Beatty Orwell celebrates 105th birthday

08 Aug 2022

Former Mayoress and Councillor of Tower Hamlets, Beatrice Orwell – known as Beatty, celebrated her 105th birthday at home on 7th July, surrounded by family, friends, staff and volunteers from Jewish Care’s Brenner Stepney Community Centre, where she has been a member for many years.  

A real East ender, Beatty was born in Aldgate in 1917. She proudly recalls taking a stand against the fascist black shirts at the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.

Beatty is also the oldest member of the Labour Party and was surprised with flowers and a letter from the Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, and received well wishes from Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on the occasion of her birthday.

In his message, Sir Keir Starmer wrote to Beatty on behalf of the Party, saying, “Congratulations on your milestone birthday, the oldest member of the Labour party we’ve ever had. Wishing you the happiest of 105th birthdays and the warmest of thanks for all that you have done for our party.”

Beatty was also delighted to receive her 105th birthday card from Her Majesty the Queen, together with flowers and gifts from friends, staff, volunteers and members of Jewish Care’s Brenner Stepney Community Centre.

As a birthday surprise, The Friends of Stepney Committee organised music and entertainment with Beatty’s favourite entertainer from the centre, Ian Leigh, to sing her favourite songs at the party in her garden.

“It was truly a great party,” says Beatty’s daughter, June Legg, “Mum had such an amazing birthday. Ian sang all her favourite songs and she was singing along with him.

“As a family we can’t tell you how much we appreciate the efforts of the Committee in making this a truly memorable day and one which will always live in our hearts. It was great to see all the staff, past and present who made such an effort to be there, in between delivering dinners. She spent many years with the Jewish Care family, they have always been so kind and attentive to Mum. We can’t thank you enough and long may your good work continue.”

Beatty is supported by Jewish Care’s services and is very close to her loving family who take turns to stay with her, and in more recent times, Beatty has received Jewish Care’s Meals on Wheels, befriending and outreach services and the centre volunteers organised her birthday entertainer at home.  

Beatty joined Jewish Care’s Brenner Stepney Community Centre in her 80s. The centre is at the heart of the community and the only centre supporting the last remaining members of the older Jewish community in the East End. Beatty has many close friends who are members, staff and volunteers who are in touch though Beatty is no longer able to physically get there.

Daniel Carmel-Brown, Jewish Care’s Chief Executive, said, “The Jewish Care community wishes Beatty Orwell a very happy 105th birthday. We're so pleased that Beatty was able to celebrate together with family, friends and volunteers from our Brenner Stepney Community Centre this year, as she has done many other years before. She inspires an abundance of love, warmth and sense of community by all who know her. A truly, remarkable person and centenarian, Beatty has always stood up for what she believes in and is a role model to us all.”

Janet Foster who chairs The Friends of Stepney Committee and has known Beatty all her life, also gave her good wishes to Beatty on behalf of the Committee, together with the staff.

“It gives me immense pleasure to wish our dear and truly remarkable Beatty warm wishes for her 105th birthday,” said Janet. “Beatty and her devoted family are truly inspirational and all her many friends send their love to her on her very special day. It was truly a wonderful day for the most remarkable woman I am ever likely to meet in my life, so I feel very privileged.”

June added, “We are immensely proud of our Mum. She has had a very eventful life. Born in humble surroundings in the East End of London, she worked hard all of her life, but along the way she met the Queen at Buckingham Palace and had tea at 10 Downing Street, which really isn’t bad for a girl from Petticoat Lane! We had a very interesting upbringing, our whole life was politics.”

Beatty celebrated her birthday at home this year, where she lives with the ever-loving support of her three children and extended family which includes 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and eight great, great-grandchildren.

Beatty and her two sisters were brought up in East London by their mum who taught them to be strong and independent. She spent much of her working life as an over-locker in a men’s trouser factory and made uniforms for soldiers. She married John Orwell and together they had three children.

She has been involved in local politics for as long as she can remember and was elected as a local councillor in Tower Hamlets. In 1966, Beatty’s husband, John, served as Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the two used their political influences to help shape the local area.