The Girls Friendly Society ( GFS )
The GFS is still in operation, now on a world wide basis, the nearest Branch to Glasbury being at Brecon Cathedral


The Girls Friendly Society was started in 1875 by Mary Elizabeth Townsend. She was an Irish clergyman's daughter and had concerns about young girls who were working away from home and possibly in a vulnerable situation. The girls would be the Society "Members" and were to be guided by the Society "Associates" ( life experienced ladies ), who would provide a friendly and social environment for the members benefit.
The society had a strong religious ethos and grew quickly, having some 40,000 Members by 1880 and over 13,500 Associates. In that year also Queen Victoria became the society's Patron. It is worth noting that the girls recruited at this time would be aged 12 upwards and that by 1882 girls of 8 year old could become Candidates (aspirant Members).
By 1900 domestic service comprised the largest group among the Members, others being teachers, nurses, clerks, workers in refreshment bars, mills, factories, warehouses and also students.
One of the society's biggest benefits was the introduction of their Lodges, which provided decent, clean and cheap accommodation for the young women workers and no doubt a strong social function, offering personal friendships, group activities and useful contacts as regards the work itself.
Numerous publications were introduced on an informative basis, the first being "The Girls' Friendly Society Reporter in 1875", followed by "Friendly Leaves". Pamphlets and books were also produced explaining the overarching ethos of the GFS movement.
After the First World War many jobs were lost and numbers were in decline. The Society bought Argyll House to provide for homeless girls and women fleeing from domestic violence. It also expanded its remit to provide training courses in Correspondence and English and helped with members visits abroad. Camps were introduced and a Central Council for Recreative Physical Training was established.
Today the GFS is still ongoing under the aegis of the GFS Platform and has 33 branches in the UK but now needs only one housing complex in Gt Yarmouth - a supported-shared house for young mothers. The Society still promotes sound Christian values along with friendship, social skills and understanding amongst young women of all ethnicities.

The Glasbury Girls Friendly Society

The Glasbury Branch of the GFS was created at some time between 1875 (the inception of the GFS) and 1880 (see reference below left from the Brecon County Times concerning the retirement of Mrs Crichton)
The Branch emanated from Brecon Cathedral and despite it's name (Glasbury) covered an unusually large area, comprising the following Parishes at the 1914 Annual Festival at Gwernyfed : - Boughrood, Bryngwyn, Clyro, Crickadarn, Glasbury (All Saints and St Peters), Hay, Llanigon, Llanstephan, Llowes, Llyswen, Newchurch and Talgarth -some 13 in all - see article on right.
In the previous 1913 Festival there is mention of 16 Parishes, although none of these are named - see article below right This leaves us with the anomaly of three parishes unaccounted for and is possibly a misprint in the 1913 report ? or a fact that only 13 parishes turned out for the 1914 Annual Festival. ? The latter seems the more unlikely.
These Annual Festivals were held on a grand scale, beginning with a church service, usually followed by a procession with a Band to a place suitable for outdoor games, competitions, performances , speeches and recitals. In the Glasbury area they were held in the Maesllwch Castle grounds, courtesy of the de Winton family, at Gwernyfed Park, courtesy of the Kidston family and sometimes at Tyruched, courtesy of the Havard family. Meetings at a more general level were instigated by the individual parish and on occasion these would be combined with an adjacent parish or the Mothers Union.(See below right)
From the press cuttings it appears the Glasbury All Saints and Glasbury St Peters functioned as independent sections of the Glasbury village. They sometimes came together at a local level and sometimes when combining with parishes outside the village.
Annual certificates (cards) and long service ones were issued by the Branch Secretary - example above right , and also a "Saving Bonus" prize; as yet unidentified as to its nature.


The Head Associate for the district was Mrs Butler of Aberllynfi, a formidable women of great drive, influence and initiative. She also had a strong and lasting community spirit.
Other associates for the Glasbury (All Saints and St Peters) area mentioned in the 1913 article were as follows : - Mrs Christy, Mrs Crichton, Mrs W Crichton, Mrs Evan Powell, Mrs Garnons Williams, Mrs Gethin Griffiths, Mrs Griffiths, Mrs James, Mrs Mortimer Baylis, Mrs Thomas and Mrs Probert.
In 1919 Mrs Day is mentioned as the new associate for Glasbury All Saints. (Brecon County Times 14.08.1919.)

Mrs Crichton's retirement as Secretary in 2013
The new Brach Secretary was to be Mrs Probert.
from The Brecon County Times 04.02.1915

Concert Party at Mrs Powell's, Park View
from The Brecon County Times 03.05.1913

Glasbury GFS Festival on 15.07.1913
from the Brecon County Times 17.07.1913
B Bowker

Sources : --

Mr Paul Greenow
Brecon County Times
Brecon and Radnor Express
The GFS Platform official site
Welsh Newspapers Online


A Glasbury Branch Certificate for Edith Lewis in 1922
Courtesy Paul Greenow

Glasbury GFS Festival on 14.07.1914
from the Brecon and Radnor Express 27.07,1914

A General Meeting of the Glasbury GFS
from The Brecon County Times 02.11.1916

Tea at Mrs Butler's, Aberllynfi - for St Peters GFS
from The Brecon County Times 04.11.1915

Combined Tea for GFS (All Saints and St Peters)
from Brecon County Times 30.03.1916

Junior Candidates make bags for wounded soldiers
from the Brecon and Radnor Express