Posted By The Sugar Girls ~ 18th April 2012
At the weekend we paid a visit to Lilian, one of the four main women featured in The Sugar Girls, to take a look at her photo collection. Previously, Lilian had told us that she didn’t have many pictures of her childhood or her time at Tate & Lyle, as she didn’t consider herself a ‘hoarder’.
When we got to her house, however, she retrieved a battered old suitcase from an upstairs room. It was locked and she no longer had the key to it, so she suggested that we try to prise the lock open. We wrestled with it using our house keys (snapping one of them in the process) and finally got the case unlocked – and discovered a treasure trove of pictures inside that Lilian hadn’t looked at for years.
All the people, places and experiences that she had told us about for the book came to life before our eyes. Here is Lilian (far left) as a child in the back yard at 19 Conway Street, with her siblings Harry, Sylvie (on the swing) and Edie. You can see how poor the family were from the holes in Lilian’s shoes.
Lilian’s mother was thrilled when her family were rehoused in new flats near West Ham Station and finally had an indoor bathroom and separate bedrooms.
During the Second World War, the family were evacuated to the countryside, where Lilian’s sister Edie met a young soldier who got her pregnant. Edie eventually married him and moved to the countryside in Suffolk, where her East End family would come and visit her. Here are Mr & Mrs Tull paying a visit.
And here is Lilian (far right) and her two sisters, looking a bit more grown up.
Lilian started work at Tate & Lyle just after the war, at the age of 23, and the new job brought with it a whole new world of friendship and fun which is so perfectly captured in the many photos she has of beanos and days out with her friends. Here she is on the Royal Daffodil, heading off to Margate with her fellow can-making girls. Lilian is third from the left, her friend Little Lil is second from the left, and their mate Old Fat Nell can be seen on the far right.
Tate & Lyle were good to Lilian, sending her to a convalescent home in Weston-super-Mare when she came out in boils from the stress of caring for her sick mother. She had a great time and made new friends there.
It was on a Tate & Lyle beano that Lilian met her future husband, Alec – who became her rock throughout all the tragedies she faced over the course of her life. Here they are on their wedding day, looking blissfully happy together.
These days, Lilian is widowed, but her constant companion is her friend Flo – also a former sugar girl – and the two of them are now inseparable.
We are always keen to add new stories and pictures to our blog, so if you worked at Tate & Lyle and have pictures that you can send us, click here to get in touch.