Here's the history of St Hilary WI which was written to celebrate its Golden Jubilee – from its inception in 1932 to 1982.
It provides a fascinating insight into life in the 30s and beyond and the wide variety of activities – particularly the charitable work during the war


National Federation of Women’s Institutes

St Hilary W.I. Golden Jubilee

11 February 1932 – 11 February 1982

50 Glorious and Happy Years

St Hilary W.I. was officially founded on 11 February 1932

First president elected:

  • Lady Lilian Bruce

Three vice presidents:

Honorary secretary:

Miss Dorothy Ackland-Allen, JP


Miss Crockatt

28 members were enrolled when it opened

At the first meeting the demonstration was ‘sea grass seating for stools’. The competition was for the best 1lb pot of marmalade and the winner was Mrs May Llewellyn for whom it proved to be the first of many successful competitions. The subsequent demonstrations and talks have encompassed the whole spectrum of subjects in infinite variety. A few are worth of mention.

  • In November 1932 Miss Phyllis Clay of Chepstow demonstrated her patent washing machine. Articles to be washed were placed in a kind of small churn with hot water and soap flakes. The handle turned for 5 minutes, when the garments emerged quite clean and needed only rinsing.
  • In 1933 the secretary was reimbursed to the tune of 14/6 to replace her saucepan (aluminium) burnt during the demonstration of blackcurrant jam making.
  • Members were spellbound by Mrs Molyneux’s travel talk on Palestine and Excavations in ‘Ur of the Chaldees’, not to speak enthralled by the Reverend T. Iles’ ‘Trip to the Ganges’.
  • An early lecture on the flowers of Glamorgan, accompanied by Lantern slides, proved not to be a huge success ‘owing to a defect in the Lantern’s lens, but at the same time the Institute was most grateful to Mrs Homfray of Penllyn Castle for lending it’.

These talks are a far cry from the most recent on microwave ovens and the silicone chip.

In the 1930s much effort was afforded to charities.

During several years there were competitions for growing the most potatoes from six seed potatoes. In one such competition the winner grew thirty three and a half pounds and the total from members weighed three and a half hundredweights. They were given to the Bridgend and District hospital. There were egg collections for the Children’s Homes and fund raising Whist Drives and Bring and Buys resulting in contributions to Cowbridge and District Nursing Association, Red Cross, Cardiff Royal Infirmary to mention some of the beneficiaries.

This work was continued during the war.

Working parties were formed and met weekly to knit comforts for the troops. Hundred weights of wool were knitted in navy, air force blue, khaki and sea boot stocking wool.
Another working party formed a ‘preservation centre’ in the Village Hall using as much as 5cwt of sugar to preserve jam and chutney from fruits and vegetables from member’s gardens and blackberries, hips and crab apples from the hedgerows for the same purpose.

Blackout curtains were made for the Village Hall windows and the Institute organised the placing of evacuee children in village homes. Monthly whist drives and dances throughout the war enabled donations to be made to the many charities – the W.I cot at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, Mission to Merchant Seamen, Salute Soldier Week, Glamorgan Forces Comfort Club, Mrs Churchill’s Aid to Russia, Prisoners of War, YMCA, Welcome Home Fund for the villagers in the forces. One WI member served in the WAAF.

St Hilary WI has taken part successfully in Drama and Dance Festivals, Produce Shows at County level, winning the Countess of Plymouth Cup in 1950, singing festivals and competitions and the Penllyn cup at Cowbridge show in 1980. It has organised fetes and bazaars, attended half yearly and annual Council and group meetings, entered a scrap book in the Architectural Year competition, competed in two radio 2 quiz programmes, served in the Hensol hospital canteen and at the W.I market in Cowbridge.

Members have attended Denman College, participated in church yard surveys and subscribe annually to LEPRA for the treatment of children in India.

It is an interesting fact that over 50 years there have been only four presidents, two in the first two years. Miss Dorothy Ackland-Allen JP who presided from 1933 to 1963, VCO and sometime county chairman guided St Hilary W.I in the way in which it should go, and due to the fact the succeeding president – Mrs Sarah Sweet 1963 – 1976 filled her office in the same admirable way and so on to Mrs Sweet’s successor – her daughter Mrs Molly Ranger, who has kept the continuity.

Recent Times

In recent years the membership has grown and flourished with members enjoying monthly meetings and outings organised by the Glamorgan Federation.

To celebrate the Centenary Year of the Women's Institute, St Hilary WI planted an acer tree on No Man's Land on 16 September 2015 - the date in 1915 that the first WI was founded in Llanfair PG. Members gathered for a ceremonial planting, complete with commemoration plaque. A celebratory toast then took place in The Bush. Sadly, the tree did not survive and had to be replaced in October 2019 when a Rowan tree was planted.  Click here for more details.

In June 2009 Elgiva Thomas, a long-time former resident of the village, celebrated her 90th birthday. The event was celebrated by St Hilary WI - Elgiva had been a member for 73 years.


Garden Fete in the President’s garden at the Manor House (Miss D. Ackland Allen)


Entertainment at the Group Meeting 1971 –Old Time Music Hall


Front row: Mrs Mary Thomas, Mrs Joan Thomas. Miss M Llewellyn, Mrs Betty Thomas, Mrs Dorothy Rochford, Mrs Philippa Thomas. Mrs Sweet (President).

Back row: Mrs Winnie Williams, Mrs Anne Jenkins, Mrs Kitty Francis, Mrs Avril Langford, Mrs Betty Jones, Mrs Elgiva Thomas, Mrs Kay Heath

25 June 1983 - Open Day at Margam Park 


Mrs Elgiva Thomas – Wellie throwing

52nd birthday party at St Hilary Village Hall 1984


Mrs Sweet, Mrs Dann, Mrs Jenny Glover, Mrs Gloria Thomas, Mrs Glenys Phillips, Mrs Betty Thomas, Mrs Ruth Richards, Mrs Bailey with Mrs Ranger standing. On the next table Mrs Egiva Thomas, Mrs Kay Heath, Miss Mary Llewellyn, Mrs Alicia Moss.

2nd Place


In 1954 St Hilary WI took second place for the co-operative exhibit at the county produce show

Here is a comparison of the 1958 programme of events with the 2015 programme

1958 Programme



2015 Programme



Banner in St Hilary Church