THE relative of an elderly woman who died following a house fire has paid tribute to a "lovable eccentric" who hoarded decades of memories in boxes around her home.

Irene Wilson died following the blaze at her home in De Frene Road, Sydenham, on August 1.

The 78-year-old had lived in the two-storey, three-bedroom house since 1933.

Around 50 people visited her gutted home last week to pay tribute to her.

Jean Wrelton, who is married to Miss Wilson's cousin Danny, described her as a "lovable eccentric" who "loved life and lived it to the full".

Miss Wilson sang with the big bands of the 1940s and 1950s and travelled the world performing on cruise ships.

She dated Bruce Forsyth in the 1950s and sang with American singer and actor Guy Mitchell.

Her mother was a well-known party girl in the 1930s and dated a number of rich men who gave her gifts of brand-new handmade shoes and mink fur coats from Bond Street.

Miss Wilson, who never had any children, kept these with her other memorabilia in boxes piled around the house.

Mrs Wrelton, 58, says her relative's hoarding tendencies began after the death of her mother in the 1960s.

She said: "Irene was unable to let go.

"The memories of her mother were very strong and she talked as if her mother was still there.

"She became something of an eccentric."

Mrs Wrelton, who married Miss Wilson's cousin in 1966, says most of the souvenirs were destroyed by fire or water damage.

After Miss Wilson retired from showbusiness she still worked behind the bar in the Forest Hill Club.

Mrs Wrelton said: "She was always ready to give a song on the piano to anyone who asked."

Miss Wilson was found on the ground floor of her flat at around 5am and pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

The cause of Miss Wilson's death is not yet known and the cause of the blaze is still being investigated.