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The Lilian Benson article is part of the Celebration of Bishopsteignton Women series in honour of International Women’s Day.

Lilian lived in Bishopsteignton in the 1930s and 40s, and for some of this time at least, she lived at Murley Grange. Lilian was elected the first president of the Bishopsteignton Women’s Institute (WI), from its inception on the 9th December 1938, until 1945. Lilian’s daughter, then Miss J. M. Benson, was also a founder member and was there at its 21st birthday celebration in 1959.

In the 1940s, as president of the WI, Lilian managed the WI’s efforts to help relocate evacuees to Bishpsteignton and the surrounding area, and helping them to settle in the unfamiliar surroundings. In October 1940 Lilian received a letter from Newton District Council asking for help with regard to equipping and getting Coles Barn Cottage ready for evacuated mothers and children.

womens institute members attending a village show in the 1970s

Members of Bishopsteignton WI admiring crafts at the village show in 1975.

“Lilian was elected the first president of the Bishopsteignton Women’s Institute”

During the war Lilian also organised the Bishopsteignton WI in looking after the troops based at Huntly in the village. Many of the men had been at Dunkirk, and were short on clothing. The WI worked alongside the Women’s British Legion to provide shirts, mending, laundry and hospitality. In fact, Lilian was also responsible for setting up a grant to support the work at Huntly. Lilian even played a key part in the village’s efforts to collect medicinal herbs in response to the shortage of medicines in Britain in the 1940s. This shortage was due to the disruption of drug shipments from Europe, as a result of the German occupation. Lilian set up her home at Murley Grange as a collection point and organised the transportation of herbs to Dartington for drying.[1] After the war Lilian moved to Gloucestershire and died in Cirencester in 1958.
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1 Sarah Cockerton, ‘Jam and Jerusalem’, Bishopsteignton Heritage, (April 2020),