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
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
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
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
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.)