Is this Sheffield family's Christmas tree the OLDEST one in Britain?

A Sheffield family believe they own the oldest Christmas tree in Britain - at a staggering 97-years-old.

Wednesday, 13th December 2017, 10:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th December 2017, 11:00 am
UK's oldest Christmas Tree - Credit: Ross Parry

The 2ft tree has been passed down through a family's maternal line since it was first purchased by Elizabeth Naylor from Woolworths at Christmas in 1920.

And now, Kay Ashton has once again put the tree up in her family home; becoming the third generation of her family to do so.

Phoebe Plaistow, 13, with the UK's oldest Christmas Tree, at her Grandmother, Kay Ashton's home, in Mosborough, near Sheffield - Picture: Ross Parry

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Grandma-of-three Kay, 63, of Sheffield, South Yorks., said: "It's a great piece of history and I'm so glad to have it.

"To think the tree has stayed the same for almost 100 years but everything around it has changed so much. The things it will have seen.

"It's outlived two generations and even the shop it was bought from, so it's obviously made of strong stuff. I get it out every year and decorate it and it takes pride of place in my living room."

'Wiliam's tree', as it was originally named, was bought for Elizabeth's eldest son's first Christmas but after his premature death aged 19 in 1940, the tree became a memorial to him.

Phoebe Plaistow, 13, with the UK's oldest Christmas Tree, at her Grandmother, Kay Ashton's home, in Mosborough, near Sheffield - Picture: Ross Parry

The family have continued their special tradition of decorating and displaying the artificial spruce each year.

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

Kay then became the third generation to own the tree when Joyce died in 2012 and she said it has survived a number of incidents.

She said: "It's a bit battered but it's definitely a talking point and people are always amazed when I tell them it was bought just two years after the First World War.

Phoebe Plaistow, 13, with the UK's oldest Christmas Tree, at her Grandmother, Kay Ashton's home, in Mosborough, near Sheffield - Picture: Ross Parry

"My Nanan always had the tree in the kitchen. It was the only tree she ever had.

"During the Sheffield Blitz in the Christmas of 1941 they'd been warned to leave the house, 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.

Phoebe Plaistow, 13, with the UK's oldest Christmas Tree, at her Grandmother, Kay Ashton's home, in Mosborough, near Sheffield - Picture: Ross Parry

"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.

"Then in 1962, 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.

Kay explained that the tree is still decorated with the original decorations first used almost 100 years ago and is already planning its momentous anniversary celebrations.

"My Nanan took great care with the tree and its decorations, and to this day I'll only decorate William's tree with the original decoration she used," she said.

"There's an ornament shaped like a dog with a dead bird in its mouth that hangs on the tree. It does sound a bit gory but it was my favourite when I was little.

"I think my Nanan would be really touched to know the tree is still going strong and being used - and so would William.

"We'll definitely have to have a party when it reaches 100. It's amazing to think it's lived through so much. I can't imagine it not being around."

Luckily, Kay, a customer service advisor, has two daughters, Amy Wilcox, 45, and Rebecca Goodhand, 38, to keep up the family tradition.

And as Rebecca has two daughters, Phoebe, 13 and Tallulah, 11, the tradition is set to continue into its fifth generation.