Sheffield family puts up Britain’s oldest Christmas tree for the 100th year in a row

Britain's oldest Christmas tree which has survived the Spanish flu has been erected by a Sheffield family for the 100th year in a row.

Monday, 7th December 2020, 10:53 am

Kay Ashton, 66, from Sheffield, who inherited the two-foot-tall tree, which was bought for sixpence from Woolworths in 1920, erected the treasured family heirloom earlier than usual this year because she was “fed up at home”.

The artificial spruce has endured three monarchs, two global pandemics and a world war – it is thought to be the oldest in the country after it was bought by Kay's grandmother Elizabeth Naylor in 1920.

Kay’s beloved family tree survived Hitler's bombs during the second world war and has remained in the family for three generations and eight house moves.

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Sheffield resident Kay Ashton, 60, with her 1920's Christmas tree.

But, according to the 66-year-old, perhaps most impressively of all, the heirloom survived her late mother, Joyce’s habit for throwing things away.

The tree, lovingly decorated in bells from Kay's childhood and lametta, takes pride of place in her kitchen in Sheffield.

Now a grandmother-of-three, Kay says her own grandmother would be "absolutely flabbergasted" to hear it was still going strong.

"It's special that it has made it to 100 years”, she added.

Britain's oldest Christmas tree which was bought when the world was still in the midst of the Spanish flu has been erected by the same Sheffield family for 100 years in a row.

"I don't now how - it was never really cared for, it was just always there.

"When my mum died, it was passed down to me.

"I was discussing what to do with it with my sister and I said 'I'll take it and I'll put it up'.

"I couldn't see it thrown in the bin.

"It's amazing it survived my mother to be honest, she was notorious for throwing things away.

"She threw my dad's medals away fro world war two, so it did well to survive her throwing it in the bin."

The 66-year-old’s grandmother, Elizabeth called it "William’s tree" to mark her new-born son’s first Christmas that year.

William died prematurely in 1940 aged 19 and the tree became a treasured family memorial to him.

Elizabeth - known as Nanan - died in 1981 aged 80 and the tree was inherited by her daughter, Joyce Ashton.

When Joyce died in 2012, Kay became the third generation to own it.

Kay said: "It must be stronger than it looks.

"People say things were made to last in those days and this must have been.

"It's ever so light, I've put it up in the kitchen this year so that no breeze comes in and knocks it over.

"I never, ever put it up before December usually. It's usually the first weekend, around the 6th or 7th.

"But this year, I thought 'you're 100, you can come out of your box a bit early'.

"I was so bored and fed up at home, I thought it was something nice to cheer you up.”

The tree incredibly survived a blitz of Sheffield's steelworks in December 1940 when the city was bombarded by the Luftwaffe for three consecutive nights.

It was hit by shrapnel and sticky tape was used to repair it, which is still holding it together.

Kay added: "I couldn't imagine not putting it up, it just brings back memories of Christmas and loved ones that we've lost.

"For me it's not about the tree itself, but about the history and its story.”

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