Grace Jones: Britain's oldest person, who worked as a seamstress and a civil servant until her retirement in the 1960s


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The Independent Online

Grace Jones was the oldest person in Britain and the last person in this country to have been born in the 1800s, during the reign of Queen Victoria. Her 113 years of life encompassed the invention of the aeroplane, the development of electronic communications and two world wars. She was the sixth oldest person in the world.

When the Eligibility of Women Act was passed in 1918, she was still not able to vote, as the minimum age for women was set at 30. Her first opportunity to cast a vote would have been in the General Election of 1929, after women and men had been given equal entitlement the previous year.

Jones was born in Bermondsey, south London, in December 1899, one of eight children. She had been engaged to Albert Rees, who was killed during the First World War. She never married, claiming to have never found anyone as nice as him. She worked as a seamstress and as a civil servant until her retirement in the 1960s.

Last December her local MP, Simon Hughes, took her to a traditional Christmas dinner organised by Bermondsey Care for the Elderly. "Grace will be dearly missed by her many friends and neighbours and by the wider Bermondsey community," he said. "We are all very sad today but we pay tribute to Grace for her wonderful, vibrant and long life, for her commitment to her faith, her family and her community, and we know that a woman of such strong Christian faith faced death with no fear. Although she found her failing strength frustrating, right up until her last week Grace's memory and intellect were undimmed." She attributed her longevity to her diet, recommending "good English food, never anything frozen".

Jones was the victim of three burglaries during the last two years of her life. In December 2011 a thief broke into her flat and stole £300, her pension money. Another burglar tried the next day and then again the following month. He was later caught and jailed.

She had lived with her mother, sister and latterly her brother George, until his death in 2001. She celebrated her 113th birthday together with her neighbours Carol Pooke, Sue Wilmer, and other friends, of whom she said: "They are my family now, and they know it. They are very good to me." She had recently had a fall, and died at a local nursing home. Britain's oldest person is now Ethel Lang, who was born in May 1900.

Grace Jones, supercentenarian: born Bermondsey, London 7 December 1899; died Bermondsey 14 November 2013.