Lilian was born into a very poor family in 1923 and grew up during the dark days of the Great Depression. She, her seven siblings and their parents slept in one room on the ground floor of a small house in Plaistow, and were clothed in hand-outs from the tabernacle. When Lilian was six her little brother Charlie died unexpectedly, and since there was no money for a proper funeral, he was given a pauper’s burial. But determined not to see his son laid to rest in a nameless grave, his father made him a headstone out of the family’s marble washstand – one of the only pieces of furniture they owned. During the war, Lilian was evacuated to Oxford, where she met a dashing young soldier called Reggie. But the romance did not end well and when she began work in the can-making department at Tate & Lyle a few years later she was heartbroken and clung to the only photograph she had of him. Lilian wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to fall in love again.
Listen to Lilian talk about growing up in poverty and family life: