an early age that has had more than it’s fair share of risks, my parents have always provided the encouragement and unwavering support to help me succeed. Thank you to mum and dad and to all the friends and family that are here today.”
During a question and answer session held after Major Peake’s presentation, he answered questions from children including ‘How do I become an astronaut?’ and ‘Did you bring anything back from space?’
Major Peake wowed fans after the ceremony with a meet and greet session.
The foyer at Chichester Festival Theatre was transformed to allow Major Peake to greet the audience and take photographs.
Loella Harris and her husband, Derrick, from Chichester, attended with their three-year-old son Russell.
Loella said: “I made it on to page 227 of his book Ask an Astronaut and I just had to come along here today. I’m really happy that I was able to meet him. I actually tried to become an astronaut but I can’t because of my asthma.
Derrick added: “It was an honour to see Major Tim Peake receive his key to the freedom of Chichester. Russell loved it, too, and even got to meet his space hero.”