Origins of Felbridge Luncheon Club

The Origins of the Felbridge Luncheon Club

This document sets out to trace the origins of the Felbridge Luncheon Club, celebrating 50 years in 2015.  It starts by looking at the role of the Women’s Voluntary Service from which, during World War II, the Meals on Wheels scheme and a club evolved specifically for the older generation of the British public.  The idea of a club for the older population gradually spread in the years after the war and became known nationally as the Darby and Joan Club.  The document then charts the history and development of the Felbridge Darby and Joan, out of which the idea of a Felbridge Luncheon Club grew, including some of the people associated with the interconnection of the Felbridge branch of the WVS, the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club and the Felbridge Luncheon Club.


Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS)

The Women’s Voluntary Service was founded in 1938 by Lady Stella Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading, as a British women’s organisation to aid civilians.  It was formed initially to help recruit women into the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) service and was originally known as the Women’s Voluntary Services for Air Raid Precautions.  It was a voluntary organisation and was viewed on a par with the women’s auxiliary services of the armed forces.  The WVS role was primarily to assist civilians during and after air raids by providing emergency rest centres, feeding and first aid. They also assisted with the evacuation and billeting of children during World War II.  Lady Stella Reading’s conviction was that ‘the ultimate strength of a nation lies in the character of the men and women who are that nation and voluntary service is an integral part of that character’.  She did not view voluntary service as ‘cheap labour’ but as ‘the gift of a thoughtful person of their skill, their energy and their time’.   


In 1938 Nancy McIver [for further information see Handout, Nancy McIver and Woodcock, JIC/SJC 05/15] answered the call and was the founder member of the local branch of the WVS.  The group comprised of women from several villages south of Oxted, the first meeting being held at St John’s Vicarage in Felbridge.  During World War II it undertook a great variety of tasks relating to civil defence and to the welfare of the community.  The local WVS group was disbanded in 1946 as it was felt that there was no longer a need for such services as had been offered during the war years.  However, nationally after the war, the WVS evolved to become a leading organisation in the field of social care including offering meals-on-wheels, baby clinics and practical help, particularly for older people. 


It is against the early years of the WVS and the background of World War II that the first tentative steps towards what became nationally known as the Darby and Joan Club were taken.  In 1942 Streatham established what is believed to have been the first Darby and Joan, staffed by volunteers of the WVS.  The club takes the name of Darby and Joan from the phrase for a married couple content to share a quiet life of mutual devotion, their association dating to 1735 when a poem, written by Henry Woodfall, about John Darby (a London printer) and his wife Joan, appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine. 


The Streatham Darby and Joan Club was a place that older members of the British public could call their own, where they could meet, relax, chat, read, play billiards, have a bath or simply get advice.  The Club also provided hot meals for just 8d, a sample menu being: roast beef, greens, potatoes, apple pie and custard or jam tart.  However, it would take a further nine years before the idea of a Darby and Joan Club had spread to Felbridge (see below).


By the mid 1950’s Felbridge again had a local branch of the WVS and a leading figure of the re-launched Felbridge branch was Phyllis (known as Phil) Yeats who came to live in Felbridge in 1953, and who became very involved with the local community, joining both the Felbridge WI [for further information see Handout, Felbridge WI Celebrating 90 years, SJC 11/14] and the WVS (later becoming the WRVS), being a member of the latter for over 37 years.  Phil ran the Felbridge WVS/WRVS mother and baby clinic and was also part of the WRVS reception team at Gatwick Airport and Hobbs Barracks that looked after the Ugandan Asians when they arrived in Britain as refugees, having been ‘thrown out of their own country by Idi Amin’ in 1972.  The WRVS co-ordinated the voluntary effort and took on much of the administration work, with local people offering warm clothes and toys and local company’s like Woodgate Dairy of East Grinstead providing milk and Garden and Merchant Food Supplies providing the catering.


It was also around the early 1970’s that Meals on Wheels came to Felbridge.  The WVS first started the Meals on Wheels scheme in 1943, in Welwyn Garden City, to enable ‘aged and infirm people’ who were experiencing difficulties due to the fact that ‘the able and stronger people who had assisted them were now performing wartime duties’.  From an article in the East Grinstead Courier we know that: 

Meals on Wheels come to Felbridge and Blindley Heath in September.  After considerable research to see if it would be needed, the Godstone Branch of the WRVS are going ahead with their plans to provide hot meals for the old and disabled people unable to prepare their own.  Mrs Phil Yeats has been appointed local organiser.  Felbridge Parish Council has donated £40 towards the cost of a hot lock and other apparatus, and a team of drivers and helpers has already been lined up.


