More than 70 members and volunteers of local charity the Harrogate Easier Living Project have celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday with a celebratory royal tea party at the Cairn Hotel and amongst them were some very special guests.

Elizabeth Wilkinson from Knaresborough and Vera Craven from Harrogate are two members of the charity’s Opening Doors service who have also turned 90 this year. The pair were invited to cut the celebration cake at the event and enjoyed a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday from the other members and guests.

Both nonagenarians have seen a number of changes to the local area over the decades but have remained active and part of their local community. The Harrogate Easier Living Project supports older people who live independently and need a little bit of help getting out and about and with practical jobs around the home. The Opening Doors service has helped Elizabeth and Vera to get out to social events and appointments with the help of a volunteer.

Elizabeth Wilkinson moved to Knaresborough in 1949 from Sheffield and arrived with nowhere to stay. She approached the Methodist Church to enquire if there were any rooms to let and was directed to Mrs Wilkinson senior, also an active member of the church. Love blossomed between Elizabeth and Mrs Wilkinson’s son Derek and the pair were married in 1951.

The couple started their married life on Kirkgate, then spent a couple of years on Tentergate Lane before buying a building plot on the new Aspin estate where Elizabeth still lives today. A teacher, Elizabeth spent 25 years at Manor School followed by seven years at the new Meadowside Primary before taking early retirement. Derek sadly died 16 years ago but Elizabeth spent her 90th birthday at the beginning of April surrounded by her family including her two great grandchildren who helped her open her cards.

Elizabeth has followed the Queen’s life particularly closely. “I have always been able to relate to her given that we are exactly the same age,” she said. “If the Queen can do it, why can’t I? Although I walk with a stick now, while the Queen doesn’t need to.”

When asked about sharing a name with Her Majesty, Elizabeth responded. “Well of course, I got there first by a couple of weeks so I am the original Elizabeth!”

Vera Craven has lived in Harrogate since the age of six. Vera worked as a Post Office telephonist during the war, then went to work at the library in the new Army Apprentice College where she met Fred Craven, a civilian instructor of electronics. The couple married in 1951 and moved into a new family home two years later.

After 59 years of marriage, Fred sadly passed away in 2010 but Vera still lives in the family home 62 years later. She is an active member of Trinity Methodist Church and enjoys the weekly Lunch Club held at the church.

Vera has two daughters, two grandsons and two great grandchildren and celebrated her 90th birthday with a family meal at Carriages in Knaresborough. She was entertained by her youngest grandson with songs by Frank Sinatra and a rendition of Take Me Home from Les Miserables.

Vera’s closest brush with the Queen was seeing her at the Great Yorkshire Show a number of years ago, but she has not, as yet, had the pleasure of meeting her.

Christine Turner, Service Coordinator at HELP, said: “We were delighted to mark such a special occasion with Elizabeth and Vera and our other members who turn 90 this year. Our members tell us that they enjoy the chance to reminisce so it seemed very appropriate to bring them together to celebrate the Queen’s milestone birthday. We were delighted to share the occasion with guests from Supporting Older People, another great local charity helping older people stay connected to their community.

“Guests enjoyed an afternoon tea, entertainment from Musical Memories and had the chance to socialise with other members. Opening Doors is all about helping people remain living independently with a bit of extra support to get out and about and be part of a social group with their peers.”

For more information about the Harrogate Easier Living Project or Opening Doors call Christine or Jen on 01423 813090 or visit