Mrs Jill Jennings is one of the oldest residents of Minchinhampton now but is still regularly seen out and about in the town, as well as weekly at church. She was born in April 1918 in Hay-on-Wye, where her father, the Rev John de Winton, was the vicar. The youngest of nine children, Jill was christened Nona—but she changed to Jilly when she married, at the wish of her husband.
Jill first attended a local Dame school but then, at 11, went away to Wantage whilst her siblings were educated at a variety of schools elsewhere. They all got together again in the holidays and enjoyed long camping trips each summer in Saundersfoot, where their father had a boat. They would catch shrimps and prawns which mother would then cook over a primus stove. She recalls that, in Hay, her family had a great interest in the elderly residents of the Workhouse; the entire family would go there after the 11am service on Christmas Day and would wait on the residents for lunch.
When she was 13, her parents relocated to Blandford St Mary in Dorset and then, when she left school, her sister arranged for her to become an apprentice at the prestigious ‘Bradleys’ store in London. This she found very exciting and it suited her down to the ground as she had always had an interest in fashion. There were 80 apprentices and they embarked upon a 3 year training learning how to sell hats to the gentry (Duchesses, Ladies and the like). The hats were made in workrooms at the store and Jill recounted how Miss Collet, who was in charge, would spit into each hat once it was finished, for good luck! Jill was taught that she should always give a hat a slight shake when removing it from a customer’s head, just in case the lady was wearing a ‘transformation’ which otherwise might be removed with the hat.