A FORMER factory worker who had to take on the responsibility of running her family home at the tender age of 11 years old when her mother died, has celebrated her 100th birthday.

Family and friends joined Mabel Fenwick celebrating her milestone at Pelton Grange Care Home in Pelton, near Chester-le-Street yesterday. Durham county councillor John John Lethbridge delivered the centenarian flowers at her birthday party.

Les Burnett, home manager at Pelton Grange Care Home, on Front Street, said: “Mabel is quite a character and always makes an impression on everyone she meets.

“She is loved by all at the care home and the staff, fellow residents, friends and family are thoroughly excited to celebrate her amazing milestone birthday.”

Mabel, who was born on March 30, 1918 is originally from Millfield, Sunderland, and grew up in the city with her parents Robert and Florence Pape and younger sister Florrie.

Her mother died from nephritis, more commonly known as dropsy, when Mabel was just 11-years-old, placing responsibility on her to look after the family home.

She left school at 14 to work at the National Galvanisers factory, in Sunderland, where she was involved in turning zinc galvanised steel into everything from watering cans to dustbins.

Mabel’s first fiance, who was a shipping pilot working on a cutter at the mouth of the River Wear, accidentally fell overboard one night while cleaning the brass railing on deck and drowned.

She later met and married Joe Fenwick, a coal miner at Lumley 6th pit, near Chester-le-Street, in December 1941.

They first lived together in a flat on Ernest Terrace before moving to Clifford Terrace, off Durham Road, Chester-le-Street.

The couple had their daughter Jean in September 1942. They later adopted Mabel’s sister Florrie’s son Alan in 1948, after Florrie died in childbirth after complications due to multiple sclerosis.

Mabel also worked at Horner’s Toffee factory and then Rodney’s Dresses, both in Chester-le-Street, before retiring in the 1960s and becoming a home help to several elderly people.

Her husband continued to work as a coal miner for 42 years, ending up at Wearmouth Pit, in Sunderland, before passing away in 1996, aged 82. She moved to Pelton Grange Care Home in December 2016.

Alongside her two children, Mabel has two grandchildren, Gillian and James, and four great- grandchildren, Daniel, Katie, Becky and Layla. Daniel and his wife Rachel are due to have a baby in June, making her a great-great grandmother.