To match up with Screen Archive South East’s Day in Horsted Keynes Women’s Institute film, this week we are taking a look at what WSRO hold from up and down the county regarding WIs.
There’s a lot of places to visit, and a lot of memories to recall and people to see, so let’s get started!
Women’s Institute on Film
Images should not be reproduced without permission from West Sussex Record Office.
Women’s Institute in the Archives
Scrapbooking: Jam, Evacuees, Markets, Celebrations and Pancakes
Scrapbooking has long also been part of local WIs. Used as a way to record both the day to day and the special events occuring at the WI, they can give a fantastic insight to each areas activities for the duration of the twentieth century.
For example, AM 239/3/1, the scrapbook for Easebourne, spans the duration of the Second World War and has a series of photographs showing what evacuees got up to in their time at the village.
One of our all time favourite records, AM 872/3/1 – Lavant Jubilee Year Scrapbook, has a beautifully stitched cover, and is filled with delightful little painted women. The ones below refer to a delightfully silly pancake race from 1965. It also contains photos of the race, which looked like a cold (but thankfully dry) day!
Dating from around 1962, Add Mss 53617, Selsey Bill Scrapbook contains photographs of the Selsey lifeboat, tramway, and WI events. Illustrations, some with accompanying text, including watercolour landscapes, local views, Selsey’s history, flora, fauna, wildlife, Norton Priory, the fishing industry and coastal erosion. This one is absolutely chock full of great images.
More Scrapbook Photos:
AM 887/3/5 shows Felpham dressing up and taking part in events like their entry into a Silver Jubilee carnival float competition.
Petworth’s Scrapbook, AM 44/3/3, covers roughly the 1930s through to the 50s. Titled Petworth Through The Ages by Miss G B Mayne, it contains photographs, articles and newspaper cuttings about Petworth town and events including wartime events such as the bombing of the school.
Food: Fruit, and Jam
The WI received funding in the 1930s from the government to set up a Produce Guild. The aim was to encourage members to produce more home-grown food and preserve fruit and vegetables. From there the jam making spirit of the WI was perhaps truly founded. With the oncoming restrictions of war and rationing, self sufficiency became ever more part of the WI.
We have a previous blog highlighting the jam making history of the WI, which you can check out at by clicking this link.
A great example of this is DIY approach to making food is the Camelsdale WI and its Operation Produce volume, reference Add Mss 52493.
The log book contains a detailed production noting when the ladies planted and collected food from their gardens, taking each month as a sort of ‘to do’ list. It gives a fascinating look at the post war state of Britain’s diet – a truly DIY approach to making your own food. The meticulous illustrations really help make it something special.
Garland N22454 – This photograph by George Garland was taken in 1943, and shows the Lodsworth Women’s Institute making jam. You can read more about George Garland and his work at his birthday blog here!
AM 30/3/28 – This Chidham Scrapbook covers the years 1947-1996, and this image in particular shows the ladies hard at work in the kitchen.
Certificates, Certificates, Certificates: Chidham to Fittleworth to Scaynes Hill
From 1917, the year the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) was formed, education and learning was explicitly written into the constitution. If the aim was “to provide an organisation with the object of enabling woman to take an effective part in rural life and development”, then it was hoped the education of both cultural aspects (music and drama) as well as more ‘practical’ subjects like “agriculture, handicrafts, domestic science, health and social welfare” would be the method to achieve this.
The WI themselves have written about the Guilds and Certificates far more in depth than I can for this blog, so I will redirect you to Anne Stamper’s piece on Teaching and Preserving crafts: The Women’s Institute.
For now, here are a selection of certificates awarded to our local WIs:
AM 30/3/27 – Certificate for coloured embroidery awarded to Chidham WI, at the New Horticultural Hall (now Lawrence Hall in London) in 1932.
AM 39/3/1 – Fittleworth Certificate of Merit. Awarded by the Committee of the Art Workers Guild, London for decorative use of farm feathers. The certificate is accompanied by Douglas Dunlop, grandson of founder member of Fittleworth WI, Mrs Taylor, explaining the significance of the record. We don’t know the exact date of the certificate, but it is likely to be from around 1920.
AM 1292/3/18 – Scaynes Hill Certificates. The certificates span the life of Scaynes Hill WI, and are for horticulture, handicrafts, music, produce and drama. You’ll notice that Scaynes Hill is within East Sussex Federation of WIs here.
In 2019 it was the West Sussex Federation of Women’s Institutes centenary, and last year Alison Merriman, Archivist to the West Sussex Federation of Women’s Institutes, wrote us a fantastic blog regarding the origins of the organisation, which you can read about here. Centenaries are not the only jubilees worth celebrating, as each individual, county and national WIs and Federations have their own birthdays and anniversaries.
AM 17/3/3 comes from Ardingly WI and has the lovely badges of East and West Sussex’s Federations front and centre for the Golden Jubilee dinner menu in 1967
AM 609/3/36 – WSFWI in Chichester Cathedral. We think this was taken during for the WSFI’s Golden Jubilee in 1965, but we’re not totally certain.
Want to know what else we hold for WIs across the county? Click and go to our online catalogue, and go onto the Advanced Search tab. If you enter Women’s Institute into the Any Text field and narrow down the record type to Collection, you will see that we hold over one hundred WI collections. There certainly are a lot of treasures to be found!
Keep an eye out for next week’s theme, ‘Lifeboats’, on Tuesday 7th July.