Hilda Taylor’s journey with Christian Aid, with Christ Mort,  from before the beginning of the present Christian Aid charity.  

Picture right:  Hilda and Chris – familiar faces in Wivenhoe. 

Hilda was Headmistress of Broomgrove Infants School from 1970 to 1986.

Hilda Taylor and Chris Mort - 2007
Hilda Taylor

Hilda Taylor

I first became aware of poverty in this country when our family moved from Rossendale to Oldham, a few miles away; both in Lancashire. This was in 1934 when I was eight years old.

My father became the minister of Mount Pleasant Mission, a Church with no denomination. Before the 1870 Education Act, when school attendance became compulsory, it was then a ‘Ragged School’ for children whose parents could not afford to pay for their education. Following the Education Act it became a Church, supported by other Churches in the area.In the nineteen thirties there were still many poor families in the area. Most of my father’s work can be described as ‘social work’.

During the War I was in the Land Army in the Gloucester area, from 1944 to 1946. When I returned home I was asked to be the Captain of the Girls’ Life Brigade, in the Church, and I agreed. It was similar to the Girl Guides.

My father died in 1948 at the age of 55.

One day, in 1954, I saw a very large poster opposite the Church on which there was a picture of an old woman. She was sitting on a railway station in India, waiting for a train which never came. There was also information about poverty in India, and other countries. The charity was then called InterChurch Aid and Refugee Service.

I then went into the Church and spoke to someone there about the poster. He said, "It has nothing to do with us!". I replied "It has something to do with me." I then decided to organise concerts to raise money for this charity, with the Girls’ Life Brigade members. Chris Mort belonged to the G.L.B. and she was very supportive, along with the other girls.

This continued and, in 1957 we were involved in the first Christian Aid Week, which was organised by InterChurch Aid and Refugee Service, nationally. We collected in the streets and knocked on doors with collecting boxes.

Chris Mort

Chris Mort

Other members of the Mission Church, and other Churches in the area became involved.

In 1959 I moved to Hampshire to teach in a school in Eastleigh. I rented a room in Chandlers Ford, where I discovered that the Methodist Church there was already very active, fundraising for Interchurch Aid, especially during Christian Aid Week. They had innovative ideas for drawing attention to problems of extreme poverty in the world, on the streets of the town. I then became a member of the Church and campaigned along with them.

In 1960 I moved to Harlow, where my mother joined me. There had been an InterChurch Aid and Refugee Service Group in the town, but the members were unable to continue with this work.

However, I discovered many very interested people, in many different Churches, and we re-started the InterChurch Aid Group, with Coffee Mornings and other fund-raising events. We had street collections and House-to-House collections during Christian Aid Week in May each year. Members of the Jewish Synagogue joined us also. On one occasion we shared a town event, which involved many other organisations. We had a very large delivery van, with open sides. It was divided into two parts. In one half, a group of well-dressed ‘rich’ people were sitting together and eating a meal. In the other half were desperately hungry people, who had nothing.

Chris Mort worked in London in the early sixties and shared InterChurch Aid and Refugee Services activities there. She and her mother came to Harlow in the early sixties, and she joined the InterChurch Aid and Refugee Service Group in Harlow. 

image In 1964 the name of the agency was "changed to CHRISTIAN AID. Harlow Churches are still actively involved with the charity.

When I arrived in Wivenhoe in the Spring of 1970 there was someone here who had been organising Christian Aid Week events. She asked me to become the Co-ordinator. I discovered that there were many very active members here and, some of them, went out together in groups, collecting during Christian Aid Week.

Christian Aid members also met together in Colchester, and this continues.

I started to keep records of Wivenhoe Christian Aid Week collections in 1972. The amount that year was �119.92, In 2007 it was �4,698.12 with �2,223.09 Gift Aided.

Chris continued to work with the Harlow group until she came here to Wivenhoe in 1977 and has shared Christian Aid Activities here since then.

