Posts Tagged ‘women’s institute’

WI Centenary

December 24, 2015

Items are given to the museum right through the year and several items have been donated in the run up to Christmas. Yesterday’s photo of George Baker was one of them and here is another.

Banner made by Market Lavington and Easterton WI to mark the centenary of the first WI in the UK.

Banner made by Market Lavington and Easterton WI to mark the centenary of the first WI in the UK.

This is a quilted banner to represent the Market Lavington and Easterton Women’s Institute as part of a celebration of the centenary of these institutes within Britain. The first WI in this country was set up in 1915 and was seen as a way of encouraging country women to produce food to help with the war effort. The first meeting was held on 16th September 1915 at Llanfairpwll on the Isle of Anglesey.

The quilter has created a downland scene, as we see in this part of the world from oddments of fabric and has embroidered on to it the vital information for the centenary.

This banner will appear again in 2019 when the Wiltshire Federation of WIs celebrates its centenary, and who knows, it could make it to 2030 when the Market Lavington and Easterton Branch will celebrate its centenary as well.


At the WI in 1944

December 15, 2014

1944 was 70 years ago so it is reasonable to assume that any surviving members of the Market Lavington branch, from that era, will now be in their nineties. The Second World War was still in full swing. In the second half of the year London came under attack from the V1 flying bombs and then the V2 rockets. But that probably seemed quite distant from rural Wiltshire, where the local WI still met. And here is the programme for 1944.

Market Lavington and Easterton WI programme for 1944

Market Lavington WI programme for 1944

The front cover gives us the year and tells us who the officers were and when the group met. The programme is on the inside.


Each month has an apt quote and then members were reminded of the day of the meeting, what the subject of a talk might be and any other vital information.

For January various local people were to form an impromptu brains trust. There was a mince pie competition and entertainment in the form of games.

In February, instead of a talk, there was a questionnaire on water and sewage. Members who competed were to have made an apron from an oddment.

In March, Mr Cyril Rose spoke on local wildlife and members competed over best daffodils.

April saw a talk on The Medieval Village and members brought in the oldest thing in their house for an exhibition.

May was internal business as the agenda for the National Federation was discussed. But our local members competed over a shopping bag.


In June the Reverend Basil Phillips spoke on India and Ceylon. Members competing made slippers.

July had a speaker but no topic given. Roses formed the competition.

The members held their summer flower show in August and the only information for September is appropriate to the era of rationing. The competition was for a dried egg dish.

October was called the Members’ Evening but in November there was another talk as president, Mrs Smethurst offered her ‘Aids to Beauty’. Members made a button hole.

December was for in house business with an exhibition of quaint household objects.

What a lovely record of how some of our ladies lived during the dark days of World War II.

A Ladies Cricket Team

July 22, 2014

It’s summer and England’s men have been involved in test matches against India in recent days.

What we are looking at is a cricket team from times past consisting of members of the local Women’s Institute.

W. I. cricket team at Urchfont - probably late 1930s

W. I. cricket team at Urchfont – probably late 1930s

The local ladies were clearly having fun in this away match. The match, we believe, was played at Urchfont. The dress code suggests rather a carnival atmosphere.

The back of this photo has a caption.


So why do our museum records have this listed as the WI football team? That’s got to be wrong. The tall lady on the right is holding a cricket bat.

We need help!

What we can say is that Bess, as mentioned, is the second from the left on the front row. She is Bessie Gye, later the wife of photographer, Peter Francis. It is often hard to identify people in fancy dress, but maybe others can be identified. Once again, we need help.

Judging by the age of Bess, we would date the photo at late 1930s.

Do, please, get in touch and help us sort out a bit of a muddle.


At the WI in 1939

July 2, 2013

The Women’s Institute are meticulous record keepers. In Market Lavington Museum we have the record books of the local branch running from the 1930s through to the 1980s. Today we have picked on the May 1939 meeting.

ccount of Market Lavington and Easterton WI meeting for May 1939

Account of Market Lavington and Easterton WI meeting for May 1939

The monthly meeting of the WI was held May 9th in the Parish Room. Over 70 members present. Minutes were read and signed; arising from which Miss A. Gauntlett agreed with the help of twelve members to arrange a Ball Game for competition at Lacock, July 8th. Notice was given of a ‘Bygones Ex’ for June which Mrs Rivers Pollock will come to inspect previous to their being sent to Lacock. The monthly letter was read, also correspondence. Miss Gauntlett proposed, seconded by Mrs Burgess that £1-1-0 be sent to the Wilts Music Festival fund. This was agreed to by the members. A few vegetables were brought for Devizes Hospital. The speaker, Mrs Wild of Salisbury, was welcomed; she shortly discussed the agenda of the annual meeting of the NFWI in London June 7th. The agenda was afterwards handed to Miss Pomeroy, the delegate.


More from the WI meerting

More from the WI meerting

Mrs Wild had lost the notes of the talk she had arranged to give ‘The Year in Folklore’ and instead gave a short history of Lacock, she also spoke on different handicrafts showing some very good specimens. She offered to come at some future date and give the talk promised for this meeting.Mrs Hayball thanked Mrs Wild.

After the interval the W.I. choir rendered the four songs they sang at the festival. Then followed charades acted by Miss B Gye and Miss P welch.They were very amusing and not too easy. Miss Carter thanked the entertainers. The evening closed with singing ‘God Save the King’.

Iva Sturton


So there was not a mention of jam or Jerusalem. In fact it really sounds as though the ladies and girls had quite a good time with a variety of entertainment to stimulate and amuse.

The Women’s Institute – aged 21

July 4, 2010

The Market Lavington Women’s Institute was formed in May 1930. Unfortunately, at Market Lavington Museum we have no records concerning activities for the first seven years or so, but it is known that in 1938 the local WI  held what was already regarded as an annual flower show and they worked to support a distressed family in County Durham.

In 1944, under the presidency of Mrs Smethurst, the ladies had meetings on topics as varied as ‘aids to beauty’, ‘India and Ceylon, and ‘water and sewerage’.

1951 was the ‘coming of age’ year for the Market Lavington WI. The president was now Mrs Sturton and their meeting topics included ‘Marlborough in Medieval times’, ‘fans and their story’, and ‘rural and domestic husbandry bygones’.

There was also a party to mark the 21st birthday and our photo shows the cutting of the birthday cake.

1951 party to celebrate 21 years of Market Lavington Women's Institute

The venue was the old parish room – the history of that building will make another story.

For the record, the group became the Market Lavington and Easterton WI in 1960.

Mrs Theresa Gale was one of the founder members of the Market Lavington WI and in a talk to the group in the 1990s, she had this to say.

‘I’d been married four years and just had my first baby when Market Lavington W.I. was formed – it was 1930. I’m the only founder member still alive. We always started the meeting by singing ‘Jerusalem” but we don’t now. We were pleased with our Institute because we lived six miles from the nearest town, the men could go to pub, but not us women. When we had a speaker from away, we had to put her up for the night as there was no transport to get her home. There were hardly any cars then.

We used to have a lovely Christmas party and we could each invite one person, and everybody wanted to come. Every year the butcher, who was a middle-aged man, would have the polka with me, and when it was over he’d book me up for the next year.

In the beginning we had a very good choir, which won at several festivals, and also a folk dancing team.’