Identical Swaffham twins celebrate their 80th birthday

After spending all their lives in Swaffham, identical twins Jean Steed and Joyce Askew are familiar faces around the town.

But ask even their friends to tell them apart and you may well draw a blank.

The well-loved sisters are celebrating their 80th birthday today (Thursday) and still look alike, sound alike and live only five minutes apart.

To make their day even more special, their younger sister Vivienne Rockstrom has jetted in from Nevada, USA, uniting the trio for perhaps the last time.

'It's wonderful to have Vivienne here,' Jean said. 'She's a real giggle and has always been so full of fun. It's been about 15 years since were all together and I don't know whether we will be able to fly out to the states to see her again.'

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The sisters are looking forward to celebrating together with a family party in the nearby village of North Pickenham tonight, when they plan on wearing different outfits to make life easier for their guests.

'People still can't tell us apart,' said Joyce, who was born 15 minutes earlier than Jean. 'We still see each other most days and often buy the same things without knowing it.

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'I always know if I'm away whether she's unwell. I also had back ache while Jean was having her first baby. We are very close in that way.'

Both twins are in good health, but have suffered the same problems over the years including migraines, a broken wrist and diabetes.

The 'terrible twins', as they were known at school, were born in Swaffham in 1931 and grew up in King Street with their late older brother Vernon.

Their father George Henry Mitchell was a lorry driver and chief fire officer in their town, while their mother Eva Edith worked in an electrical showroom for many years.

They dressed alike until they were ten and went their separate ways when they left school to start work at the age of 14.

Jean worked as a dinner lady at the grammar school, while Joyce was a shop assistant in a grocers' shop. They married a couple of years apart at the parish church and have lived in Swaffham all their lives.

'We love the town and wouldn't want to live anywhere else,' Jean said.

The twins both had two daughters and have nine grandchildren between them, while sister Vivienne has three daughters, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

'The best thing about being a twin is all the attention you get, everywhere you go' Jean said.

'And we have always had so many laughs together,' Joyce added.

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