We have lost a link to London's past

MP Simon Hughes fondly remembers Londoner Grace Jones, who died last week aged 113. She was the last person in Britain to have been born in the 19th century.

Once news spread of the death of Grace Jones, just 23 days before her 114th birthday, one of the first people to send a message of appreciation was Paul Robinson, the Millwall captain.

Paul visited Grace with me as a special treat on New Year's Eve 2011. Grace looked forward to meeting him and knew exactly who he was because "many of my family were Millwall supporters".

We had a good chat, some cake, a glass or two of sherry (Grace's favourite tipple from the bottle which she kept by the side of her armchair) and she took a shine to her young visitor. When Paul was about to go, she asked for one last word. "I really ought to tell you," she said, "Otherwise I wouldn't be entirely truthful. My family were big Millwall supporters but I was always a bit of a Chelsea fan myself!" Paul for-gave her. This was typical Grace - interested in others, alert to the world, hospitable, comfortable and happy in her own home, with friends and a sense of humour.

Until last week, someone lived in our community who was born in the century before last. Grace Jones was born on December 7, 1899. Victoria was on the throne, the Marquess of Salisbury was prime minister, the first London bus had just taken to the streets and the foundation stone laid for the Victoria and Albert Museum.

From a large family of modest means, Grace was a teenager when she fell in love with a boy who went away to war but never returned. She kept his photograph on a wall for the rest of her life and because she never found anyone "as nice as him", never married. She worked as a seamstress and went into government service during the war.

Her last close relative, her brother George, died in 2001. Grace lived in her council flat and still did her own shopping until a few years ago. However, a few months ago, after a fall and a stay in hospital, her difficulty with walking unaided meant returning to the Southwark Park Estate was impossible. Throughout her life, she had a very strong Christian faith. Up until Sunday last week, though frail, she was fully with it - chatting and saying prayers and planning to come out next weekend.

On her birthdays, she was treated like a queen by some wonderful neighbours.

She enjoyed the food, especially cake, revelled in the attention, and always blew out all her candles.

Bermondsey was privileged to have Grace Jones as one of its own. She epitomised the determination, self-reliance and loyalty to faith, family and community that has been the hallmark of our community for all of her life.

Rest in peace, dear Grace.

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