By Dot Long of Didcot and District Archaeological and Historical Society

FOLLOWING on from my previous articles on Townswomen’s Guild (Herald Series, Heralding the Past, 14/02/18 & 11/04/18) I decided to look into the definition of the word guild.

Dictionary definition: Guild:- (n) society for mutual aid or with common object; medieval association of craftsmen or merchants:

Guildhall:- hall in which medieval guild met, town hall.

I concluded that a guild is a group of like-minded people with a common interest, improving their and their fellow members' circumstances where possible.

In modern times these groups could also be called cooperatives.

This led me to a photograph in my family collection of the Didcot Co-op Guild, celebrating the ‘Whole World Community’, taken in the early 1950s (my mother is at the front of the picture) and two of parties taken in the Labour Club upstairs room – one celebrating a children’s Christmas party, the other a guild members function.

The early cooperative movement c.1928 was heavily involved in trade unionism and with the Labour party.

Didcot party meetings took place in the Cooperative shop in Station Road, later moving to the Labour Club building on the corner of Lydall’s Road and Station Road.

I discovered that the Labour Club upstairs room was used as the meeting place for the local community centre until the building in Station Road became ‘The Centre’.

The upstairs room at the Labour Club is the one I remember because as a young child I would be taken, with my mother, when she went to her afternoon Co-op Guild meetings.

There were very few nurseries at the time and so, before school age, I and many other children like me would go with our mothers to meetings of their chosen community group, the Co-op Guild being one of them.

There were fewer working mothers then and the nurseries tended to be used by the women who went out to work, especially at the end of the Second World War.

Although the hall in the upstairs room of the Labour Club building was used for the Co-op Guild meetings there was no political affiliation with the Labour Party, as far as I am aware, at that time.

However the ethos of community spirit and caring for the local people meant that it was acceptable to use the premises.

Groups of socially-minded people would use the facilities for the benefit of the townspeople.

Guild members would organise activities, jumble sales, children’s parties and coach outings to the seaside, usually ‘Little Hampton’ which was a safe beach to go to.

One particular coach outing I remember was to ‘California in England’ in Surrey. I visited there recently with fond memories of the days when the summers were always hot.