A SPIRITED centenarian credits the fact she’s still in her own home to cognac, good English food...and a dedicated team of carers.

Ethel Tolliday celebrated her 100th birthday at the Hockley bungalow she fell in love with 50 years ago, surrounded by the nurses who care for her.

Mrs Tolliday grew up in Hackney, East London, one of nine children of a glass blower, moving out to Leightonstone after being bombed out during the Blitz.

Her late husband, Jack, worked for the London and North Eastern Railway and asked the company to find them a new home further away from London, which is how she came to move to south Essex.

The couple were unimpressed by the first house they saw, in Rayleigh, but then the agent showed them a bungalow near Hockley station, which has been home ever since.

Mrs Tolliday said: “The social worker wanted to put me in a care home, but I wouldn’t go.

“I said: ‘There’s only one home I’ll stay in and that’s the one I paid for.’ “She told me: ‘You can’t talk to me like that,’ and I said: ‘I can talk to you any way I like when I’m in my own home!’ It means everything to me.”

Roses planted by her husband still grow outside the bedroom window.

Mrs Tolliday says her long life is down to her diet.

She explained: “All I credit for my life is good English food. There were no packets back then.

“It was fresh food from the farm.

"My mum was a wonderful cook.”

Daughter, Brenda, who lives in Shenfield, made a birthday cake for her mother and brought it down to share with staff from Benfleet-based home care agency Anglian Care, which looks after Mrs Tolliday.

Because they were on duty, the nurses toasted their client with alcohol- free wine, while Mrs Tolliday enjoyed a glass of Courvoisier cognac – as she does every day.

Liza Bolden, from Anglian Care, who organised the party, said: “Ethel is so strong-minded. There’s no stopping her.

“She felt like a queen for a day. Long live Ethel!”