The Meals on Wheels scheme operated in Felbridge up until 1998 (see below).


In 1966, in recognition of the service and its volunteers the WVS was granted the honour of becoming the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) and in 2103, so as not to exclude men, became known simply as the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) and now has over 40,000 volunteers, although there is no longer a branch in Felbridge.


Felbridge Darby and Joan Club

The Felbridge Darby and Joan Club was established by WVS member Mrs J B Hawthorn (sometimes written as Hawthorne in the Felbridge Darby and Joan archive) of The Grange, Felcourt near Lingfield, Surrey, the first get-together being held in the St Johns (Felbridge) Institute (now the site of the development Mulberry Close off Copthorne Road) on 5th October 1953.  Little is now known about Mrs Hawthorn other than she must have moved to The Grange after 1947 as it was owned by the Fossick family leading up to World War II when it requisitioned, and in 1947 it was sold to be converted as apartments by the development company Ixworth-Morrell Ltd.  It is known that Mrs Hawthorn was a member of the Felbridge WI and often exhibited at their annual Flower Show, her speciality being raspberries [for further information see Handout, Felbridge WI Celebrating 90 Years, SJC11/14].  Through her involvement with the WVS, Mrs Hawthorn also had connections with Chartham Park Residential Club that took over from the Royal Westminster Hospital Convalescent Home at CharthamPark (the former home of the Margary family) [for further information see Handout, Yew Lodge, SJC 03/04] in 1963.  Under the WVS/WRVS, CharthamPark accommodated twenty-nine elderly people (including two married couples in 1981), each single resident having their own room.  Communal rooms included a large dining room, television room, laundry room and resident’s kitchen where they could make tea or coffee.  A fund raising group known as the Friends of Chartham Park, raised funds for ‘extras’ including providing a taxi service; many of the residents using it to attend the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club.


Another leading figure in the newly founded Felbridge Darby and Joan Club was Nell Mackenzie of Stonewall, London Road, Felbridge.  Nell Mackenzie was born Nellie Urquhart Webster on 30th June 1894, the youngest daughter of Charles Webster JP and local councillor of Mill of Auchintoul, Aberchirder in Scotland.  She married Murdo Mackenzie, the eldest son of Roderick Mackenzie of Aulbea, Ross-Shire, Scotland, on 20th August 1932 at St Mary’s Chapel, New Marnoch Church, Scotland.  The couple appear to have moved from Scotland shortly after their marriage as between 1933/4 to 1938/9 Nell and Murdo, a consulting engineer, lived at 15, Smith Terrace, Chelsea.  The decision to leave Scotland may have been to be closer to Murdo’s widowed mother who, at the time of their marriage was living in Bromley, Kent.   However, in 1938/9 Nell and Murdo purchased Stonewall from the Fraser family, although they retained their London home until at least 1949.  Murdo died in 1959 and was buried at St John’s, Felbridge, leaving Nell a substantial estate worth in excess of £25,000 and the position of chairman in his company Mackenzie Engineering Ltd that Nell wound up in June 1966.  Like Nancy McIver in widowhood [for further information see Handout, Nancy McIver and Woodcock, JIC/SJC 05/15], Nell found herself with time and money to commit to helping the local Felbridge community as her obituary in the local newspaper reports:  


Nell Mackenzie – Obituary

Mrs Nell U Mackenzie of Stonewall, Felbridge, died 20th May 1971.  She will be greatly missed, not only in Felbridge, but in many homes in East Grinstead, as well as by friends in many other places.  She worked unsparingly for many causes and many individuals.


For more than 25 years she had been the prime mover in many organisations – among them the Felbridge Society, the South East Surrey Care Association (of which she was frequently chairman), the Lepra Society and more recently the British Rheumatism and Arthritis Association.


