WHEN Sheila Nicholson started work at the Red Lion, a pint of bitter cost about 12.5p and a three course meal 76p.

That was 41 years ago and Mrs Nicholson has seen a lot of changes at the landmark hostelry in Front Street, Chester-le-Street, County Durham.

The 71-year-old great-grandmother, who lives in the town, has called time on her working life, ending a family connection that started 72 years ago.

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Her mother Doris Scott was a cleaner at the same pub for more than 25 years.

"It has been like a home from home,'' said Mrs Nicholson.

Mrs Nicholson originally worked in the Red Lion's kitchen and then moved to front of house, learning silver service and serving customers.

Mrs Nicholson, who works six days a week from 6am until midday, says she will miss her colleagues and the customers.

Jill Harkness, who manages the pub with her husband Stuart, said: "Sheila is one of the best people I know.

"She’s such a lovely person and the team and I will be so sad to see her go.

"It’s always a pleasure to come down in the morning and see Sheila. She’s an important part of the success of the pub and with her passion to making sure the pub is spotless; she leaves some very big shoes to fill. There’s no smudge, smear or dust that she can’t spot."

A retirement party will be held on Saturday and she will be present with a retirement gift.

Mrs Harkness said: "We wrote to the Queen on Sheila’s behalf, telling her of the fantastic work and dedication that Sheila has put into her job over the years. We received a reply back from Sandringham saying that the Queen was touched by her story, so we’ve framed the letter and will present it to Sheila tomorrow.

"At a time when a job for life is becoming increasingly rare, Sheila’s dedication to her work at the Red Lion is even more of an achievement and we wish her lots of luck and happiness in the future."