Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Around the WI



THE centenary of the National Federation of WIs was celebrated at the August meeting.

President Pat Eades welcomed members and many visitors and efficiently kept the business to a minimum.

Birthday greetings were given to Hildie Barrowcliffe, Pam Hails, Valerie Moore and Rose Musselwhite.

As the National Trust has now decided not to have plaques placed in its gardens, there will be no plaque by the roses planted at Greys Court by the South Chiltern Group.

However, there will be a special book in which to commemorate the gift.

Thanks were given to Audrey Fox for the use of her delightful garden for an afternoon tea, when a healthy profit was made for WI funds.

On October 29 there is a free day offered at Denman College by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. There will be talks, a lunch and afternoon tea and cakes.

Three members had attended the literary lunch at Denman College when Julia Summers was the speaker. She is the author upon which TV programmes featuring the WI have been produced.

The first Sunday lunch outing was successful and will continue at different locations each month. The craft roup appealed for wool and materials for their activities.

The South Chiltern Goup meeting will be held on September 30, hosted by Harpsden WI.

The speaker is Steven Bruce, who will talk about “Buying and selling at auction”. Members are invited to bring along an antique for  discussion.

The special speaker for the afternoon appeared in a startling outfit, which she said was made for her by the seamstress who made outfits for Danny La Rue.

Jean Purdy was described as a member of the Magic Circle, fire eater, wing walker, dancer, actress and aero-trapeze artist. Thankfully, the only one of these descriptions that she used in Harpsden village hall was as a magician.

In introducing herself, she said that the Magic Circle was formed in 1905 and it was not until 1991 that women were allowed in.

She brought along her assistant Bob, who also performed some tricks.

Between them they produced eggs from a hat and scarves from an empty box, while a member’s ring seemingly disappeared and then turned up somewhere else without the audience noticing.

The pièce de résistance was sawing Di Painter in half. Did she feel any pain? She was not letting on, but there didn’t seem to be much blood on the floor! She received a certificate for her participation.

Peggy Burchell gave a delightful vote of thanks to Jean and Bob.

Following all this excitement a bring and share tea was enjoyed. A celebration cake had been made by Jasmine Weaver and was cut by the two longest-serving members, namely Jean Pryke and Shirley Weyman.

The topic of the speaker at the next meeting on September 9 will be “The Mercy Ships”. The competition is for a garden flower, which hopefully will not have been spoilt by the heavy rain experienced in late August.

The meeting will be held in Harpsden village hall, starting at 2.30pm. Please come along and see what the WI is all about.


THE first meeting of the new Henley WI was held at King’s Arms Barn on Friday, August 14. Even though it was holiday season, there was a good turnout. So far the group has more than 20 members aged from 20 to 76.

As it is the centenary year of the WI, president Lucy Brassey and fellow committee members Sunaina Sharma, Jess Waddington, Rosie Irving and Naomi Vallance felt it was perfect timing to set up a WI for Henley.

Henley WI is a great way to make new contacts, enjoy fun activities such as bouquet design, cake making and learning to dance or you could join the latest campaign.

The next meeting will be held at Henley town hall on Tuesday, September 22 at 7.30pm for our treasure hunt experience — please come along!

If you would like more information about the Henley WI, please email hotwomens institute@outlook.com or call Lucy Brassey on 07738 222078.


THERE were two lovely summer treats for members.

On July 28 about 30 members and friends went by coach to Royal Holloway College in Egham.

This extraordinary chateau-style building was the vision of Thomas Holloway, a Victorian tycoon whose fortune was made from ointment and pills that he claimed would cure almost anything (needless to say it was a spurious claim).

Nevertheless, through extensive advertising and promotion, he made a vast fortune. Influenced by Matthew Vassar, who built the first college for women in the United States, Holloway decided to fund a similar college in this country. Thus Royal Holloway College was built and opened by Queen Victoria in 1886. Starting with 28 students, it now has more than 8,000.

Our guide Richard Williams was splendid, telling the amazing story of the self-made entrepreneur, his spectacular ambition and vision.

Remenham WI secretary Enid Light added fascinating additional information as she is an honorary fellow of the college.

A delicious lunch was served in the magnificent picture gallery and sitting with so many Victorian masterpieces was a memorable experience.

Thanks to Anne Francis and Enid for arranging such a very special day.

The second treat was a delightful tea party at Marsh Mills House, hosted by George and Sheila  Constantinidi.

It began with boat trips on the river followed by a grand tea with sandwiches, scones and tempting cakes set out in the dining room.

Everyone tucked in with gusto and it was all much enjoyed. A raffle with great prizes ended a happy  afternoon.

The next meeting will be held at the parish hall on Monday, September 14 at 2.30pm.