She was chairman of the managers of FelbridgeSchool and BaldwinsHillSchool, president of the Felbridge Bowling Club, and a supporter of the St John Ambulance, not least of St John’sChurch Felbridge and was always to be found on Mondays at Felbridge Darby and Joan Club.  Her car was always at the service of anyone who needed it.


Her world-wide interests and contacts, made in her travels with her husband enriched her parish and personal contacts.  Probably her greatest contribution was the sympathetic friendship which she gave to a wide variety of people.


Other founder members include: Mrs T H Cole, Miss Ellen Humphrey, Mrs Joan Laker, Mrs Nancy McIver [for further information see Handout, Nancy McIver and Woodcock, JIC/SJC 05/15], Mrs Mollie Parker and Mr and Mrs Charlie and Dora Wheeler [for further information see Handouts, Pattenden Family of Felbridge, SJC 07/01, Civil Parish of Felbridge, SJC 03/03, Felbridge Herb Gatherers, SJC01/04, Shopping in Felbridge Pt.I, SJC 07/10, Felbridge Village Halls, SJC 01/12, and Felbridge WI Celebrating 90 Years, SJC11/14].


Few records or documented memories survive of the early days of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club but it is known that they met weekly at the St Johns (Felbridge) Institute.  To raise funds for the Club and other good causes they held a regular sale of goods that included home-made preserves and home-grown produce, along with games-of-chance stalls like Bran Tub.  For entertainment, members of the Club put on short sketches and when the Coronation Room was opened at the Institute in June 1958, members of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club performed as part of the Variety Concert at the opening ceremony [for further information see Handout, Felbridge Village Halls, SJC 01/12].  They also held an annual Birthday Party to celebrate the establishment of the Club.  From surviving records and photographs, the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club of the 1950’s and early 1960’s appears to be fairly equally attended by both males and females. 


In September 1964 the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club acquired a new WVS leader by the name of Miss Lily Pain (sometimes written in the Felbridge Darby and Joan archive as Payne), who came from Oxted.  Her arrival appears to have invigorated the Club with the membership rising to a record seventy members by 1965.  Lily also increased the number and variety of activities available at the Club.  One of the most popular activities was an afternoon of games such as cribbage and darts that went on to lead to matches against other local branches of the Darby and Joan Club.  Mystery coach tours were introduced and also proved to be very popular taking up to seventy members to places like Drusilla’s in Alfriston, Sussex, or a day trip to Folkestone or an evening at the Fols-de-Rols at the Winter Gardens at Eastbourne for a little Music Hall entertainment.  Talks, such as Around the World in 45 Minutes, were also arranged from ‘interesting personalities’.


Members came from far and wide to the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club including Chartham Park, the newly built Garden Wood estate, Ship Street, West Street and Sackville College in East Grinstead and Sackville Gardens and Halsford Green at North End.  The average attendance at the weekly meetings at this time was about sixty.

In 1965 the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club moved to the newly opened Felbridge Village Hall having helped to raise funds towards its construction.  They were the first local organisation to use the new premises, with meetings then being held on Thursdays.  During the 1960’s and 70’s coach trips continued to be popular with annual visits to various places of interest and theatre trips.  On occasion, the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club also organised holiday trips for their members, at least one to Pontins in Torquay.  The annual Birthday Parties continued; there was also an annual Christmas Lunch to look forward to and in 1965 the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club decided to introduce a Lunch Club (see below) based on the popularity of the Christmas Lunch. 


As before, the Club held regular sales of work, including hand-made toys and clothing and home-made cakes to raise funds to cover the costs of their annual trips and Christmas Lunch, and established an annual Christmas Fair held at the Felbridge Village Hall.


Up until the mid 1960’s the members of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club were fairly equally divided between men and women, with most couples participating in many other Felbridge clubs and societies such as the Felbridge Bowling Club, the Felbridge and District Horticultural Society [for further information see Handout, Felbridge Horticultural Society, SJC 09/11], and for women only, the Felbridge WI [for further information see Handout, Felbridge WI Celebrating 90 Years, SJC11/14].  However, as the 1970’s approached the dynamics of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club began to change with the loss of several male members such as Charlie Wheeler, a corner stone of the Felbridge community being a founder member of the Felbridge Parish Council [for further information see Handout, Civil Parish of Felbridge, SJC 03/03] and most of the Felbridge clubs and societies. He was also a shopkeeper, establishing Wheeler’s Stores in Rowplatt   Lane in 1925 with his wife Dora [for further information see Handout, Shopping in the Felbridge Area Pt. I, SJC07/10], as well as singing in the choir at St John’s church for over sixty years and being instrumental to the construction of both the St John (Felbridge) Institute and the new Felbridge Village Hall [for further information see Handout, Felbridge Village Halls, SJC 01/12].  However, by the end of the 1970’s most of the faces looking back at you in photographs of the weekly Felbridge Darby and Joan Club meetings and Luncheon Club are female.