Before and after I retired, I took a Counselling Course. I started counselling in the Chaplaincy and Counselling Centre in 1986, supervised by the official Counsellor. I made many friends on campus and, during Christian Aid Week each year, Chris Mort and others joined me to collect on campus in the University Square, the Hexagon Restaurant and in the Towers, where many students lived. We were able to leave collecting boxes in a few outlets also. We had an excellent response.

After I left the Chaplaincy and the Counselling Centre, we were able to continue Christian Aid Week collections on campus until someone else offered to arrange them.

The FAIRTRADE FOUNDATION was established as a separate charity in 1992, by agencies working together – CHRISTIAN AID, OXFAM, CAFOD, THE WORLD DEVELOPMENT MOVEMENT and TRAIDCRAFT EXCHANGE.


Hilda Taylor on Wivenhoe Quay with friends from Africa in the early 1970s


There is a FAIRTRADE FORTNIGHT each year in March. This agency monitors a wide range of goods and, if the workers, who produce the goods, receive a good, fair price for their work, then the FAIRTRADE MARK indicates this. There is also a RUG MARK by which we know that rugs have not been made by child slaves. The Transatlantic Slave Trade was abolished two hundred years ago, in 1807, but there is still a MODERN SLAVE TRADE.

Chris Mort and I have been Quakers for several years and I am the Christian Aid representative in Colchester Meeting. I work with the Children to mark Christian aid Week. They make a presentation to the adults afterwards.

I became a member of the Colchester Oxfam Group many years ago. Eventually we became the Colchester FAIRTRADE TOWN STEERING GROUP. We had many indoor and outdoor events.

On one occasion, we provided cups of hot coffee outside, in Lion Walk. The water was boiled in the FAIRTRADE shop, which was then a very short distance away. We noticed that some homeless men joined the queue!

We also spoke to children in schools and many of them are now registered as FAIRTRADE SCHOOLS, along with Churches and other groups, which have received a FAIRTRADE CERTIFICATE.

COLCHESTER is now registered as a FAIRTRADE TOWN but the FAIRTRADE FOUNDATION expects an annual report.

I have now left the Colchester Group and there is a focus upon this issue in Wivenhoe. The Wivenhoe Council has agreed to take a lead. All the Churches here have received a Certificate.


Hilda and Chris on a boat campaigning for debt cancellation for poor countries

One day, we hope to see a sign at the entrance to the town – WIVENHOE – A FAIRTRADE TOWN. 

We have been involved with many campaigning activities with Christian Aid nationally, including the issue of Poor Country Debt in Birmingham, London, Cologne and Genoa – travelling by coach and boat to the places abroad.

I have met Christian Aid partners through the years, here in this country. In 1991 I went with a group of volunteers to Palestine and Israel to meet partners there. We visited schools, hospitals, kindergartens, medical centres, agricultural and land reclamation projects. Christian Aid provides funding for these projects. We were invited into many village homes for coffee.


Chris (pictured above) and Hilda campaigning in Cologne

It was very encouraging to meet Jews, Christians and Muslims who were working together for peace.

2007 is the fiftieth anniversary of Christian Aid Week and we were invited to the Headquarters in London to celebrate this event, along with others who have been involved for many years. We have been there on several occasions before and, quite often, at the regional offices.

We were able to meet the people who are working there; some of them from other countries. It was a very encouraging and interesting event. 

On 2nd October 2007 we shared the LAST mile of a CUT THE CARBON march, to highlight the problem of global warming, which will affect millions of people in the poorest countries, who have not created the problem. This was organised by Christian Aid.  This ended with a service in St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Some of the marchers had walked 1,000 miles, and they had slept on Church floors and in other places. A few of them spoke to us about their journey as we stood outside the Cathedral. One of them was an African Muslim; Mohammed. We were told that the Jewish community was involved also.

The organisation of the House-to-House collections in Wivenhoe has now been handed over to three supportive friends, but we still want to be involved.

As Christian Aid has emphasized for some time: The Scales of Justice are not in balance.

Hilda Taylor

October 2007

Below: The Christian Aid Story. Not just raising money to help alleviate poverty, but campaigning too. 


Hilda and Chris run regular coffee mornings from their home. The one in October 2007 raised �250 with �60 gift aided.