About Us

The Tilly WIdgets are a women’s institute in North Hampshire. The WI plays a unique role  in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to develop new skills, experience a wide range of activities and campaign on issues that matter to members and communities. You can find out about the WI here.

The Tilly WIdgets are a modern WI with a wide age range of members .With the WI principles at the heart of what we do, we progressively tackle issues that are important and relevant to today’s women and society as a whole. Our meetings are a place where women of all ages and experiences from the local community can come together to share interests, learn new skills and most importantly enjoy themselves.

Our meetings are on the second Wednesday of the month, 7:30pm at Trinity Church Hall , Fernhill Road, Blackwater, GU17 9BN. Each month we have a speaker or  demonstration to learn new information or skills. We try and arrange speakers on current topics and campaign issues so that we can make informed choices and have debate when the yearly resolution is voted on.

People are intrigued by our name, in fact an abridged version of the history appeared in WI Life, here is the full story: Who would have thought such a small town could have such a big history?  Farnborough, Hampshire, the burial site of the exiled Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugenie and their only son, killed in the Zulu wars.  Also the scene of “the fight that changed boxing forever” in 1860 between an American named Heenan and Tom Sayers, a bit of a celebrity in his time and now buried in Highgate cemetery and highlighted in any tour of the same.  Those present included the Prince of Wales, Charles Dickens and the then Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, who got into a spot of bother for observing the 147 minutes of ungoverned wild scramble eventually broken up by the Police.  Most proudly, Farnborough proclaims its heritage as the home of aviation and it is from this background that we remember a very inspirational woman.  Beatrice (Tilly) Shilling, a racing motorcyclist in her spare time with a career as an aeronautical engineer (and as one fellow scientist described her “a flaming pathfinder of women’s lib”), invented a widget which would prevent the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine in fighter planes in WW2 from being flooded with fuel and stalling whilst performing divebombing type manoeuvres.  Popular with RAF pilots in the day, they referred to the widget which took the form of a small disc with a hole in the centre as the “Tilly Orifice”.  We thought “Tilly WIdgets” was more ladylike and happily already contained “WI” and so our name was chosen!!

If you’d like to know more about Beatrice Shilling, here’s an article written about her in 2011 by Esther Blaine, Public Relations Manager at the Imperial War Museum Duxford Women in Aviation – Beatrice Shilling

If you would like to join us, please contact our Secretary Sylvia at tillywidgets.membership2@gmail.com

We would be pleased to welcome you as a visitor to see if Tilly WIdgets WI is for you, but ask that after two meetings you join  us officially.