When William and Elizabeth Brudenell got married in the 1920s, they never planned to have a big family, but fate had other plans.
In 1924 they had a daughter, Bernadette, followed by a son, William, and then a few more until the last one, Robert, was born in 1946.
Today all 11 Brudenell siblings from Middlesbrough are aged between 68 and 89, and with a combined age of 855, they are eligible for the title of the ‘oldest’ family in the world.
The record-breaking 11 Brudenell siblings (only nine are pictured because it was impossible to find a day they could all do) included (L-R) Robert, 68, James, 76, Bernadette, 89, May, 79, William, 87, John, 69, Winifred, 83, Marion, 74, and Jean, 71.
The matriarch, Elizabeth Brudenell, seated, and her daughters (L-R) Mary, May, Bernadette, Winifred, Marion and Jean.
The current title-holders, an Italian family of nine siblings, have a combined age of just 828 years, and the Guinness World Records office has urged the Brudenells to apply.
The siblings, who put their longevity down to ‘good genes’, have a total of 43 children between them, and all still live in or near Middlesbrough, where they grew up sleeping four to a bed in a small terraced house.
The matriarch of the giant brood, Elizabeth Brudenell, who died aged 89 in 1991, laboured from 5am until midnight to feed and clothe her family.
With no washing machine she was forced to wash everything by hand, while the family kept chickens and grew vegetables for food.
She married the children’s father, William, a steelworker, when she was 23, and he died aged 72 in 1975.
Their children are Bernadette Lowrie, 89, William Brudenell, 88, Winifred Devine, 83, Mary Tipping, 80, May Clarkson, 79, Vincent Brudenell, 78, James Brudenell, 76, Marion Campbell, 74, Jean Ewart, 71, John Brudenell, 69, and Robert Brudenell, 68.
Another wedding: Winifred Devine (nee Brudenell), is seen left aged 19 with her sister May, second right
Jean Ewart, who still lives in Middlesbrough and has three children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, said her childhood was ‘idyllic’.
‘We never fought – Mum and Dad were very strict with us. They had to be.
‘The kids just kept coming, one after the other. It feels great to be part of such an old family, Mum and Dad would have been thrilled.
‘I am not sure why we have lived so long, but it is something to be proud of.’
It was Mrs Ewart’s granddaughter, Louise Ewart, 33, who realised she might be part of a record-breaking family.
She said: ‘I was curious to see what all of their ages would add up to. My nana and I sat down one day, and totted all the ages up, and we were amazed when we saw the figure.
‘I went on the internet and the oldest I could find was an Italian family.’
Family: Winifred Devine (nee Brudenell), 83, pictured left at 27 and her son, Anthony, pictured right at seven
Tight-knit: Jean Ewart, 71, says the whole family is still extremely close. Pictured are (back row, L-R), James, 76, May, 79, Jean, John, 69, and Marion, 74, and (front row, L-R), Winifred, 83, Bernadette, 89, William, 87, and Robert, 68.
Miss Ewart contacted Guinness World Records, where someone confirmed they knew of no family with a higher combined age, and said they would welcome an application from the brothers and sisters.
Miss Ewart said: ‘I’m not entirely sure why they have all lived so long, but I do know they have all kept very active.
‘We are thrilled to be the oldest in the world.’
The family remains close, with most still living in Middlesbrough and nearby Redcar.
Jean Ewart said: ‘We pop round to each other’s houses all the time and are all still as close as we were when we were kids.
‘I’ve lost count of all the christenings and weddings I have been to over the years – it feels like millions.’
A Guinness World Records spokesman said: ‘The highest combined age of nine living siblings is currently held by the Melis family in Italy and stands at 828 years and 45 days.
‘We would welcome an application from the Brudenell family.’