A long-time resident of Odiham and Hook has reached a milestone – reaching her 100th birthday.
Retired teacher Muriel Crowder turned 100 on June 12. Throughout the weekend, her family treated her to ‘royal’ celebrations to mark her birthday, with two parties. Additionally, a bell rang at the church in Odiham where she and her late husband Gordon were married in 1947.
The chime was rung on Saturday and was organized by granddaughter Emily Crowder and fiancé Andrew Mills, who are both bell ringers. The chime involved 5,100 changes and was completed in just under three hours. It was the first full doorbell toll at All Saints Church in Odiham for over 20 years and attracted a number of local people to listen.
Muriel then returned to Upper Farringdon near Alton, where she currently lives, for a lunchtime party. It was for the local residents of Farringdon and the parishioners of the local church, also called All Saints’, which Muriel regularly attends. It took place in the garden of the home of his daughter Judith Craig and son-in-law David.
The following day, her 100th birthday, afternoon tea was enjoyed by 80 family members and friends at the Hook House Hotel, in Hook – the village where she and her husband Gordon raised their family of two , Ian, 73, and Judith, 70. Muriel also spent a lot of time over the weekend opening nearly 100 supporter cards for this wonderful achievement.
She said: “I feel so moved and privileged to have all this love and goodwill from so many people,” an emotional Muriel said. “It was a wonderful weekend and I was so happy to have so many of our family around me to enjoy my birthday with me.”
She says she finds it hard to believe she has reached the magic “century”.
“I really don’t feel that old. I think back to everything that has happened in my life, but sometimes it seems like just yesterday that I was a teenager and met my husband Gordon. We had a wonderfully happy life together in Hook.
Muriel was asked if there was a secret to reaching 100. She replied, “Not really, but I think it’s important to look on the bright side and be kind to everyone. We also always ate healthy, drank in moderation and were supported by our Christian faith.
Muriel and Gordon were a much loved and respected couple in Hook, where schoolmaster Gordon was for 66 years a lay reader at St John’s Church. They moved to Hook after their marriage and lived in The Gables in London Road until Gordon sadly passed away aged 93 in 2016.
Muriel recently moved into a ‘grandmother’s annex’ at her daughter’s home in Upper Farringdon, where she continues to live independently but under the watchful eye of her family. She also often stays with her son Ian and daughter-in-law Hilary at their home near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
Muriel was born in London to Helen and watchmaker Albert Hamilton, the youngest of four children. In 1927 the family moved to Odiham where they operated a confectionery and tobacco shop as well as a workshop for their father’s watch and clock manufacturing business.
In October 1940 a German plane dropped bombs on the village of Odiham which destroyed the family home and shop, which was located on the corner of High Street and Church Street, killing Muriel’s mother. The spot is now marked with a blue plaque on the wall of the property which has since been built on what was for some years vacant land. Helen Hamilton’s name is remembered on the village war memorial.
“It was a disastrous moment for the family,” recalls Muriel. “I was working at the telephone exchange which was in Bury, when the bomb fell. I ran around the corner to Church Street to tell my parents I was fine, but found the street full of rubble and our house was gone. His father survived.
She continued: “Dad was looking for mum and when it was confirmed that she had been killed it was the first time I had seen a man cry – dad and I sobbed our hearts out.”
His father eventually remarried, taking over his watch business in King Street, Odiham.
Muriel and her father were temporarily housed by Muriel’s older sister Ida and her husband Harold, who ran a garage and petrol station near North Warnborough. There she met Gordon who was stationed at RAF Odiham during the war. Gordon left the RAF in 1946 to train as a schoolteacher.
Muriel has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She also has a growing in-law with six step-grandchildren and five step-great-grandchildren.