Farewell to our last Victorian: Ethel Lang, Britain’s oldest person, dies at 114

SHE was the last person living who was born in the reign of Queen Victoria and saw a life full of changes beyond the comprehension of many.
Ethel Lang at 106Ethel Lang at 106
Ethel Lang at 106

Ethel Lang, who earned the honour of being Britain’s oldest person, has died at the South Yorkshire care home she had lived for the last decade at the age of 114.

She was born in the Worsbrough area of Barnsley in 1900 – the year British troops were in action in the Second Boer War, the Daily Express newspaper was published for the first time and the Labour Party was founded, and a year 
before the death of Queen Victoria.

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The great-grandmother, who only moved into Water Royd House care home when she was 105, lived through two world wars, six British monarchs and 22 Prime Ministers.

Market Hill, Barnsley in 1900Market Hill, Barnsley in 1900
Market Hill, Barnsley in 1900

Her daughter Margaret Bates, 91, said: “She was such a good mum. I’m so proud of her. She was born in 1900 so obviously 
she was the last living Victorian.

“I have so many wonderful memories of being with my mother. She was registered blind in 1988 but it never stemmed her enthusiasm for life, even in her later years.

“I would take her into town and she would ask me to point things like buildings and landmarks out to her. She hated to be stuck indoors.

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“She used to take coins and rub round the sides of them to remember what they looked like and she would often have the snooker on in the background – she’d know everything that was going on.”

Mrs Lang left school at 13 to work at Sugden’s shirt factory and married her plumber husband William at St Mary’s Church in Barnsley in 1922. A year later, the couple’s only daughter, Mrs Bates, was born.

Mr Lang died in 1988.

Mrs Lang became the UK’s longest-surviving person after 113-year-old Grace Jones from London died in 2013. Since her 100th birthday, she has received 15 cards from the Queen.

Last year, Mrs Lang celebrated her 114th birthday with a piece of cake and a cup of tea along with her family and friends.

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Mrs Bates said: “My mother loved all kinds of dancing and she was doing until she was 98 when she broke her hip. She loved the music.

“Her secret to living so long was living so well. She never smoked and rarely had a drink. She was always out and about. She tried very, very hard with everything she did – I think she’s had quite a nice life.”

But she had a weakness for bacon sandwiches and lard, her daughter said. “She wasn’t into modern food like pizza and things like that, she cooked with lard,” Mrs Bates said.

Records show that Mrs Lang, the world’s eighth oldest living person until her death on Thursday morning, had genetics on her side with her mother reaching the age of 91, her sister living to 104 and ancestors going back to the 1700s all enjoying long lives.

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She was also described by her daughter as an “excellent seamstress”.

During the Second World War she worked for a small firm, sewing.

Mrs Bates said: “She made wonderful clothes. Her talent was in sewing and dress-making but she worked wonders in knitting and crochet, too.”