During the 1970’s and 80’s the number of Felbridge Darby and Joan Club members was beginning to fall even though the population of the Felbridge community was growing due to the construction of housing developments like Felbridge Court and Warren Close.  The new housing developments changed the demography of the Felbridge community, introducing a younger element to the population with different priorities and ideas of socialising, thus by 1990 members of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club numbered just thirty.  Founder members such as Mrs Hawthorn and Miss Ellen Humphries had been replaced by a new band of organisers such as Christine Harris of Oak Farm, Crawley Down Road, Joyce Lake of Burnt Oak, 136, Copthorne Road, Anne Middleton of Little Oak, 47, Copthorne   Road and Grace Taylor of Wild Meadow, Rowplatt Lane.


Grace was born in 1927 and married Roy Taylor, living first in Portland Road, East Grinstead before moving to Wild Meadow, Rowplatt   Lane, Felbridge, in 1969.  She was a member of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club (recorded in their archive as Outings Secretary) and also a member of the local WRVS branch.  During the late 1980’s Grace regularly attended WRVS Training Sessions such as: the Role of WRVS in Emergencies, Rest Centre, Emergency Feeding, Fire Prevention, First Aid, Information Point and Outdoor Cooking; the last session held at the Felbridge Village Hall grounds and organised by Milly Odell.  The aim of this session was to learn how to cook a lunch using emergency equipment in a field kitchen.  The equipment consisted of a Calor Gas Boiler, a Trench Cooker and Hob (a brick construction fuelled by a wood fire), a Soya Boiler (tank boiler/cooker fuelled by liquid propane gas) and Pug Dixies (3-gallon cooking pots surrounded by pug [mud and water mix] for insulation).  Those attending had to prepare the food and cook a meal of sausages with potatoes and onions followed by cooked fruit and custard and then clear away and wash up.  It is not known whether Grace and those attending also had to build the Trench Cooker and Hob, Soya Boiler and Pug Dixies, although clear instructions can be found in the Handbook on WRVS Emergency Welfare Work that every member was given.  It is clear from the amendment pages inserted in Grace’s Handbook that the WRVS took the threat of the Cold War very seriously during the 1980’s with women like Grace being trained in what to do in the event of a nuclear emergency.  Each Training Session attended was marked off and dated on the WRVS members Record of Training, a small card that had to be carried with them if called to attend any emergency.


Returning to the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club in the late 1980’ and early 1990’s, the format of the meetings appears to have remained unchanged from its conception.  They still held sales of work to boost their funds, selling gifts, toys, bric-a-brac, knitted goods, nearly new items, home-grown produce such as apples, plants and cakes, as well as an occasional opportunity to participate in a raffle.  As well as amusements such as Bingo and short sketches being performed at meetings, inter branch trips were still arranged, in particular with the Hollington Darby and Joan Club of St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, along with coach trips to places of interest such as Canterbury, Birling Gap, Guildford Cathedral, Eastbourne, Ditchling and an annual Cream Tea at Gill Hope Farm, Mayfield, Sussex.


However, numbers were dwindling and the following advertisement was placed in Felbridge Parish News in October 1991 and what is apparent is that the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club was still a weekly event aimed at the older generation.

Felbridge Darby and Joan Club

Our Club, for the over 60’s, meets every Monday in the [Felbridge] Village Hall.  We would like to welcome more members and invite all those interested to come along at 1.30 for an afternoon of pleasant company.  Afternoon Tea is served before we finish at 4.00.  Ladies or Gentlemen, you will be most welcome.  Weekly subscription is 20p.


