Home Craft Stories Have you Heard Of… Hilda B. Hewlett
Hilda Hewlett by Trudi Murray

Have you Heard Of… Hilda B. Hewlett

Have You Heard Of…? An illustration project by Trudi Murray Art & Illustration

Have You Heard Of..? is my new illustration project, in which I search out people we might never have heard of, and investigate their lives and stories. In this first collection, I’ve focused on rebels, adventurers, artists, scientists and women going their own way.

Step forward, the incredible Hilda B. Hewlett!

Have You Heard Of… Hilda Hewlett – Pilot and Entrepreneur

One of nine children, Hilda Beatrice Hewlett was born in London. She was quite a character – headstrong, unstoppable, artistic and daring. Unconventionally for a young woman of her time, Hilda also loved speed. After bicycles and automobiles, the young married Hilda became hooked on a new and exciting activity for 1909: aviation.

Determined to get into the air and to learn how to fly herself, Hilda went to France, where it was possible to have flying lessons from the manufacturers of aeroplanes. Her husband, Maurice, disapproved. But Hilda persisted. She called herself ‘Grace Bird’ and found a business partner in Frenchman Gustave Blondeau. Together they brought back a biplane to Surrey and started one of the UK’s first flying schools at Brooklands motor circuit.

In 1911, Hilda became the first woman in the UK to gain her pilot’s licence (licence number 122). Gustave and Hilda then set up a business that manufactured aeroplanes, and it was in existence until 1920, at one point employing over 700 people. Hard working and indefatigable, Hilda was a constant presence in the business, often accompanied by her Great Dane, Kroshka.

 In 1926, Hilda moved to New Zealand, where she continued her love affair with all things aeronautical, setting up a flying club at a place called Tauranga.

Buy Trudi Murray’s postcard of Hilda Hewlett here >

Shop the whole Have You Heard of Series here >

Read more in the Have You Heard of series >

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