These hale and hearty twins could be Devon’s oldest at 95
BORN in Paignton less than five years after the end of the First World War, Joan and Rene may be Devon’s oldest living twin sisters.
Now the identical twins have got together to celebrate their 95th birthdays with a party.
They were born in October 1923 in Hartley Road to Horace and Nell Widdicombe.
Horace, Nell and the twins moved to Dendy Road and operated their popular family business The Sweet Box at the top of Victoria Street for many years.
The shop is currently The Sandwich Bar.
Rene and Joan were born prematurely at home, Joan first at 3lb and 30 minutes later Rene at 2lb 8oz.
In those pre-NHS days they were cared for by a district nurse named Nurse Wackett at home where they were fed milk through eye droppers every hour day and night.
They were kept warm and slept in a drawer lined with cotton wool, recovered well and went on to thrive.
Rene and Joan went to Curl edge Street School and later the Marist Convent, leaving at the age of 14.
Joan then went to work at Rossiters in Palace Avenue and Rene at The Sweet Box which was owned at this time by a Miss Howarth, until the business was purchased from her by Rene and Joan’s parents.
Rene was a member of the Baptist Church in Winner Street and there she met and fell in love with another regular member of the congregation, Bert Hutchings.
In 1943 they were married. Bert joined the Royal Navy and they moved to Portsmouth where he was based and where they were heavily bombed.
He was commended for saving the life of a seaman and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer.
After the war Rene and Bert ran a wet fish shop in Winner Street for 10 years.
Bert was a carpenter and a volunteer driver with the St John Ambulance Service and later was fully employed in that capacity.
He was also an active member of the Courtland Masonic Lodge.
Bert died in 1991 and Rene still lives in her own home in Paignton.
In 1944 Joan married Welshman Arthur Lloyd, who was attending RAF Officer Training in Paignton when they met at a dance at Old way Mansion.
He became engineer officer to the Queen’s Flight before retiring as wing commander engineer. He and Joan spent many years abroad with the RAF and had a son called Stephen.
Arthur died in 2013 and Joan lives in her own home in Lymington, Hampshire.
She has a son, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
According to Wikipedia, the world’s oldest twins are Marian and Nora Langton from Nottinghamshire, who will be 106 on November 14.
Joan Lloyd (left) and Rene Hutchings celebrate their 95th birthdays