A Twickenham newsagent has warmed the hearts of thousands, after offering a hug and a mince pie to anyone alone on Christmas day.

Meet and Deep, in Hampton Road, posted the invitation on Facebook with the message ‘We are open Christmas Day from 12-2pm… If you are alone pop in for a hug and a mince pie! You don’t have to buy anything WE ARE FAMILY’ written on a chalkboard.

Deepen Patel, son of Shashi and Pallu Patel who own the store, said the tradition came about eight years ago when a beloved elderly neighbour was burgled just before Christmas.

He said: “There was a lady called Dorothy and someone posed as a gas man and took all of her stuff, she was in tears.

“So we had this idea, why don’t we put it on Facebook? And we had a strong response from people saying they would like to help Dorothy.

“We ended up with a Santa sack full of gifts for her, she said it was the best Christmas she had ever had.”

Since then, the shop has been open every Christmas for visitors in need, despite Mr and Mrs Patel not having a single day off the entire year.

It’s not just the elderly that can be dispirited at Christmas – one year they had a visit from a man spending his first year without his children after he split from his wife.

Deepen said: “Only in the last eight years it really took off.

“My mum and dad have run the shop for 35 years, when they first came over from India and Africa they didn’t know any English but they really wanted to help the community.”

Dorothy began calling Deepen and his brother Meeten (Meet and Deep) her grandsons and they called her grandma in return.

Sadly, Dorothy passed away this year but Deepen said she had a full and exciting life, dedicating lots of time to volunteering, even receiving an OBE for her services.

At time of writing, the post has been shared more than 30,000 times since it was put op on Tuesday December 19.

San Leh wrote: "Really good idea! Unfortunately I'm in Germany! Good to know that there are people with a big ? in this world which is sometimes so heartless and cold."

Nick Newton wrote: "What lovely people you are. Happy Christmas."

Julie Thomas- Scanlan-Coupe added: "Such a kind gesture ... if only the whole of mankind was so thoughtful. Much love to you."