Bedford pensioner who was abandoned as a baby on a London bus shares her inspirational life story

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A pensioner who was abandoned as a baby on a London bus before being adopted by a Wootton couple has shared her fascinating life story.

Ethel Steele, a resident of Oakway House in Bedford is now 91 years old and has lived in and around Bedford for nearly all of her life. A life that began in March 1928 on a bus in London, where, at just a few hours old, she was found in a carrier bag as the bus crossed Westminster Bridge.

She was taken to the nearby Lambeth Hospital and named after two streets opposite the building – Ethel Street and Stead Street and Ethel Stead was officially born.

Her mother was never traced and she was placed in a children’s home in West Norwood, London. She says this was a happy time and she was looked after there until she was five years old by a Nurse Lewiston, who she adored.

At five years old Ethel was presented, along with three other girls to a couple from Bedfordshire who were looking to adopt a child.

She said: “I remember that we were told to walk into the room and say good afternoon to these people and leave. The other girls didn’t open their mouths but I said good afternoon and they chose me.”

After that she was taken to St Pancras Station and handed over to her new parents and went to live in Wootton with her new name Ethel Moore.

She said: “I went to school in Wootton until I was 14 years old. I very much wanted to train as a nurse but my mother would not allow that so I left school and went to work in offices at Chryselco in Kempston and then Peacocks Auction House before I eventually got a job as a dental nurse in Bedford.”

In her teens she met her future husband Terry Steele, he was also adopted and came from London but had been brought up in Bedfordshire. They married at the Bunyan Meeting Church in Kempston on Boxing Day 1949.

Terry had a greengrocer’s shop in Kempston and went on to run his own car spares business in Great Barford. They had six children of their own, adopted two more boys and later fostered another girl. From having no families of their own Ethel and Terry provided nine children with a happy, stable home life and upbringing.

Terry died in 2005 but she has children living both in Bedfordshire, other parts of the country and Australia and has 18 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

At the age of 44 Ethel got a job at Bedford Hospital as a phlebotomist where she worked for 39 years, not retiring until she was 83. She continued to work as a Red Cross volunteer until recently when she lost her sight.

Marie Taylor, Chief Executive of Bedford Charter Housing Association said: “ She is an inspiration.”