Lifelong Fulham resident Lil Francis celebrates 100th birthday

One of Fulham’s oldest residents has shared her memories of the borough as she celebrated her milestone 100th birthday this month.

Lil Francis will be celebrating her milestone 100th birthday on 11 April

Born 11 April 1924, in Cassidy Road, Lil was the second youngest in a family of 10 siblings and has a lifetime of memories of Hammersmith & Fulham.

From the regular horse and cart deliveries through the gates of the Stansfeld & Co Swan Brewery in Walham Green, to its closure and demolition to make way for the current Fulham Court housing complex.

Lil marked the big day with friends and family, including six grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Supporting the war effort

Leaving school at 14, Lil went on to work in a factory to support the UK’s World War Two efforts.

“People of my age had no youth, but it taught us a lot,” says Lil. “We made the best of it. We were hard up but happy.”

After studying at Ackmar Road Primary School and New Kings Road School, teenage Lil was evacuated with her youngest brother to Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire.

They lived there for the first two years of the war.

“I worked in a factory drilling and making armatures and stirrup pumps,” remembers Lil, part of an army of young people helping with the war effort.

“The stirrup pumps were foot-operated and used for pumping water if an incendiary bomb came down until the fire brigade could get there. We were taught to do the job and just got on with it.”

While the war raged on, Lil returned to Fulham.

“When it got quieter, my mum decided we should go home,” adds Lil. “We were very frightened during the war. You could hear the bombs. We were the lucky ones though. We all came out of it alright.”

Lil and her family stayed in their small home in Cassidy Road throughout the war years and beyond.

“We’d be out in the street playing with our marbles because the traffic wasn’t around like it is today,” explains Lil, who added it was “a poor childhood but a happy one”.

“We called the other end of Cassidy Road the 'half a crown' side because they were the posher houses and they had trees planted down that end.”

Wartime bride

Lil – who has now lived at H&F Council’s Cedar Lodge sheltered housing scheme in Eternit Walk for the past 20 years – was a wartime bride, marrying husband George in 1943.

The couple had met through Lil’s brother, who organised a regular weekly cycling club with his friends.

“My husband George was in the army, and he went away when he was 18,” explains Lil. “He ended up in Norway looking after the prisoners of war and came back in 1943.”

Once home George worked as a lorry driver and the pair were married for an impressive 49 years until he sadly passed away in 1992.

After having three children – John, now 78, Raymond, 77, and Christine, 75 – they moved from Cassidy Road to Sulivan Court then into Clem Attlee Court off Lillie Road, living in Stafford Cripps House.

“The children formed a football club in our block and we all supported them,” adds Lil.

“My husband would be there with them every Sunday. We would support them when they had fundraising events to raise money for the club. It was good, cheap fun.”

Living life to the fullest

Hard work was Lil’s second name. She found cleaning jobs in South Kensington and Earls Court before landing a role as a photographer at Kodak in Rylston Road, taking pictures for maps and documents.

“I worked there for 13 years and I loved it,” says Lil who, after retiring from Kodak, continued to take on cleaning work until the grand old age of 80.

The incredible 100-year-old also found time to enjoy her rare free time with family trips to Selsey in West Sussex and London’s iconic landmarks, and the occasional night out dancing at the former Hammersmith Palais in Shepherds Bush Road.

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