Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby pay tribute before funeral of Denise Robertson

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Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby have paid an emotional tribute to much-loved agony aunt Denise Robertson ahead of her funeral.

The TV presenters were at Sunderland Minster, where the service for the popular This Morning expert was being held following her death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 83.

Before the funeral, where hundreds of mourners were expected, Phillip said: "She was such a kind, loving person, friend."

Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield at the funeral of Denise Robertson
Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield speak before the funeral of Denise Robertson (Owen Humphreys/PA)

He talked of the emotion of seeing her photo on the wall at the ITV studio.

"We walked past it the other day and I said this feels so wrong, so strange. It's terribly emotional still in the building," he added.

Holly said: "This Morning is such a family show and she was the matriarch.

"It doesn't quite feel real.

"All of us need to be here to say goodbye today because she still feels very much part of the show."

Phillip Schofield at the funeral of Denise Robertson
Phillip Schofield said Denise Robertson was such a 'kind, loving person' (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Eamonn Holmes and wife Ruth Langsford were also expected at the service.

Denise played a crucial role in the popularity of This Morning from its first broadcast in 1988.

Her warm but no-nonsense approach quickly won over fans and her popularity led to her being offered her own programme in 2000, called Dear Denise.

She made several guest appearances on other TV programmes and was a regular fixture on Channel 5´s Big Brother's Bit On The Side.

An Order of Service for Denise Robertson's funeral
Order of Service for Denise Robertson's funeral (Owen Humphreys/PA)

She was widowed twice - losing first husband Alex to cancer in 1972 and then Jack to a stroke in 1995. She also lost her 44-year-old stepson, John, to cancer in 2006.

The great-grandmother was awarded an MBE a decade ago and given the Freedom of the City of Sunderland.