ICE cream has been her life since she was 15 but after more than half a century Maria Smith is finally retiring from Lewis’s.

The well known Warrington Market trader will be closing her stall for the final time on Saturday after 53 years of memories.

Maria is part of the original Lewis Bros family which was established when her grandfather Louis Manfredi came over from the north of Italy in 1908.

But the 68-year-old’s connections to Italian ice cream run deeper still as her mum Mary was from the Manfredi/Lewis Bros family and her dad John was from Frederick’s of Chorley.

Maria said: “When it first started my mum had a horse and cart and the ice cream was kept cool with big blocks of ice.

“She went around Stockton Heath and she used to tell me different stories about the horse and how people used to come out and give him carrots.

“He ended up knowing certain houses where people would give him carrots and if they weren’t in he wouldn’t want to budge.”

Maria started to help out her dad John at weekends and during summer holidays when she was 15.

He made his own ice cream which he sold at Warrington Market.

Maria, who grew up in Howley and now lives in Appleton, added: “Originally in Warrington there were five Manfredis who made their own ice cream. Now we’re down to just one – Lewis Bros in Bewsey Road.

“My dad used to have a secret recipe. He died in 1978 and I used to watch him make the ice cream but he never passed his secrets on. Back then it wasn’t in these pre-packed plastic containers. It was in stainless steel six gallon tubs.”

Maria went full time when she left Notre Dame Catholic College, Liverpool, and when she passed her driving test Maria got her own van for rounds in Woolston and Latchford.

She stayed with the family business until she had her daughter Leanda then she returned to run the Warrington Market stall in the early 80s when her mum retired.

She expanded the stall’s offering in 1984 to include sweets and drinks.

Maria, who has two grandchildren Gabriella, 13, and Harrison, eight, said: “Market life is something that I’ve always known and I love mixing with people.

"I’ve got some very loyal customers who were children when they started coming here and now they bring their children. Funnily enough I can’t go anywhere without being noticed.

“People on holiday have known me from Warrington Market in Mykonos and Lake Garda. It’s like being in another family where everyone gets on. It’s a lovely atmosphere to work in. I’ll be very sad when I close as I’ve never known anything different and a part of me feels like I’m letting my customers down who have always come to me in the past.

“But I think it’s my time now. I’m 68 and I should have a bit of time for myself.”