Monday, 04 July 2022

WI Roundup

WI Roundup


IMAGINE, ladies, a life without elastic — it’s a stretch, isn’t it?

No bras and knickers as we know them but an underwear drawer with whalebone corsets, multiple petticoats and perhaps a chemise made out of old pillowcases.

Yet this was what Chazey members were asked to contemplate when writer Jane Stubbs visited us in December to describe what life was like for ordinary women in the 19th century.

As we sat there in our comfy M&S pants and bras, we could only wonder at the tricky underwear world of the early Victorian era.

To make matters worse, when Queen Victoria came to the throne, the poor had no drains, no public toilets, no bathrooms and certainly no washing machines.

In those days laundry consisted of cold water brought in from outside by bucket, a massive iron mangle and a heck of a lot of starch.

Jane started to look into women’s underwear while researching a book and had brought along a dummy dressed in the kind of domestic servant uniform worn by Mrs Fairfax, the housekeeper in Jane Eyre.

It was crucial, she explained, that legs were covered so as not to inflame Victorian male passions and that the waist was nipped in — the ideal was an eye-watering 18 inches, achieved through a combination of dieting and tight lacing. The term straight-laced hails from here.

A servant’s costume would have weighed at least 6lb thanks to corsets and a plethora of petticoats, often starched and with whalebone hoops to keep the skirt as far from the legs as possible.

The object was always to keep clean to avoid the terrible palaver of washing your clothes.

Domestic service was one of the very few jobs available for ordinary early 19th century women (along with prostitution).

As the century wore on, Jane explained, the skirt shape changed as women enjoyed more freedom and opportunity.

Middle class women, meanwhile, had nothing to do while their servants skivvied and many of them simply went mad from boredom.

Chazey WI meets at St Andrew’s Hall, Albert Road, Caversham Heights, every first Friday of the month at 2.30pm. New members are always welcome and your first three visits are free.

You can email us at or find us on Facebook.


SINCE our last report 12 of our members attended the Oxfordshire Federation weekend and took part in courses on cookery, history, craftwork and singing.

Everyone enjoyed the well-organised residential event at Denman College with very good tutors and, of course, lovely accommodation and wonderful WI catering.

Seven members and a dog attended the Caribbean day at Benson with authentic Jamaican food and entertainment — the dog belongs to one of our members who is training it as an assistance dog.

After all that we looked towards Christmas and our annual festive party.

Members bought along plates of delicious finger food and also contributions for the Wallingford food bank, an annual charity event for us at Christmas and also at Easter.

We are pleased to hear that the food bank now has a new permanent home, which makes organisation much easier.

Guests from Woodcote and South Stoke WIs joined us and local musician Stu Wheetman entertained us.

Our committee also did a short musical interlude which caused much merriment.

We now look forward to another enjoyable year, 2020, with all our friends at Cleeve-by-Goring WI. Happy New Year to all.


ON Wednesday, December 11, president Diane Bush welcomed members to our Christmas party, which was held at Hennerton Golf Club.

Seven tables were bedecked with crackers and flowers and each table had a label such as “Holly”, “Snow” and “Ivy” to greet the 29 members present.

The sunshine poured in through the windows, highlighting the beautiful view of the golf course.

The members enjoyed a lovely meal followed by coffee, mints and mince pies, then relaxed to listen to Hugh Barne playing some carols on his guitar, which soon had members singing along.

Secret Santa kindly distributed gifts to all the ladies.

Diana thanked her committee for helping to organise the party and also the friendly, attentive staff. Not forgetting Hugh, a curate for St Mary’s Church, who volunteered to play for us.

Our next meeting will be held at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday, January 15 at 2.30pm when we will welcome the return of wildlife photographer Tom Way.


ON December 11, members gathered for their annual Christmas party. Greys village hall was welcoming and had been beautifully decorated by the committee.

There were two raffles, one organised by Jo Leadley and Millicent Gibby for members only, every member a Christmas winner.

The other was for a superb hamper created by member Joyce Robins.

Tickets for this were available for anyone at our party, with the proceeds going to our centenary fund.

Val Mundy, our president, welcomed everybody and introduced our guests, the Acorn Singers.

The singers perform with church choirs in Oxfordshire and Berkshire and also with several choral groups, including the Reading Bach Choir, the Herald Singers and the South Chiltern Choral Society.

We were fortunate that 10 members of the group were able to come and they entertained us with a wonderful repertoire of Christmas songs, old and new, so beautifully that we were reluctant to let them go.

