March 7, 2024

Celebrating Hilda Wicksteed

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, it is important that we turn our attention to a remarkable woman who helped shape the very fabric of Wicksteed Park. Hilda Wicksteed was born on the 3rd of August 1884 to parents Charles and May. She grew up alongside older brothers Arnold and Ralph.

Hilda’s love for animals began early in life, marked by her first pet, a rat named Tiny, at the tender age of five in 1889. A string of companions, including her adoption of a stray cat named Puss in 1892 and the adoption of a dog named Titch in 1899, established Hilda’s deep bond with animals through her formative years. This connection with animals is reflected in her work when she reached adulthood.

In 1899, Hilda was sent to Roedean Boarding School where she stayed until the summer term in 1903. Hilda’s education was a stepping stone to her later role as a champion for both education and animal welfare.

Hilda’s journey continued with the publication of “Titch: The Story of a Dog” in 1920. The story contained a heartfelt narrative that captured the hearts of readers and critics alike. When Hilda presented a copy to her old school library, it was reviewed favourably by their school magazine.

When Hilda became District Commissioner, she organized a memorable Girl Guides rally at Wicksteed Park in 1921, showcasing her commitment to community engagement and empowerment. Within the same year, Hilda also presented athletics prizes for Kettering High School for Girls at the park, as well as holding a fundraising event for St John Ambulance and a garden party for the Liberal Association at Bryn Hafod.

On the 2nd of December 1924, Hilda founded a new branch of the RSPCA, further solidifying her commitment to the welfare of animals in Kettering, Thrapston, and Wellingborough. Hilda was the Honorary Secretary of both this branch and its auxiliary branch of Kettering. Only a few years earlier, in 1922, her devotion to this cause manifested in a touching testament to her connection with her animals in the publication of “Titch and Jock”.

Charles Wicksteed died on the 19th of March 1931, and Hilda became a joint trustee and executor. She was also bequeathed all of Charles’ cars, motor accessories, and articles of personal domestic and garden use. Alongside this, she also received preference shares in her father’s engineering company (equally with her two older brothers) and shares in the Tinsley Park Colliery Company. Hilda became Chairman of Wicksteed Village Trust and chaired her first meeting on the 28th of April that year.

Hilda Wicksteed’s passing in 1950 left behind a legacy that continues to resonate within the very soul of Wicksteed Park. The Hilda Memorial Gates, installed in 1951, stand as a tribute to her love for the park and its visitors. Her bequest of the copyright of her books to the Wicksteed Village Trust ensures that her stories and advocacy endure through time. Hilda’s legacy lives on, inspiring generations to come to embrace the values of love, community, and respect for all living beings.

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