Girls' Friendly Society

The Girls’ Friendly Society met at the Priory or held groups in the Old School building. They paid 1/- each year to cover small expenses. The first group included Mary Atkinson, the daughter of the Priory, Maggie Bull, a laundress, working from home, seven girls who were recorded as doing “Home Duties”, seven girls who were at work, and seven who were in service locally. It was common at the time for village girls to leave school and work at home for a time before going into service.

The youngest members were 15 years old and the oldest was Mary Clarke, a farmer’s daughter. This group helped girls who were away from home in service, isolated on farms, or bored with working or helping out at home. From the register we know that the girls out at work didn’t stay in the group very long.

Girls from the same family often joined at a similar time, although they didn’t always stay in the Society. Village families like the Jelleys, the Eglesfields and the Bushells all sent their girls to the group.

From 1915 some of the older members, now in their 30s, were designated as associates. These had to be “ladies” rather than working class girls, and they were assumed to be the organisers of the groups. However, these ladies did not stay very long, possibly marrying or moving away, and by the 1920s the Mrs Atkinsons, and Mrs Jelley were the stalwarts carrying on the Society’s work.

Maggie Bull, started as an ordinary member at 17 and stayed until 1930, when she was 46 years old. She was never made an associate, because of the class rules at the time. She ended her days as an old lady living at Ivy Cottage on Priory Lane, where she was respected and looked after by local residents like the Tompkins family.

The GFS closed in 1930. Its members almost all then joined the Cosgrove branch of the Women’s Institute.