It has become a well-known and much-used expression. 

But almost a hundred years ago, the saying “like a bull in a China shop” became a reality for a young shop assistant. 

It was during a visit from the monarch, Queen Mary, to the market town of Fakenham in north Norfolk. 

Eastern Daily Press: Fakenham, looking onto Market Place during 1910

In a recently discovered document, the family of Ellen Drew nee Loades was surprised to discover the copy of a letter describing the visit in her belongings. 

In the letter, which was originally written and sent to this newspaper on January 7, 1977, Mrs Drew shared the account from her childhood while working at Bones Antique and China shop. 

It reads: “Almost 50 years ago. Imagine a county shop girl of 15 suddenly being told by the ‘guvnor’ to get a roll of red carpet ready as Queen Mary would be visiting. 

Eastern Daily Press: Queen Mary visiting Hackney in January 1916

“I never laid the carpet. The chauffeur soon stopped that. And then I don’t know if I was more terrified of Her Majesty or of getting the sack for disobeying orders. 

“I can still feel the awe of the moment when I had to take a Royal Worcester plate from a glass case to display to the Queen; the kindly way she smiled at my trembling hands and the lovely way of her.” 

Mrs Drew then goes on to explain that a crowd had gathered in the street which was especially big due to it being market day. 

Eastern Daily Press: King George V and Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace in 1926

Then, as the livestock was driven along the high street to Cattle Market, a young bullock that was frightened by the crowd dashed across the road and into the shop’s open doorway. 

“Imagine, a real bull in a China shop story,” the letter continues. 

READ MORE: Girl crowned Queen during 1953 coronation recalls childhood memory

“The bullock weaved in and out and, amid stifled, agitated screams, was gently coaxed out – and never broke one item. 

“It was a miracle. Though it did leave a mess on the floor! 

Eastern Daily Press: Queen Mary visiting Hackney in January 1916

“We were told Queen Mary was quite amused by the whole affair. 

“As for the shop girl, it was a day to remember.” 

She signed the letter off by saying the story made the front page of The Daily Mirror. 

Queen Mary was the great-great grandmother of King Charles III. She was married to King George V and died on March 24, 1953, at the age of 85.