Meet Florrie Baldwin, Europe's oldest person

A Slice of Britain: She's 114 this Wednesday and once came face-to-face with Queen Victoria, but says there was never any such thing as 'the good old days'

She was three years old when the Second Boer War broke out. She got married two years after the First World War; her husband was too old to fight by the second. And when Neil Armstrong took his small step on the Moon, she had been a pensioner for over a decade. This Wednesday, Mrs Baldwin, better known as Florrie, will celebrate her 114th birthday as the oldest person in Europe. With her will be her 89-year-old daughter, grandsons, great- and great-great-grandchildren as she drinks tea and eats Maltesers, probably wondering what all the fuss is about.

The making of 21st-century Britain is the backdrop to her life, encompassing both world wars; women winning the right to vote; the inception of the NHS; and the birth of flight. As a girl of four, Florrie came face to face with Victoria when the queen came to Leeds.

Sadly, Florrie's memories have now all but slipped away from her – she suffers from dementia – but her family maintains a store of tales from her life, each a rich slice of British history. David Worsnop, 64, her grandson, recalls how she "remembered the flags on the street to celebrate the end of the Boer War, the first aeroplanes and how cars started to appear on every street.

"But it was the little things, like how she would come out to meet the milkman on his pony and cart, who would ladle the milk from big urns into each person's jug, that we loved to hear about."

He adds: "Gran always said there was no such thing as the 'good old days' because she remembered when people couldn't afford to see a doctor and children ran around without shoes on their feet."

One of seven children, Florrie married her husband Clifford in 1920. They saved up to buy a three-bedroom semi-detached house for £350 just before the outbreak of the Second World War; and there she lived for more than 60 years.

Mr Worsnop spent every Friday night and Saturday at his grandparents' house from the age of two until the week before he got married at 22. Florrie would cook up a storm every Saturday: Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy to start followed by a roast beef dinner and apple pie for dessert. And every morning during the week she would leave a home-cooked lunch for her husband and grandson to reheat as she worked full-time for nearly 60 years.

Her first job was in a jewellery shop in Leeds but she spent more than 30 years working as a clerk for an engineering company, retiring at the age of 75. "Gran always said hard work was the secret of her long and healthy life. After she retired, they had to get three girls in to do her job. But she never spent money on herself, saying: 'take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves'."

Package holidays didn't properly take off until after Clifford died in 1973, but holidays abroad, like eating out, were not for people from Florrie's generation or background. They were always glad to get home, even from the occasional caravan holiday in Filey, North Yorkshire.

More than 100 British people have reached their 110th birthday, but with the deaths of Harry Patch and Henry Allingham last year, only 10 super-centenarians are still with us. Many are proud of what has been achieved in their lifetime, particularly the health service and the welfare state.

Most, also like Florrie, cling fiercely to independence: she didn't use the NHS until her 80s when she needed a cataract operation, and insisted on cleaning her own house until she moved into a nursing home at the age of 105. Her grandson laughs: "One day I found her standing on her polished sideboard changing the net curtains: she was 102 at the time."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C++ Software Developer / Image Processing / 3D Visualisation

£45,000 to £55,000: IT Connections Ltd: C++ Software Developer / Image Process...

Java / J2EE Developer / Agile / Linux

£30,000 to £40,000: IT Connections Ltd: Java / J2EE Developer / Agile / Linux ...

Software Development Manager / Java / J2EE

£45,000 to £55,000: IT Connections Ltd: Software Development Manager / Java / ...

Digital Content Manager,Leicester

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Charter Selection: Leading Nationwide and important...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor