Leagrave farewell to Hilda Hewlett

On Tuesday evening (March 4th, 1919), a social evening was enjoyed by the employees at the Omnia Works, Leagrave, the occasion being a presentation to Mrs Hilda Hewlett (pictured) on her departure for New Zealand, and the formal opening of the new mess room, a fine building comprising dining hall, cloakroom, kitchen and domestic apartments.

Hilda HewlettMr Ashley Pope, the manager, on behalf of the employees, asked Mrs Hewlett's acceptance of a gold watch expansion bracelet and a silver cigarette case. The recipient acknowledged her gratitude for the handsome gifts, and expressed appreciation of the efforts by all hands during the war.

A musical programme was provided, followed by a guessing competition, a blindfold boxing match, a mesmeric display, a singing competition (in which the Welding Shop finished first), a potato race for ladies, a hairdressing contest for gentlemen, candle competition for boys, and a nailing competition for girls.

Prizes for these events were generously given by Mrs Hewlett, by whom they were distributed, and the proceedings terminated with an informal dance.

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: March 8th, 1919]


With Frenchman Gustav Blondeau, Hilda Hewlett had bought a ten-acre field off Oak Road (Oakley Road), Leagrave, just ahead of World War One. A small announcement in the Luton Times of May 22th, 1914, revealed the firm's impending transfer of its business from Vardans Road, Clapham, London. A contract was signed for an aircraft factory to be built at Leagrave within 28 days of May 29th, 1914. The factory finally went into production in August 1914, employing up to 700 workers. It turned to producing farming equipment and furniture after the war but the new venture was not a success, and the factory finally closed in October 1920.


Hilda Hewlett had established herself in the world of aviation from 1909, and in 1911 became the first woman in the UK to earn a pilot's licence. She emigrated to New Zealand and died there in August 1943.