The Mothers’ Union at St Mark’s Church

Due to dwindling numbers and members unable to serve on Committee or as Leader, sadly the Highcliffe Branch of the Mothers’ Union closed in July 2019. There was a branch here in Highcliffe in 1926 though we do not know how long it existed. As far as records show the current branch came into existence in the mid 1950s when there was an influx of members moving into the new housing developments. Members came from the Isle of Wight, St Albans, Bradford (a member since 1932), Devizes, Eltham, Eastbourne, Harpenden, Harrow, and Southbourne, reflecting the typical make up of Highcliffe folk, The first meeting is recorded as 17th September 1955, Mrs Boot,( from Eltham) was the Enrolling Member, with officers Mrs Chandler from Devises and Mrs Nicholson from Harpenden. By the end of September Mrs Ellis was co-opted onto the committee, her daughter Joy Snell is still a member with the Ringwood Branch. It seemed a regular occurrence to join with members from the Hinton Branch and the Young Wives. To date, I have not been able to find any records of a branch at Hinton.

Although there is a reference to a banner during the life of the earlier branch, 1957 saw the beginning of the current Banner. There is no actual correspondence but reference is made that on 18th January a letter was sent to Miss Spittle placing an order for her to make a banner for £40. Subsequent fundraising took place and the fund reached the sum of £34.4s.11d. several letters were sent, including one in January 1958 regarding cords and tassels for the banner. Our banner was dedicated at a service in Church on 20th March 1958.

In 1961 we dusted the church. During this time Mother’s Union was responsible for decorating the Pulpit for Festivals with a reminder that this was the oldest piece of carving in church, special care should be taken – NO Nails please.

I always enjoy the details given in old records; on 21st January 1982 members braved the “Arctic” conditions outside to attend the meeting. (I remember this time well as my Son John was born on 12th January 1982 and there was some doubt as to whether I would be able to get to the hospital - I did and over the next 10 days watched the snow melt on Old Winchester Hill).

Membership is still available in its many forms and some ladies from the branch have taken up Diocesan Membership. Further details of our work can be found on and  

Christine Clode, Archivist, Mothers’ Union Winchester Diocese

Celebrating Mary Sumner Day 9th August 2023

Members of the Mothers’ Union have recently had the privilege and pleasure of meeting our WorldWide President, Mrs Sheran Harper in and around the Diocese.  Since the ending of lockdown Sheran has been travelling from her home in Guyana to visit as many of our 4 million members around the world as possible.  She had never visited the Winchester Diocese and chose to come to celebrate our founder, Mary Sumner Day on 9th August.  Following our usual tradition we had a service of prayer in the Cathedral where Sheran spoke very movingly about projects she has visited.  This was followed by the laying of flowers on Mary’s grave and then coffee and fellowship in the new Wessex Hall.  Members travelled from far and wide and included the Diocesan Presidents of Bristol and our neighbours in Salisbury.   Sheran was accompanied by Kathryn Anderson, Provincial President of Canterbury, and Julia Jamieson, World Wide Council also from Canterbury and our own Trustees.   Bishop David entertained the ladies to lunch at Old Alresford and then presided over a service held at St Mary’s Church, the birth place of The Mothers’ Union.  Members from the Portsmouth Diocese also attended this service.

We were delighted to welcome our guests to St Mark’s Highcliffe the next day.  Members came from the branches of Mudeford, Christchurch and West Southbourne and a surprise visit from the Diocesan President of Coventry, Karen and her husband Paul.  After presentations we held our customary Mid-Day prayers, conducted by our Diocesan Chaplain, Revd. Terry Roberts and there followed our Bring and Share lunch giving us a time of fellowship together. Sheran was able to spend time with everyone.  She is such a joy and is so inspiring.  After her visit to us the party then travelled on to the Brockenhurst Branch to be entertained to one of their legendary teas.

Sheran, after visiting her sons who live in London, is now safely on her way to Madagascar to visit members there, followed by a well earned period of retreat before returning to her home.

Thank you to all members and parishioners who helped to make this day possible.  One to remember for many years to come.

Christine Clode.  Christchurch Deanery.