Fortunately, most of the singers were able to join us for tea and a Christmas quiz.

A member of the Acorn Singers won the hamper — congratulations. The hamper raffle raised £60.

A relaxed and friendly Christmas celebration.

2020 is our centenary year. Our first meeting of the year will be held at Greys village hall on January 15 at 2.30pm.

Jane Pryce, who is the clerk to Rotherfield Greys Parish Council, will give us a talk entitled “The parish council — then and now”.

We will also discuss next year’s WI resolutions and vote for our choice.

This will be followed by our WI tea and friendly chat. Come and join us — you will be very welcome.


A DELIGHTFUL visit to Greys Court was made by a small group of members in early December. The house was beautifully decorated for Christmas and an enjoyable and most informative tour of the gardens was enjoyed by all.

We are highly tempted to revisit in the spring.

It was most interesting to learn about Lady Brunner and her involvement in the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

Our visit concluded with a delicious afternoon tea in the café and the added bonus of thawing out.

Our Christmas party was held at the Stag & Huntsman Inn in Hambleden on December 12 when 44 members gathered for a most convivial evening.

Massive thanks to Marius and his wonderful team, who were so welcoming and friendly and provided us with such excellent service and delicious food.

The evening was a tremendous success and greatly enjoyed.

The raffle, with a variety of tempting prizes, including a Christmas wreath made and generously donated by Ruth Kitching, was well supported.

The party was a fitting conclusion to a most enjoyable and successful centenary year and a big thank-you to all who enabled it.

Hambleden WI has more than 60 members who generally meet once a month.

We very much welcome new members. For more information and to see our 2020 programme, please visit

If you would like to consider joining, please feel free to come along as a visitor to any of our meetings. A warm welcome awaits you.

A happy New Year from us all at Hambleden WI.


THE December meeting opened on a very sad note when president Shirley Weyman gave the news that Pat Eades had died suddenly on December 7.

Pat was a WI member through and through, having joined more than 50 years ago. When she moved to Henley she joined Harpsden WI and was president for four years from 2015-2018. She was also on the board of the Oxfordshire Federation in various roles.

Members stood in silence to remember Pat.

Shirley mentioned the National Federation’s annual meeting at the Royal Albert Hall in June and reminded members to hand in their selection of resolutions for discussion.

The book club will meet on January 15 and the lunch club on January 19.

An outing to the Mill at Sonning in the spring was suggested.

A reminder was given that subs of £43 would be due at the January meeting.

The entertainment for the afternoon was given by Mike Brook and was entitled “A Christmas miscellany”.

He said that he would have “No sleep until Woodcote”, meaning that he was giving six of these talks and Woodcote WI would be his last. Harpsden was the fourth so he thought he ought to be word perfect in his recitals of various works with Christmas themes.

Mike said he had always been an actor and had appeared in many local productions. His wife had been the director of the pantomimes in which he took part and, despite “sleeping with the director”, it did not necessarily mean that he always got the best parts.

Mike called on a few members to take part in Cinderella for which he had a script.

We acquitted ourselves well as, afterwards over tea, he said that it was the second best performance so far. Well done, ladies.

Mike finished with two more readings, The Christmas Life by Wendy Cope and Christmas by John Betjeman, and a monologue in the style of Stanley Holloway.

Ann Lincoln thanked him for his renditions, which had lightened the sadness felt by many members that day.

The competition for “A Christmas cake decoration” was won by Rose Musselwhite with Susan Beswick and Shirley in joint second place. Shirley also managed to draw her own ticket for the raffle.

We meet monthly at Harpsden village hall at 2.30pm. Visitors are always very welcome to join us at a meeting, so do come.


A VERY successful Christmas party was held in the Sansom Room in Wargrave on December 4.

There is no meeting in January so the next one will be on Wednesday, February 5, which will be the annual meeting.

We look forward to seeing all the members then.

Meetings are held in the Hannen Room on Mill Green, Wargrave, on the first Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm.


OUR Christmas tea party was held at Peppard war memorial hall and attended by about 40 members.

We presented a new public address system to the trustees of the hall. This includes a speaker, two roving microphones and a head speaker.

The trustees were delighted because organisations like the WI and the lunch club and groups that have older people whose hearing is not that good do not have any way of improving the situation without a new PA system.

President Irene Lindsay also presented a £300 cheque to Clive Mills, chairman of the trustees. The money will go towards a new kitchen.

