Great-great-grandmother, 105, reveals secret to her long life

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston with her family of five generat

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston with her family of five generations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A great-great-grandmother of 18 celebrated her 105th birthday in a surprise garden party held by a family - which spans five generations.  

Granddaughter Pam Fold said her grandmother, Gertrude Raven, who turns 105 on Monday, had had an “absolutely phenomenal” day. 

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston with her great grandson, Darcy

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston with her great grandson, Darcy Raven, and his daughter and Gertrude's great great granddaughter, Thalia Raven, two. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

“She’d got all her really nice clothes on, so she looked spectacular,” said Ms Fold, remembering the moment at which Mrs Raven was surprised. 

“She lives next door to my parents, so she just walked through the gate and we had a fence of balloons - 105 balloons - because we couldn’t get 105 candles on the cake.

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston with five generations of her fa

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston with five generations of her family. From left, back, Charlene Freeman, great granddaughter; James Raven, son; Pam Folds, granddaughter; and front, Skye Freeman, eight, great great granddaughter. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

“She was absolutely overwhelmed, really emotional, to think that people had bothered to turn out for her.

“Even as a family, given that we haven’t been able to meet, just for all of us to be able to see each other has been amazing,” she added. 

Mrs Raven, who lives in Cawston, tucked into a cake decorated with roses - a nod to her love of gardening - and said she was looking forward to receiving her card from the Queen on Monday: “I’ve still got my last one, so it would be lovely to have another one.”

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

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Although the family encountered some rain during the celebrations, they were able to shelter in their garage with a heater to keep Mrs Raven from shivering 

Mrs Raven, who has lived all her life in Norfolk, was born in 1916 and grew up in one of the first council houses in Norwich, on Bowthorpe Road. 

She attended Wensum View School in the 1920s, and can still remember the names of her teachers.

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Gertrude Raven celebrating her 105th birthday at her home in Cawston. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

After leaving school, Mrs Raven worked on the machines at the city’s old Start-rite shoes factory, earning just “three or four shillings a week”.

Together with her late husband Jim Raven, she ran the Bell Inn at Cawston from circa 1965 to 1972.

The couple, who were married for 30 years, later moved to Little Plumstead, where they had a smallholding. The pair worked as support staff at Hellesdon Hospital for several years.

Asked what the secret to her long life was, Mrs Raven said: “Happiness, and meeting the right people, who were nice to me.”

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