BRITAIN'S oldest female town crier, who took up the job because she developed a loud voice speaking to her deaf mother, has died aged 86.

Yvonne Chamberlain MBE, better known as Vonny, became a town crier in 1975 - when she was paid just 5p per appearance.

She was considered a "pillar of her community" and was a well-known figure in the town to which she dedicated her life.

Vonny raised thousands of pounds for the Royal British Legion and RNLI and worked her way through the tiers of Girlguiding.

Vonny, from Axbridge, won the role after her family entered her into a competition to become the next crier.

Loved ones say she was good at talking loudly - to her deaf mother.

She was initially paid just five pence for the job - and represented Axbridge across the world, travelling as far as Australia and Canada for guild competitions.

And when asked in 2013 what she would have on her epitaph, Vonny replied: "I was the town crier, nice and simple."

Her niece, Nicole Dommett, said: "Vonny was a very popular lady, a pillar of the community. She was simply Axbridge through and through.

"She was known as such a happy and helpful person. You would always see her around Axbridge and people loved her.

"I know from the messages we have received she will be missed. It is the end of an era."

Vonny, whose real first name was Gladys, was born and bred in a house her family had lived in since 1890.

Her nickname was derived from her middle name, Yvonne, while she attended Axbridge School as a child.

From the age of 14, she became a well-known face in the town, as she began collecting money for Royal British Legion's annual Poppy Appeal.

Vonny's step-grandfather helped to build the town's Methodist Chapel, where Vonny became a Sunday School teacher as a teenager, and later took on the role of steward in her early 20s.

She was a Brownie, a Guide, a patrol leader, a pack leader with the Cadets, a lieutenant of the Guides in Cheddar aged 18, a captain, and then in 1973 a Girlguiding divisional treasurer.

She also worked at a greengrocer's in the town with her late husband Arthur.

As town crier, she has introduced thousands of summer fetes and town hall meeting, and in 1987 she won best-dressed lady crier at a competition on the Isle of Wight.

Civic recognition deservedly followed, when she was made the first official Freeman of Axbridge in 2012, and awarded an MBE in 2015 for her years of raising money for Royal British Legion and RNLI.

She was not much for being sentimental and would often say "life is not all honey".

Brian Winder, Secretary of the Axbridge branch of the Royal British Legion, said Vonny only stopped street collecting for the Poppy Appeal two years ago.

He said: "She cannot be replaced. People aren't like her any more, she was a woman of her generation. We are very sad. It is a huge loss."

Town Mayor Kate Browne said the council held a minute's silence at the beginning of its last meeting.

She said: "She will be greatly missed by the people of Axbridge. She was quite a character in the town and contributed immensely to the community."

Her funeral will take place at St John the Baptist Church in Axbridge on June 5.