SAWBRIDGEWORTH'S Alfred Hibbert has lost his crown as England's oldest man to a newcomer just 80 days his senior.

The town's very own `Alfred the Great', aged 107, of East Drive, has been usurped by Leicestershire resident Harry Halford, also 107.

A latecomer in the battle of longevity, Mr Halford was born on June 15 1891, and has just been acknowledged as Britain's oldest man by the Guinness Book of Records.

There was speculation that Mr Hibbert could have been Britain's oldest man, following the death of Scotsman David Henderson last month.

But all is not lost for Sawbridgeworth's most historic resident. Mr Hibbert still holds the title of second-oldest man in England and Great Britain.

Despite being toppled from his throne, MBE holder and former Whitehall civil servant Mr Hibbert was magnanimous in defeat this week.

The lively pensioner, who indulges in cigarettes and a glass of whisky every day, told the Citizen: "I wish him many congratulations and good health. I hope he is being looked after as well as me."

Proud wife Marjorie, 85, said: "He doesn't mind at all. It just goes to show how many older people there are around today -- and there's going to be a lot more in the future.''

Every district should be aware that its number of elderly people are increasing, she said.

And commenting on her husband's favourite vices, she said: "Alfred smokes around eight cigarettes per day and enjoys a tot of whisky before bedtime. He's smoking more as he's getting older. It must be because he's bored!"

Mr Hibbert was born on September 3, 1891. His earliest memory is of the spectacular diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. He later served with the Ordnance Corps in a non-combative role during the First World War.

His first wife died in her nineties and Mr Hibbert married Marjorie 15 years ago.

Praising the UK's second oldest citizen, who has lived in Sawbridgeworth for 26 years, Mayor David Baker said: "It's a shame Alfred's been toppled from his pinnacle but he's still Sawbridgeworth's champ.

"Not only is he the oldest man in the town but he's the second oldest in the country which is no mean feat."

"He still visits Plymouth House and gets a taxi home and I often see him with his shopping bag around town. He is fantastic."

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