Is this Sheffield family's Christmas tree the OLDEST one in Britain?
Britain's oldest Christmas tree which survived Hitler's bombs and was almost lost in a house move has been put up again this year by the same family for the 99th time.
Kay Ashton, aged 65, thought she had lost the treasured family heirloom when she downsized from her three-bedroom house in Mosborough to a flat in Halfway earlier this year.When Kay came to unpack the tree, which she said evokes childhood memories of Christmas, she could not find it and thought it had been lost forever.Luckily the two foot tall tree - bought for sixpence from Woolworths in 1920 - was found just in time for it to be put up in its eighth home.Kay had stayed at her daughter Becky's house temporarily during the move and it was under her bed all along.The artificial spruce, thought to be the oldest in the country, was bought by Kay's grandmother Elizabeth Naylor.Elizabeth called it "William’s tree" to mark her new-born son’s first Christmas that year.Kay said: "I kept saying to Becky 'I can't find William's Tree'. She insisted it was at my house but I could not find it anywhere."I had another look at Becky's house and I was on my hands and knees looking everywhere."I finally came across it under Becky's bed."William sadly died 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.And it has proven to be evergreen as it still takes pride of place in the family's festivities, lovingly decorated with its original 1920s trimmings in the first week of December every year.Grandmother-of-three Kay said: "It's nice to put it up every year."I remember it from being a child and it evokes memories of Christmases with family members that are no longer with us."We were a big family, but we were close and I lived with my Nanan and her half-sister, my mum, dad and my sister, so there were six of us."It was a time when we were all together and it goes up year."We were very close and Nanan loved the tree and looked after it, so it's nice to keep it going to keep her memory alive. I do it for her."I think my Nanan would be really touched to know the tree is still going strong and being used - and so would William."I can't imagine it not being around."It hasn't been the best looked after in all these years, but it has survived eight house moves and the blitz, so it must be robust somewhere."It was sixpence when it was bought, it was never meant to last this long, but it has.""It's now onto its eighth house. My Nanan had it in her house and she moved twice."Then when she passed away, it went to my mum and she moved three times, then it came to me when she passed away and I've now moved house this year."It was bought in 1920 for Nanan's youngest son William and it was the only tree my Nanan had."He passed away in 1940, aged just 19, but it was kept going."It's been up every year since then. It has still got a few baubles on it from 1920."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.Elizabeth kept the tree in the kitchen, but the impact of a bomb blast was so much that it blew it into the living room.Kay added: "My nan and mum were told to leave the house by the air raid wardens because they were bombing Sheffield."But instead the whole family went down into the cellar."My Nanan had put a heavy wrought iron mangle against the back door to keep it closed."But when a bomb was dropped across the road, the force blew the back door open, and the mangle went flying across the room and into the tree."When they came back upstairs, the living room was a mess - with the tree lying in the middle of it."The top of it had nearly come off and it's been bent ever since, but it was fixed with Sellotape and wire - some of the original bits of tape are still on the tree and I daren't take them off."Kay added: "Sheffield was hit by awful gales, people were even killed when buildings collapsed."I remember being at my Nanan's house, and she asked my mother to close the back door."But before we knew it, the tree had gone flying across the room and almost into the fire."She cried: 'The bloody tree nearly went into the fire' and it made us all laugh."