The Guild was formed in 1882 when the Matron of an orphanage in Dorset asked Lady Wolverton if she could provide 24 pairs of hand knitted socks and 12 jerseys for the children. This gave Lady Wolverton the inspiration of starting a small Guild amongst her friends to provide not less than two garments a year each to help the orphanage and other Charities. After a year they had attracted 460 members. In 1885 a friend of Lady Wolverton’s, Her Royal Highness Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck (mother of the future Queen Mary) became Patron of “The London Guild”. The Guild was re named in 1889 to “The London Needlework Guild”.
In 1885 Mrs Harpence from Philadelphia founded an American branch of The Guild called The Needlework Guild of America. The NGA, as it is known today, has just celebrated its 125th Birthday and continues to provide thousands of clothes to the poor and needy all over the United States of America. www.nga-inc.org
A report in the Archive shows that by 1886 “there were received by Presidents, articles to the number of 14,299”. In 1894, the year Lady Wolverton died, 52,289 garments were distributed, a remarkable feat when you remember that most were hand made.
Queen Mary’s Patronage 1898 – 1953
On the death of her mother in 1897 Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York, later Queen Mary, became our Patron. Queen Mary had worked for the Guild from her early youth, leading her own Group of friends and associates. The Guild was said to be her favourite Charity as it was the first one to arouse her interest. The Guild was now distributing parcels to hospitals and parishes all over London.
The years spanning the Great War had a large impact on The Guild. In 1914 the London Needlework Guild’s name was changed to “Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild” and as part of the war effort literally hundreds of thousands of garments were packed up and sent out to troops overseas. Queen Mary requested garments and parcels to be sent to Friary Court, St. James’s Palace, London, where, to this day we still coordinate the distribution of clothing to the UK Charities the Guild continues to help. Her Majesty was very much in charge during this time and there was a book printed to cover the work of the Guild from 1914 – 1919.
The years between the wars saw the Queen Mary’s London Needlework Guild producing an average of 60,000 garments a year. However, the Second World War brought many difficulties. By the time hostilities ceased, many county branches had more or less dropped out and the number of garments for yearly distribution had decreased. Her Majesty, realising there was still a pressing need to provide clothing for the poor, did much by her council and guidance to re-ignite the flame. The Report for 1950 shows 14,843 garments were sent out to 130 Charities.
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Patronage 1953 – 2002
In 1953 after the death of Queen Mary, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother became the Patron and the Guild continued to flourish producing 15,000 or more garments each year.
Her Majesty was a wonderful supporter of the Guild and rarely failed to attend Packing Week at St. James’s Palace. Her Majesty usually presided over the Annual General Meeting and gave all the Presidents a wonderful tea each year when it was over. Her Majesty was much loved by all within the Guild, she always had time to talk to knitters and Charity Representatives who attended the Annual View Day.
In 1986 the name of the Guild was changed to “Queen Mary’s Clothing Guild” as this was considered more descriptive of the work of the Charity.
The Royal Group
In 1911 Her Royal Highness Princess Mary, later The Princess Royal, formed her own Group which on her death in 1966 was taken over by Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon.
In 2002 on the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, their two Groups were amalgamated and are now known as The Royal Group whose members still take their contributions to the Guild extremely seriously and regularly produce 3,000 or more garments each year.
Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra
In 2003 Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, the Hon Lady Ogilvy became our Patron and continues to give us wonderful support during our annual Packing Week at St. James’s Palace; indeed some of the Charities who receive clothing from us also have Her Royal Highness as their Patron.
On Thursday 22nd November 2007 we celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the founding of Queen Mary’s Clothing Guild and Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra graciously attended the service we held at The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy.
On the 29th of April 2010 the name of the Guild was changed to Queen Mother’s Clothing Guild as a tribute to the late Queen Mother who was the Charity’s Patron from 1953 until her death in 2002.