This Church women's organisation was founded in 1876 by Mary Sumner, wife of a Hampshire rector. Our local branch came into being after a meeting of “mothers” from Hunton, Yalding and Collier Street, on Tuesday 25th of February 1908 at Cheveney Institute. The meeting discussed the possibility of forming a branch of the above Union for these parishes, and was addressed by Mrs Harmer, wife of the Bishop of the Diocese. An enrolment Service was held in the Parish Church on Friday March 27th, at which Mr Lace gave a `capital' address to explain the purpose and advantages to be derived from joining it, and at the close 27 members joined. The following month on April 13th 13 more members joined. At the invitation of Miss Warde, members were entertained at tea at the Parsonage on Thursday afternoon August 13th that same year. In spite of the showery weather, the most venturesome of the party embarked on one of Mr Freeman's boats, which carried them - some for the first time in their lives - up and down the river several times much to their enjoyment. Several more members were admitted at a service on November 2nd that initial year, when in the address given by Rev. W F Cobb he told of his Indian experiences.
In 1909 members had a summer gathering at the vicarage on Tuesday August 31st. The mothers were able to “put back the clock, forget the cares and worries of life for an hour or two, and seemingly really enjoy playing many of the old games of their younger days, such as `throwing the handkerchief', `oranges and lemons', `nuts in May', how we laughed, and and how young we felt for the moment.”
Other than the routine meetings, there was an Annual Service each year held on Lady Day, March 25th which in 1912 was a Sunday, and on the following day some forty members attended an interesting address by Miss Marshall of Blackheath, on `Women and Girl Life in India and China'.
In 1905 Ethel Millicent Wood, daughter of Dr Edward Joshua Wood, married James Upton Yonge, a Clerk in Holy Orders from Merifield in Cornwall. They went as missionaries to Madagascar in 1912, from where Millicent kept her home village informed of events, and in February 1913 started a branch of the M U in the village next to St Paul's College, Ambatonaranana. It took a few months for the women to grasp its meanings as they were very suspicious of each other.
On Thursday 14th October 1920, 30 members enjoyed an outing, in two motor lorries, to Four Elms, the home of a previous curate and his wife, Mr and Mrs Lace. Attendance at meetings lapsed a bit during the F W War, but were revived after. The usual venue was the Parish Room in the Swan Flats (as we know them), and on November 15th 1921 some 20 members spent a pleasant evening playing games and listened to an interesting reading by Miss Hooker. There was a small library from which members could obtain books on payment of 1d. each.
Regular fortnightly meetings appear to have been the pattern for some time for this group, with a constant flow of speakers on a variety of subjects. On Tuesday December 6th 1939, Rev'd J Watt, vicar of Boxley, gave an interesting Talk on `Family Life' then and of centuries before, to a large congregation. Seven days later fifty members enjoyed another interesting lecture, on `Birds of Kent' that was given by the vicar, the Rev'd J R Hale a great authority on all our British birds.
The Mothers Union has maintained a regular pattern of monthly meetings, with talks and discussions, and special emphasis on church events such as Mothering Sunday, the tea tent at the Church Fete, and more recently Christmas Christingle services. They currently have a membership of nineteen that meet on the last Wednesday of each month, usually at a member's house. Their meetings start with refreshments, followed by a short service, then deal with any business matters, and conclude with a talk of about thirty minutes.
One item that has recently become an annual social event is a Rounders Match, held at the school, where the Mother's Union play against `The Rest of the World'. They usually organise events at which husbands and friends are invited, which in the summer is a bring and share supper at the Coach House, and a Christmas meal at a local venue. There may be extra events that they wish to partake in, and the Millennium year it was in a Lady Day Service at Rochester Cathedral, running the toiletries stall at Matfield for the Overseas Day, and a refreshment stall for the Arts Festival Week.