Sponge cake and a royal letter as Sheffield woman turns 108

Ethel Chapman turned 108 today
Ethel Chapman turned 108 today
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Lowedges woman Ethel Chapman has a number of letters from the Queen lined up along her mantelpiece.

Ethel received her fifth royal missive today for her 108th birthday. It goes with the one she got on her 100th and 105th birthdays, and every year after.

The long-time Sheffield resident isn't sure what the secret to a long life is, but not drinking or smoking is probably a pretty good start.

"It just happened," she said of living well into triple figures.

The year of Ethel's birth, 1909, was an historic one in Britain. The national old-age pension scheme came into force, and the first colour film was shown at London's Palace Theatre.

On the day that Ethel came into the world at Attercliffe, the King's horse, Minoru, won the Epsom Derby.

Later that year, the first Woolworth's store opened at Liverpool.

Ethel is the last survivor of George Henry and Edith Hobson's children.

Her elder brother, George, passed away in Canada in 2002, aged 96.

Eric was also 96 when he died in 2006.

Marion, the youngest, died of leukaemia aged just 21 in 1914.

A large crowd of family was on hand today to pass on their best wishes and share some of Ethel's favourite cake - sponge.

Cousins, children and grandchildren packed into the small flat to reminisce on some tales from Ethel's long life.

The church was a big part of the family's existence, and Ethel still has her faith.

She and her siblings and cousins would spend their days at school, bible classes or the Girls Life Brigade.

"As children, they were all chapel people," Ethel's daughter Glennys Sinnott said.

A trained nurse, Ethel also worked at Bournville cocoa and chocolate factory in Birmingham.

She also had jobs with her father, who was a little mester, and Freeman, Hardy and Willis shoe store in Sheffield.

She married William Chapman in 1934, and first child Barry came along in 1936. Glennys followed in 1940.

Ethel wasn't scared about the blitz coming to Sheffield.

"She used to go out into the garden and watch the bombers go over," Glennys said.

William came home from fighting in Egypt in 1945, and the family moved to Parson Cross.

Life picked up in pace when the couple began using a Lambretta scooter.

Glennys remembered a lucky escape her parents had in the 1960s on a two-wheeled trip to Bridlington.

"The wheel skidded and they both ended up in the ditch," she said.

William died in 1968, and Ethel has lived on her own in the same flat since 1969.

The family says that helps Ethel's strong character.

She looks forward to more letters from the Queen.

"We're like that," Ethel said, crossing her fingers to emphasise the point.