Hilda Taylor raises a toast to a happy 100th with family and friends in Keynsham
A miner’s daughter who puts her longevity down to adopting a vegetarian diet “before it had even been invented” has just celebrated her 100th birthday at her Keynsham home.
Hilda Taylor, a resident at Charterhouse care home in the Chocolate Quarter, marked her milestone with family, friends and carers as she reminisced about her childhood and working life.
She was born on April 1, 1919, in Radstock as the eldest of eight and enjoyed “a lovely childhood”.
She said: “We had nothing, but had everything. My father was miner, but the bosses would fix it so they only worked enough days so as to not be eligible to claim unemployment benefit.”
She added: “I passed my exams to go to grammar school, but couldn’t go as Mother couldn’t afford the uniform. My place went to a girl whose father worked on railways. She was a complete duffer. I really wanted to go to grammar school and be a teacher, but I didn’t have a dog’s chance in hell.”
Instead, at 14 she left school to go into domestic service at a house in Lansdown Crescent in Bath, later being put in charge of the household to oversee the other staff.
She said: “I always thought Lansdown Crescent was better than Royal Crescent as it was higher up and you could look out right across Bath. I worked in number 10 – the middle house – I could take you there now. They were a lovely family.
“There were six staff including me and I also had to cook for the family. The good thing was we ate the same as they ate, so we ate very well.
“It was very much like Upstairs, Downstairs. When the lady of the house was going out and you were down in the basement, you could look up out the window and see her feet going by towards the car. Mind, we had to keep out of way so we wouldn’t be seen!”
Moving to London with her sister, Hilda worked in the house of a film critic for the Daily Herald, before she met her first husband James, who was in the Coldstream Guards, at a dance in Radstock during the Second World War.
They married in 1941 and James was stationed in the UK during the war, meaning they could live in married quarters in Windsor. After the war they ran three pubs together in Windsor and High Wycombe.
Hilda’s second husband, also called James, was the Senior Master Tailor of the British Army. As well as making uniforms for the Coldstream Guards, he also made uniforms for members of the royal household and would return to their home in Oxfordshire and tell Hilda that he’d measured the Prince of Wales’ inside leg.
Hilda also travelled extensively in America after her aunt emigrated there.
Discussing her longevity, Hilda said: “The only person who had meat was the man of the house. Everyone else more or less lived off what we had in the garden. I was a vegetarian before it had even been
“I played a lot of netball and we didn’t have a car for years, so I walked everywhere. I had a go at smoking, but didn’t like it. I still enjoy the occasional glass of wine and I like a bit of cake or chocolate within reason.”
Roger Hayward, general manager of the Chocolate Quarter, said: “It was a pleasure for everyone at Charterhouse to celebrate this special milestone with Hilda and her family.
“Hilda is a real example to us all of how to make the most of every day and she’s always at the heart of everything that’s going on at Charterhouse.”