MUSIC and exultant praise filled a Walcot suburb as a dedication service for the new home of an open-door community church got into full swing.

The Swindon branch of the Bethel Church has congregated in several of the town’s community centres over the last years but never had a permanent place of worship until now.

The building is dedicated to the memory of foster carer Esmerilda “Myrtle” Williams who died before seeing her wish of her favourite church having its own home come to fruition.

The 75-year-old mother of seven lived in Broadgreen for more than 40 years and fostered more children than she could count.

Her son Vannie Williams said: "She would be very proud, this church was started by her and two other people and it just kept growing, it was a massive part of her life. She gave services from her own front room during a particularly tough time.

"For decades, she was always looking for a permanent home, she never gave up hope, she kept persevering and saving up through collections and invited more people to the church. After she died, the Jehovah's Witnesses said they were selling their building so the church group made an offer and moved from the Central Community Centre where we had been for years.

"The service was fantastic, the mayor sat through the whole thing after his speech, which goes to show how moving it was,.Everyone is so excited about the future, we hope to grow and bring peace, joy and love to the community. It's proved that her faith has endured and her legacy lives on."

Hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their respects to Esmerilda as a horse-drawn carriage lead the cortege through Old Town at her funeral in 2011. Pastors George and Elaine Burrell continued her work after she died and will oversee the running of the new building on Seymour Road.

Bishop of the south-western district Dexter Edmund cut a ceremonial ribbon and welcomed the flock inside before an exuberant three-hour service began full of hymns, cheers, applause and amens. Rev Edmund said: “This was a great occasion for us and we are looking forward to expanding the ministry in Swindon. It was a very happy day as our vision was always to have a home. It is with Jesus’ joy that we dedicate this as a place of worship for the very first time.”

The Bethel Open Door Community Church is one of only two churches in Swindon wholly owned by the Caribbean community and welcomes a multi-cultural congregation.

Vannie added: "She was very well-known in the community for her hospitality, she always wanted to help, she looked after foster children, she took people off the streets and gave them a place to stay for the night, she cooked at Princess Margaret Hospital - the doctors said the food there was bland until she arrived!"