From the Felbridge Darby and Joan archive, one can get an idea of what a typical Afternoon Tea consisted of.  A menu from 1992 included a ‘Savoury selection’ followed by ‘Apple Strudel, Orange Bar Cake and Toffee Bar Cake’, obviously accompanied by a cup of tea, and a menu from 1994 recorded an assortment of sandwiches including cheese, fish paste and cucumber, egg and cress and sandwich spread with a choice of brown or white bread, followed by cakes including Lemon Cake, Jaffa Log, Crunch Cake, apple pies and scones with strawberries and cream.


The Felbridge Darby and Joan Club still supported various charitable organisations and made donations to several worthy local causes, such as St John Ambulance and the EG-Bus, the community minibus in 1995.  By the end of the end of the 1990’s interest in the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club had dwindled still further and by the turn of the millennium the only remaining remnant of the once weekly Felbridge Darby and Joan Club was the Felbridge Luncheon Club.


Felbridge Darby and Joan Luncheon Club

The first Felbridge Darby and Joan Luncheon Club was held at Felbridge Village Hall in 1965 that was organised by Mrs R N Wimshurst of the WVS, Joan Laker, Area Organiser, aided by Mrs Picton-Turberville and chief cook Jean Blacker, together with a group of twenty Young Wives of Felbridge.  In attendance, alongside the Club Leader Lily Pain, were invited guests including: Nancy McIver (Felbridge Parish Council), Rev. Leslie Walters (St John’sChurch), Mrs J Hawthorn (WVS Organiser) and Miss Round (a long-standing member of the WVS).


The lunch proved so popular that it went on to become a weekly event and had to be limited to 30 people.  The Luncheon Club format was that it started at 11.30am with coffee and biscuits, after which members could chat and play cards until lunch was served.  A small charge was made for each lunch and additional funding was raised through donations and monies from the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club sales of works.


By 1972 the Felbridge Darby and Joan Luncheon Club was known as the Felbridge Over 60’s Luncheon Club and, along with the weekly luncheon, the annual Christmas lunch had become incorporated as part of the Luncheon Club.  The format for the Christmas lunch included a traditional Christmas dinner followed by entertainment, which in 1972 was in the form of a dancing display provided by pupils of IfieldComprehensiveSchool.  The afternoon was rounded off by Afternoon Tea including a cup of tea and mince pies.  The event was obviously very popular as over ninety people attended the Christmas lunch at the Felbridge Village Hall in 1972.


No records survive relating to the Felbridge Over 60’s Luncheon Club for the 1980’s but the following advertisement was placed in Felbridge Parish News in October 1991 and what is apparent is that the original Felbridge Darby and Joan Club Luncheon Club was still a weekly event and was additional to the weekly meetings of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club.


Felbridge Lunch Club – Village Hall

The Lunch Club for 60’s plus has been in existence for over 20 years, meeting every Thursday.  We now need new members to swell our numbers.  The Hall opens at 10.30 a.m. and members are welcome to come along then and enjoy morning coffee and biscuits, play cards or just chat to friends.  A substantial two-course meal followed by a cup of tea is served at 12.30 and costs £1.00.


From the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club archives one can get an idea of the sort of lunch provided.  In 1994, under the title Special Lunch, the menu consisted of a corn beef salad with potatoes, beetroot, lettuce, cucumber, spring onions, tomatoes and coleslaw with brown bread, followed by jelly, fruit salad (tinned) and cream.  A typical Christmas Lunch consisted of wine (Liebfraumilch) and sherry, turkey (2 x 26lb, boned and rolled), chipolata sausages, streaky bacon, stuffing balls, roast potatoes, sprouts, carrots and bread sauce, followed by Christmas pudding.


Felbridge Lunch Club cooks from the mid 1990’s included Mrs Chandler and Mrs Newman and, from the limited documents in the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club archive, some form of WRVS Meals on Wheels was still in operation in Felbridge at that time but whether this still fell under the remit of Phil Yeats, the WRVS organisers of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club or the Felbridge Lunch Club is unclear, although the number receiving meals on wheels seems to be low and there is no mention of frequency.  However, it is recorded that Meals on Wheels payments to the Felbridge Luncheon Club for the Christmas dinner in 1993 amounted to £6.85 (the cost to Felbridge Darby and Joan members being £2 a head). 


