A WOMAN who has lived in Stratford-upon-Avon all her life has turned 105 years old.
Jessie Gilchrist was born in a cottage on Alcester Road on 24th January 1909. She grew up in Henley Street, spent decades of married life in Cherry Street, and now lives in Bull Street.
After celebrating the milestone birthday at the Windmill Inn in Church Street on Sunday, her daughter Sue York said: “We are not sure if she is the oldest lady in Stratford at the moment, but we do think she may well be the oldest actual Stratfordian.”
The eldest of six daughters, Jessie’s father died after being gassed during the First World War when she was only 14. She helped her mother bring up the rest of the girls, going out to work to earn money and educating her little sisters at home.
As a teenager she worked in the office at the Shakespeare Hotel, where she met many famous people, and it was from there she watched the old theatre burn in 1926.
Her fondest memory of those early days was a rare flying trip around Stratford in 1930. A pilot was offering test flights to the public for £5, and although Jessie could not afford it, a rather large woman who nobody else wanted to go up in the plane with paid for Jessie to fly with her.
She met First World War veteran Reg Gilchrist while he was a waiter at the Falcon Hotel in Chapel Street, and married him in 1933 when she was 24.
Although they both briefly worked in the cocktail bar at Elstree film studios in Borehamwood, the majority of married life was spent in Stratford before Reg passed away in 1983.
Jessie also worked for Robert Garrett Auctioneers before her retirement.
She has two daughters, Janet and Sue, four grandchildren, Miranda, Katherine, Sebastian and Jessica, and six great-grandchildren, Amy, Zara, Christopher, Harriet, Annabelle and Niall. A lot of the family are still based in Stratford.
Probably the oldest ‘Stratfordian’, her family described her as an “incredible” woman.
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