THE longest-serving resident on one of Hexham’s estates was surprised by singing and well-wishes from members of the community on her 96th birthday.

Joyce Charlton celebrated her birthday last Thursday.

Her son Gordon, who lives in London, was unable to visit due to current lockdown measures, and with her other son, Malcolm, living in Australia, Joyce was set to spend her birthday on her own.

But family friend, Ruth Bond, who lives in Washington, ensured that Joyce was able to celebrate her birthday by putting an appeal out on Facebook for people to send her their good wishes. As a result, Joyce had people turning up on her street throughout Thursday, singing and bringing cakes and gifts.

Gordon said: “She certainly didn’t object. She thought it was wonderful.”

He said he had also been sent many birthday wishes which people had left on Facebook for her. People remained at a distance while stopping outside Joyce’s home on Gibson Place, where she has lived for 43 years.

While many of those who turned up to share her birthday were strangers, Joyce is well-known in the Hexham area, having worked for many years at Pattinsons Chemist before moving into an office role at the Hexham Courant, later becoming cleaner at the Courant office – only retiring when she was in her early 80s.

She was born in Bywell, where her father was a gardener for Lord Allendale, before the family moved to Short Flatt near Belsay. Joyce attended Belsay school and later worked as a scullery maid and then a cook at Short Flatt.

Ruth said Joyce had been missing her day care in Ponteland during the coronavirus pandemic. She said: “The people of Hexham did her proud. There was a steady steam of ladies with dogs; children who made pictures spelling the name ‘Joyce’; ladies came on bicycles and brought cakes, flowers and a plant.”