In 1998 there was a review of Meals on Wheels within the Tandridge area with the objective to make the service more standardised.  The review identified that non WRVS volunteers required essential training with regards to food hygiene and it noted that the ‘Felbridge Luncheon Club is the only provider that has declined to attend this training and has subsequently opted to continue its service without further subsidy from the Council’.  This would imply that prior to the review the Felbridge Luncheon Club had been in receipt of a subsidy from TDC towards the cost of providing Meals on Wheels for the elderly in the area. 


By the turn of the millennium, and despite the closure of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club, the Felbridge Luncheon Club was still in operation, then under the direction of Milly Odell, a WRVS member whose name first appears in the Felbridge Darby and Joan Club archive from the mid 1980’s.  Over the years the number of male attendees of the Felbridge Luncheon Club dropped to the point that in 2001 the club was known as the Felbridge Ladies Luncheon Club.  The frequency of lunches had also dropped, meeting only on every 3rd Thursday of each month at the Felbridge Village Hall.


Milly as sole cook, together with a small band of volunteers, continued to run the Felbridge Luncheon Club almost to her death in 2011 when Mary Taplin took over.  Mary had worked with Milly since the early 2000’s and at that time there were still about four ladies who arrived early for coffee and biscuits and play cards before the lunch.  Gradually this practise died out and members just attended the lunch.  On the passing of Milly, Mary assumed the role of sole cook.   


In 2012 the Lunch Club was advertised ‘for the retired’, meeting on every 3rd Thursday of every month in the Felbridge Village Hall between 12 noon and 1.30pm, providing a 2-course meal at the cost of £3.00, the meal changing every month.  ‘All retirees welcome’.  The meals were varied, with a hot main course such as a roast or breast of chicken in a sauce (‘which was very popular’) and assorted vegetables followed by a dessert.  The number of attendees ranged between twenty and twenty-five and by 2012 consisted, once again, of both males and females.


Mary Taplin and her little group of ladies cooked their last lunch in December 2013 when the Felbridge Luncheon Club ceased, due to a lack of volunteers.  However, after a few months it was resurrected in April 2014 by Ros White with a new group of volunteers.


Felbridge Luncheon Club

The first re-launched Felbridge Luncheon Club was held on Thursday 17th April 2014 and over twenty retired people attended it.  Local Councillor Ken Harwood and his wife Felbridge Parish Councillor Joan were both there to lend a hand with the serving.  When interviewed by the local newspaper about the re-launch, Ken Harwood explained:

‘This is a completely new team and we have some younger people helping out as well which is fantastic.  Because we were starting from scratch there was no money in the kitty, so all the volunteers reached into their own pockets to buy the food on the day.  I think it is very important that we keep this sort of function going in our community for lots of reasons.  It is a known fact that loneliness is a key factor associated with ill health.  To enable people to come to such a function and to enjoy not only excellent food but also the company of others is vital.  The success of the project depends upon two things really.  People need to attend and get friends/neighbours to join them, and the project needs volunteers to help with the cooking and serving of the meal’.


The newspaper article continued:

‘The service provided a greatly valued social occasion for the members of the elderly community before it stopped due to lack of volunteers, but it was re-launched with the help of Parish Clerk Ros White, after she appealed for new helpers.  Ken Harwood says it will still need people to keep it going.  It didn't stop because there was a lack of demand, it stopped because people are people and the volunteers inevitably move on to other things’.


At the re-launch the attendees were asked if they wanted bingo or music or ‘anything else like that’.  The reply was 'No' – they just wanted to come along to meet up for a chat and have a meal cooked for them.  Since the re-launch, the Felbridge Luncheon Club has received a grant from the Felbridge Parish Council to buy equipment and it has managed to negotiate a competitive rate for the hire of the hall and a discount with AS Fry, butchers of East Grinstead, which, together with the occasional donation of fruit and vegetables grown by local residents, means that the cost of the meals can be covered at just £5 a head.


The current Felbridge Luncheon Club offers a 2-course freshly cooked meal (meat and two veg; roasts, cottage pie, chicken dishes – ‘nothing too fancy’) followed by a dessert and custard or cream (crumbles, pies, upside-down puddings, trifles, fruit flans etc); one volunteer stating ‘They don't eat a lot of vegetables but all like the puddings, especially the men!’   After the meal, tea or coffee and biscuits or chocolate are served.  It would seem then that eating habits have not changed very much since the conception of the Felbridge Darby and Joan Luncheon Club back in 1965 with most attendees liking the more traditional meals.  A typical lunch (17th October 2015) to be had at the Club is something like roast beef or chicken, with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, cabbage, carrots and swede, followed by apple pie and custard and rounded off with coffee and a chocolate biscuit.


