ECCENTRIC RECLUSE, 71, LAY DEAD FOR THREE WEEKS

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THE eccentric daughter of two famous city socialites has been found dead at her home where she lived in squalor, it emerged today.

THE eccentric daughter of two famous city socialites has been found dead at her home where she lived in squalor, it emerged today.THE eccentric daughter of two famous city socialites has been found dead at her home where she lived in squalor, it emerged today.Wilhelmina Granger (71) is thought to have been dead for up to three weeks before her body was discovered at the house in Priory Road, West Town, Peterborough.

Miss Granger, the daughter of city astronomer William Granger and his wife, Ethel, lived the life of a recluse, only being seen outside once a month, when she went to collect her pension.

It is thought she had no one to care for her, and her only companions were 30 cats, which ran wild through the house and its overgrown garden.

The property, which has a large tree outside masking its front, stood empty today, but through the bay window a dusty lightbulb remained on in a front room. Inside could be seen piles of half-eaten cans of food, mouldy heaps of rubbish and a settee piled high with papers.

Neighbours said Miss Granger spent all of her time in the one room, and it is believed that is where her badly decomposed body was found.

The state of the house was so bad that when undertakers were called, they had to don rubber suits, heavy duty boots and face masks before going inside.

Peterborough coroner Gordon Ryall confirmed Miss Granger died from natural causes, but added: She had been dead for some time, possibly three weeks, when they found her. She had become a recluse, and wouldn t let anybody in the house, which is in a terrible state, and the garden is completely overgrown.

Police were called after the alarm was raised by her milkman, Mick Phillips, a week ago, when he noticed the milk had not been collected off her doorstep for several days. A spokesman for Mr Phillips employer, Dairy Crest, in Midland Road, Peterborough, today said Mr Phillips had described his grim discovery as an experience he wished to forget.

Today, neighbours, who didn t wish to be named, described her as eccentric , and someone who had very little contact with the outside world. One said: We hardly ever saw her. If you ever stepped foot on her property, she would shout at you. It was best just to stay away.

Barbara Underhill, the postmistress at Mayor s Walk post office, in West Town, who would serve Miss Granger during her rare trips out, said: She kept herself very much to herself and she didn t have many friends. She would usually only talk about that day s stories in the newspaper before walking home.

Miss Granger never married and had no children. The only known picture of her is from when she taught English in Italy in 1955, but it is unclear if she ever worked in Peterborough.

Her father, William, who died 27 years ago, was an influential figure among astronomers throughout the world. His observatory can still be seen today, sitting among the overgrown weeds in Wilhelmina s back garden.

Her mother, Ethel, was also famous and holds the world record for having the smallest waist measurement an amazing 13 inches. She died in 1982.

A distant relative of Miss Granger has been discovered by officers working for Peterborough s coroner. Mr Ryall said: We haven t been able to find Wilhelmina s will, despite discovering a relative. But she doesn t wish to be named and we must respect her wishes.

Colourful characters were well known

THE parents of Wilhelmina Granger, William and Ethel, were colourful characters whose fame attracted attention not just in Peterborough, but across the world.

Astronomer William Granger was well-known for appearing everywhere with his pet cat Treacle Pudding sitting on his shoulder. In his search to discover more about the night sky, Mr Granger, who also worked as a woodwork teacher at a city school, travelled around the world.

In 1973 he was a leading light in an expedition to catch the first glimpse of one of last century s total eclipses of the sun. He watched it from a ship anchored off Mauritania, West Africa.

In 1971 he appeared on ITV s quiz The Sky s The Limit, and won 100 after answering questions with Treacle Pudding sitting on his shoulder.

He died suddenly in 1974, aged 72, in the workshop of his home in Priory Road, Peterborough.

His wife first appeared in the Guinness Book of Records in 1967 for her remarkable 13-inch waist. Her record described the smallest waist ever for a person of normal build still exists today. She carefully crafted her perfect hour-glass figure using steel corsets after her husband complained she was too chubby .

It took her 10 years to lose nine inches by gradually pulling her specially made-to-measure corsets slightly tighter every day.The plaque Barcley Corsetry Service still remains screwed to the wall outside the house s front door today.

She was also president of the Peterborough, Oundle and District Bee-keepers Society.

The house in which their daughter has been found dead, was one they had specially-built.