The speaker Graham Horn will give a talk on “The history and renovation of the Kennet & Avon Canal”.

As always, visitors are very welcome.


OUR August speaker was Brian Lowe, who gave us an interesting talk on the stained glass of Oxford.

Stained glass has been used in the Oxford Colleges and Christ Church Cathedral from as far back as the 13th century.

Brian told us of the methods for making stained glass through the years and the modern methods used to restore old stained glass.

At our meeting on Wednesday, September 9 our speaker will be Bill Heine on “A Heinstein of the airwaves”.

We meet in the town hall at 7.30pm. If you are new to Watlington and would like to make new friends, or perhaps you have lived here a while, do come along and meet us. For more information, please call Kath Gomm on (01491) 612939.


SHIRLEY BRYANT welcomed members to our garden meeting on August 5 which took place at the beautiful setting of Mapledurham House and mill.

We started the afternoon with a guided tour of the house and mill by Corry Starling, the miller. This was very interesting with so much information on the history and the lives of the previous occupants.

Then we were able to buy all the lovely goods on sale in the mill shop. I think a lot of baking will be taking place.

This was followed by a scrumptious cream tea and raffle.

Birthday buttonholes were presented to Marianne Adams, Ann Larden, Jo Sutcliffe, Dot Tyler, Pat Ferris and Judy Williams.

The lunch club are meeting at the Dolphin in Wallingford. The chance to chat group had met at Dot’s and had a lovely afternoon. The walking group had been to Remenham for a lovely walk along the Thames and stopped for much-needed refreshments at the Flower Pot Inn at Aston.

We meet in the village hall on the third Wednesday of the month. New members are welcome.


AUGUST being a “holiday” month (albeit with rotten weather), we did not have a regular business meeting but we made up for it with several social events.

Our first was at the beginning of the month, when a number of us enjoyed a “lobster lunch” at the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row.

This was followed on August 18 by our annual barbecue, which was well attended by members with family and friends. It was catered for by members of the committee with a splendid selection of luscious puddings made by other members.

The weather was cool and windy and rain threatened, so we moved indoors while our two barbecue experts continues their cooking duties outside.

Our final effort was to run a WI information table at Whitchurch fete. Rain and grey clouds didn’t seem to discourage a very good attendance and we were pleased to be able to talk to a number of people about the Women’s Institute in general and Whitchurch Hill WI in particular.

Our plans for the next month or so include a walk along the Thames from Wallingford followed by lunch at Benson.

Our next speaker meeting will be on September 15 when we will hear about the training and work of the Reading Mobility Team and meet one of their guide dogs. On the following day we willl be taking part in the WI Pang Valley Group meeting.

In October we will learn “How to take better photographs” whether by camera, smartphone, iPad or whatever other means, from an expert. This will be on a different date to our regular business meeting and will take place on Thursday, October 8.

Meetings take place at Goring Heath parish hall on the B471 on the third Tuesday of the month. Visitors are welcome. For more information, please call 0118 984 1696.


ON Wednesday, August 19, a total of 22 members and their husbands gathered at Gibstroude Farm to board a coach to London for their summer outing to Kensington Palace.

They were dropped off near the iconic Golden Gate and went straight to the palace to look at the state rooms. From inside they saw the sunken garden and beyond the gates, where people were happily walking and cycling around the round pond.

The palace started life in Kensington village as a two-storey building in 1605. It was bought in 1619 by secretary of state Daniel Finch, Earl of Nottingham, and renamed Nottingham House.

In 1689 it was sold for £20,000 to William III and his wife to be their home because their principal residence, Whitehall Palace, was not so well placed being so close to the river with its fog and floods, causing the building to be damp.

The King commissioned Christopher Wren to improve the house. He added rooms to the four corners, leaving the original building untouched. This became the favoured home of Britain’s most famous monarchs, where events and dramas in royal history took place. Diana, Princess of Wales occupied the north-west part of the building from 1981 to 1997. It is currently the official residence for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

Members viewed the magnificent state rooms, commissioned by George I in 1722, which are open to the public and managed by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces.

A couple of the highlights enjoyed by the members were the gardens, the cupola room with its domed ceiling painted gold and blue and the display of dresses, particularly Queen Victoria’s wedding dress with the exquisite needlework and tiny waist, which was quite a contrast to the larger black dresses she wore in her later years.

Lunch was enjoyed in the palace café and the Orangery restaurant.

It was a wonderful, interesting and stimulating outing and as an added bonus, the rain only started when we boarded the coach to return home.

The next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill Village Hall on Wednesday, October 21 at 2.30pm when we will welcome back Graham Horn with a talk entitled “Anniversaries of 2015”.

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