In December 2014, a traditional Christmas dinner was served with all the trimmings and after the meal the attendees were entertained by a performance of the Nativity by children of the Felbridge Stay and PlayPre-School who also share the facilities of the Felbridge Village Hall.

The Felbridge Luncheon Club still meets on every 3rd Thursday at the Felbridge Village Hall from 12 noon and attendees number upwards of 35, of which ten to twelve are men and the remainder women.  The regular volunteers are Jenny Curtis, Rosemary Greener, Paula Griffin, Jane Howard, Sue Karaolis, Elaine Short, Margaret Waters and Ros White.  The volunteers no longer have connections with the Royal Voluntary Service (as the WRVS became known in 2013) but are simply a band of ladies offering their time and services for free, exactly like the vision that Lady Stella Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading, had in 1938 when she declared that voluntary service was not ‘cheap labour’ but was ‘the gift of a thoughtful person of their skill, their energy and their time’.



Royal Voluntary Service,   

Handout, Nancy McIver and Woodcock, JIC/SJC 05/15, FHWS

Felbridge Parish and People, 1976, FHA

Felbridge Parish and People, Millennium Edition, 1999, FHA

Meals on Wheels for two Villages, Local newspaper article, (undated, sometime between 1968 and 1974), FHA

Handout, FelbridgeWI Celebrating 90 Years, SJC 11/14, FHWS

Townsfolk rally round for refugees, EG Courier article, October 1972, FHA

The History of The Grange and its occupants by B & L Dighton

Handout, Yew Lodge, SJC 03/04, FHWS

Mackenzie/Webster marriage, 1932, Aberdeen Journal 23/08/32, FHA

Mackenzie Engineering Ltd, (Dissolved), London Gazette, 21/06/66, FHA

Chartham Park, EG Courier article, 19/2/1981, FHA

Darby and Joan Club (1942), British Pathé

The Gentleman’s Magazine, 1735

Mrs Wheeler’s Scrapbook, FHA

Darby & Joan Club sale, Local newspaper article, 1963, FHA

Darby & Joan Club sale, Local newspaper article, 1965, FHA

Handout, Pattenden Family of Felbridge, SJC 07/01, FHWS

Handout, Civil Parish of Felbridge, SJC 03/03, FHWS

Handout, Felbridge Herb Gatherers, SJC01/04, FHWS

Handout, Shopping in Felbridge Pt.I, SJC 07/10, FHWS

Handout, Felbridge Village Halls, SJC 01/12, FHWS

Darby and Joan Club is first to use Hall, Local newspaper article, 1965, FHA

Handout FelbridgeWI Celebrating 90 Years, SJC11/14, FHWS

Murdo Mackenzie probate, 1959,

Nell Mackenzie obituary, Local Newspaper, 1971, FHA

The Felbridge Darby and Joan Scrapbook, 1966 – 1992, FHA

The Felbridge Darby and Joan Minute Books, 1982 – 1993, FHA

The Felbridge Darby and Joan Accounting Documents, 1982 – 1993, FHA

Inter-Club games are a hit with old folk, Local Newspaper article, 1965, FHA

Handout, Felbridge Horticultural Society, SJC 09/11, FHWS

A Handbook on WRVS Emergency Welfare Work, FHA

WRVS Emergency Services, Outdoor Cooking Exercise, 1988, FHA

Felbridge Over 60’s Christmas Lunch, Local Newspaper article, Dec 1972, FHA

Felbridge Parish News, October 1991, FHA

TDC Review of Meals on Wheels, Oct, 1998, FHA

Death of Milly Odell, FPC minutes, Nov, 2011, FHA

Documented memories of M Taplin, FHA

Felbridge Lunch Club advertisement, Felbridge Parish News, June 2012, FHA

Documented memories of R White, Oct, 2015, FHA

Luncheon Club for Felbridge elderly, EG Courier, 27th April, 2015, FHA

Texts of all Handouts referred to in this document can be found on FHG website:

SJC 11/15