Obituary: Farmer's daughter sent home with 'weak heart', dies aged 104

Gwendoline "Gwen" Adams aged 19

A classic smile: Gwendoline "Gwen" Adams aged 19 - Credit: SUPPLIED

A centenarian who was once forced as a child to leave school during lunchtimes for bed rest due to “a weak heart” has died at the age of 104. 

Gwendoline Adams, who went by Gwen, enjoyed an idyllic childhood growing up on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk. 

And despite being a tenacious worker on the family farm, at the age of 10 doctors believed she suffered from a heart condition.

The signpost to St Michael South Elmham

The signpost to St Michael South Elmham - Credit: ARCHANT / JAMES BASS

Following medical advice, she was forced to leave her friends behind ahead of their lunchbreak and would make the journey home from school to rest for the afternoon 

But despite those early concerns, Mrs Adams went on to lead an exceptionally long and personally rewarding life. 

In 1918, Gwendoline Jordan was born near the end of the First World War and lived most of her life in St Michael South Elmham, one of seven South Elmham parishes in a rural area of north Suffolk that nestles between Bungay and Halesworth.  

A massive milestone: Gwen Adams when she turned 100

A massive milestone: Gwen Adams when she turned 100 - Credit: SUPPLIED

Leaving school at the age of 14, she went to work on her father’s farm and was a dedicated and hard worker. 

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Her day would begin by taking her three brothers to school with a pony and trap. She would then return to the farm, attach a cart filled with corn to the pony, and ride to the mill. The rest of her day would be spent feeding the horses and cows and harvesting beet.  

She married William “Bill” Adams on Christmas eve 1936, the only day they could be spared from farming duties.

They honeymooned overnight at Leiston, Suffolk, at Mr Adams’ mother’s home, the only holiday they would ever have. 

Following their wedding, the couple moved to Wrentham, near Beccles. 

Mr Adams, a carpenter and wheelwright specialising in repairing cartwheels, signed up to join the war efforts during the Second World War. As an officer’s driver, he travelled to South Africa, Sicily, Italy, finishing in Austria by the end of the war.  

St Michael South Elmham a rural community in North Suffolk which has the title " A Thankful Village"

St Michael South Elmham, Suffolk, has the title of being "A Thankful Village" given to communities that lost no men in the Great Wars. The plaque is inside the village church - Credit: ARCHANT / JAMES BASS

Following his return, the village earned the title of “A Thankful Village". The term was coined by the writer Arthur Mee to describe the handful of communities that suffered no military fatalities in the First World War and was later expanded to “Doubly Thankful Villages” whose populations survived intact from both wars. 

Every single soldier who left South Elmham St Michael for both world wars came home - one of only a handful of villages in Britain. It was also a fifth of the Suffolk village’s small population. 

When Mr Adams returned home, he began working on building and repairing nearby farm buildings. Together they had two daughters, Yvonne and Joan. Mr Adams died in 1990 aged 77. 

The couple purchased their forever home in 1955, a cottage in St Michael South Elmham costing just £240 at the time. Here they enjoyed a simple life where the children had tin baths by the fireplace, and trees were chopped down for firewood with a two-person cross cut saw. 

 St Michael South Elmham a rural community in North Suffolk which has the title " A Thankful Village

"A Thankful Village" and the roll of honour for the Second World War inside the church - Credit: ARCHANT / JAMES BASS

They kept pigs and chickens and sold eggs. They were also keen gardeners and grew vegetables for the family to live off. Mrs Adams occupied the rest of her time with housework, knitting, sewing, and baking, in particular cakes and biscuits.  

Mrs Adams also raised funds for around 40 years for The British Red Cross by bicycling through the village to drop off and collect collection envelopes.  

Being financially savvy meant the family ate well and she remained green-fingered till the age of 94. 

After this time, she lived with her daughter Joan and son-in-law Malcolm Kingston, before spending the last seven months of her life living at Beech House care home in Halesworth, Suffolk. 

Mr Kingstone said: “She was strong-willed, she would call a spade a spade, she worked hard and was very determined.” 

St Michael, South Elmham village church

St Michael, South Elmham village church - Credit: ARCHANT 2012

Mrs Adams died on February 10. A funeral will be held at St Michael's Church on March 2 at 2pm. Family flowers only but donations welcomed for The British Red Cross or Beech House Resident's Amenities Fund sent c/o Rosedale Funeral Home, Arcadia House, 19 Market Place, Halesworth, IP19 8BB.