Jean Hayes reflects on the history of Women’s Wednesday Fellowship and looks forward to continuing fun and fellowship with Hinchley Wood Fellowship.
Our parish in 1958 was markedly different from today; normally husbands went out to work and wives stayed at home. The Vicar and Church Wardens were asked about forming a ‘Women’s Social Fellowship in Hinchley Wood’. On 28th February they called a meeting in the Church Vestry and invited along ‘representatives from the Mothers’ Union, the Young Wives Group and a number of other ladies who had expressed interest in the suggestion’. Two months later a notice was put in the local newspaper, stating that:
‘The inaugural meeting of the proposed Women’s Social Fellowship met at 8 p.m. on Monday 21st April, in the Parish Hall, under the chairmanship of Mrs. Lawson. Thirty three ladies were present.’
The meeting was provisionally called the “Monday Circle”, with members meeting at 8:00pm on the 3rd Monday of the month. The follow-up meeting was held on 19th May and all women were invited to come along.
On 11th September 1958 the meeting day was changed to 4th Wednesdays and the name was changed to the ‘Wednesday Circle’; however, on 15th September 1958 this was changed to ‘Wednesday Fellowship’ as there was already a group in Esher with the same name.
When ‘Young Wives Group’ disbanded in January 1959, members were invited to join ‘Wednesday Fellowship’.
By 1965 membership had increased to 114; however, membership numbers have decreased in recent years.
Activities have not changed during the 61 years of our group’s existence, being: Meetings, Socials, Outings and Charity Fundraising.
Meetings are jolly affairs, with speakers who have been recommended by friends. These talks have been recorded over the years by ‘Hinchley Wood Magazine’ and, prior to that, ‘The Medallion’. In 2009 we moved our meetings from church premises to Hinchley Wood Senior School, so that money could be raised from regular hirers in the Church.
Socials have recently been held twice a year – the January Lunch and Summer Garden Tea-Party. We visited a restaurant for our January meal, but prior to that we catered for ourselves. About 70 people regularly enjoyed a four course dinner with sherry and wine included for £8. About eight of us received all ingredients and recipe for the main dish on the previous day– a casserole which could be brought along hot to the hall, perhaps boeuf bourguignon or lamb tagine. We also made a whole array of desserts.
During the afternoon of the meal we brought to the hall a copious amount of equipment and in those days there were husbands to help with it all. Six or eight hostess trolleys or hot-trays were plugged in to heat up along each side of the hall and while the starters and veg arrangements were made in the kitchen, the men set out the tables. Then we all went home and dressed for dinner before carefully stowing the cold dessert in the car and the hot casserole with suitable insulation in the boot. One year someone’s casserole ended up dropped on the pavement in Greenways Road, so the rest of us had to save a good spoonful in order to make up the deficit. Quite often the 4th Wednesday in January had snow and ice to contend with. For many years the Hibberts welcomed us into their spacious garden for the July Tea Party.
Outings are arranged as we go along. We are fortunate in having three good theatres – Richmond, Wimbledon and Woking – and all these have pre and post West End productions. Being able to get group tickets at a reduction has served the group well in the past. Recently we have been regulars at Vera Fletcher Hall where we have enjoyed a good variety of genres – opera, concerts, films and plays. We are most grateful to the organisers there who reserve splendid seats for us.
In 2015, for example, we had outings which included seeing ‘Snow White’ at Richmond Theatre, ‘Barnum’ at Woking Theatre and ‘Pride & Prejudice’ at Vera Fletcher Hall; visiting ‘Hogarth’s House’ Chiswick with lunch at Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park and The Shard viewing platform floor 74, London Bridge, and taking tours followed by lunch at Painshill and Guildford Cathedral.
Charity Fundraising is valued by our membership. We choose a different charity each year – patronising small, local charities as well as bigger, well-known ones. As well as raising money, a representative speaks at one of our meetings, giving us insight into their particular role. We used to raise money at the Hinchley Wood Fun Day, but more recently we have raised money in a variety of ways at our tea parties. In 2014, World War 1 anniversary year, we chose ‘Help for Heroes’. They planned a national ‘Colossal Cake Sale’ and published a special recipe. One member organised a whole day at her house, where she persuaded half of Molesey to contribute.
A coffee morning was followed by cake-lunch, then afternoon tea. We had the special cake baked by another of our members as well as tray bakes handed in by members of the public. The WWF received a special certificate for collecting £745 – the highest amount in S. E. England area. We gave them another £485 from our usual efforts – which included the speaker’s fee given to the butcher from Bookham, who gave talks to raise money for charity. When he heard about our charity, he refused to take his fee, asking us to donate it to ‘Help for Heroes’. Then, so that his own charity would not suffer, he sent money to them also. The following year we chose his local charity, ‘Cardiac Risk in the Young [CRY]’, based in Leatherhead, for that year’s fundraising.
Thank you to everyone who has worked to make WWF such a success over 61 years, and to all the members who have paid their subscriptions, [3 shillings in 1958, recently rising to £10 – for the whole year], and who have made each activity so enjoyable and worthwhile.