Just as the Queen celebrated 50 years on the throne last year, Elstree resident Ivy Randall reached an important golden anniversary this year.

In 1953, the year after Elizabeth II ascended the throne, Miss Randall, now 90, moved into one of the almshouses in Elstree High Street.

Before her move, Miss Randall, who was cook-in-charge at the school next to the almshouses, had been living in a bedsit at council cottages in Watling Street.

But, by the age of 41, having undergone two hip replacements, she found the walk up the hill to the school too difficult and was invited to move into one of the almshouses, at 1 to 3 High Street.

The almshouses and the National School, for infant boys and girls, were built in 1884 by the first Lord Aldenham, Henry Hucks Gibbs.

When Miss Randall was offered the almshouse, there was an outcry and a petition was collected by opponents who believed she was too young to qualify for the accommodation intended for spinsters of the parish with limited means.

But the bishop quelled the protesters by supporting Miss Randall on the grounds of her disability, and because she was a cook at the school, which is now the Hertsmere Progressive Synagogue, and regularly attended St Nicholas Church.

When she moved in, the toilet was outside and there was no bath or bathroom in the almshouse, which had two rooms a kitchen and a sitting room-bedroom. When the almshouse was modernised a few years later, an indoor toilet was built and a bath was installed in the kitchen. Miss Randall still uses the same gas stove she had 50 years ago, which was given the all-clear by an inspector last week.

But her cooking was not limited to home. As chief cook at the National School, Miss Randall was responsible for preparing meals for the schoolchildren, who numbered around 150.

She recalled: "We used to do the cooking in the rectory, and the children would come from the school to the rectory for their dinner. Most of the children liked the meals, especially the puddings."

Miss Randall continued as a supervisor when the new St Nicholas School was opened, and retired at age 60. Before moving to Elstree, Miss Randall, who was born near Hatfield, had been a parlour maid at different homes in Hertfordshire, before joining a school in Radlett.

She said: "I can hardly believe I have lived there for 50 years the time has gone quickly."