Nick Holt entertained us on the piano with tunes from the past and seasonal songs.

After a festive tea provided by all members, guests joined in a quiz and a party game. This was followed by a raffle.

The event was the culmination of our centenary year in which we organised parties and an exhibition with items such as minutes from the first meetings in 1919. We also held a lunch on February 27 to mark the exact date Peppard WI was founded.

We have gained six new members who have brought such energy to our WI. We are ready to go into our second centenary full of enthusiasm.

Irene, who will be stepping down as president in March, was presented with a camellia plant to thank her for her work.


SEVERAL members had a guided tour of the Mill at Sonning theatre.

After a talk about the history of the theatre, the group visited the workshop. Here they were shown how original drawings and plans were transformed into the amazing sets for all the

Next came a fascinating talk on the costumes, their making and adaptations — a huge undertaking, especially for one of the recent shows, My Fair Lady.

Finally, there was a tour under the theatre to explore the many caves of props from lamp standards of every style to gin bottles from the Thirties.

The tour concluded with a visit to the dressing rooms and to see the memorabilia before members enjoyed a delicious cream tea in the restaurant. This was a
thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for all.

The November meeting was a fundraising event, a Christmas pot pourri with many friends and members from other groups attending.

There were opportunities to buy Christmas gifts from the various stalls and the entertainment was provided by Jean Hill who delivered a delightful selection of her poetry, much of it with a Christmas theme.

Everyone then enjoyed a superb Christmas tea.

Also in December, two members attended the Berkshire Federation’s centenary thanksgiving service in Mortimer.

This was a heartwarming service, which included the reading of various extracts from the archives.

The Remenham WI banner was on display with many others and many food items were donated to the food bank.

The December meeting reflected the theme of Christmas, where members listened to and joined in with carols and a variety of lighter festive music as well as listening to a selection of seasonal poems and readings.

The afternoon ended with a Christmas quiz and tea.

The last of the three challenges Remenham members set themselves for the centenary year was also on display.

A large “100” had been created and the numbers had been covered with coins which will be donated to the Associated Country Women of the World, a charity which is supported by the WI.

The last gathering of 2019 was the Christmas lunch at the Little Angel in Henley for members, husbands and friends.

If you would like to come along to a meeting, we meet at Remenham parish hall on the second Monday of each month at 2.30pm. We would love to see you.

For more information, please call Daphne Austen on 01628 824376.


MEMBERS and visitors were welcomed to our December meeting by president Arlene Riley.

As usual, we were told that the record of the November meeting was available for all to see.

Treasurer Judith handed out subscription envelopes to be returned at the February meeting.

Members with birthdays in December and January were given cards.

The Christmas lunch took place at Ask and Arlene and secretary Ryszarda attended Caversham WI’s birthday celebrations.

The book club met at Barbara Wood’s house and the Scrabble group will meet again on January 22. The cinema group was hoping to see Cats.

Ladies that Lunch will meet at the Griffin in Caversham on January 16.

New committee members will be required next year and Arlene again asked members to consider joining.

Members were asked to complete their resolution forms in the current WI Life magazine and hand them to Ryszarda at the February meeting.

Members were asked to think about bringing their own cup/mug to future meetings in line with other WIs.

Then Arlene introduced Carol Wheeler (Carol of the Bells) who played several classic Christmas tunes and involved some members. We were also able to sing along with some of the tunes.

Arlene gave the vote of thanks.

We then had tea and were able to devour the lovely mince pies, sausage rolls and cakes that had been provided by members.

A big thank-you to all who made such mouth-watering items — well done.

Before wishing everyone present a Happy Christmas and New Year, Arlene announced there would be no meeting in January and that the next one would be on February 5 at 2pm.


ON Wednesday, December 18, the memorial hall looked very festive with a decorated Christmas tree and tables with holly, ivy and candles.

Thanks were given to Ursula Davies for her wonderful arrangements.

While members drank a glass of Prosecco, they attempted to complete an interesting quiz with photos of influential and famous women, some of whom were quite difficult to name.

Joan Jolley gave a warm welcome and reminded members of some important items from News & Views. The climate change workshop, the women’s health and wellbeing day and the historic knitter were all worthy of mention.

Shiplake WI will host the Beechwood Group meeting on October 29 and more details will be announced later.

There was a gentle reminder that subscriptions would be due in January. The forms to vote for the resolutions were in WI Life and Joan would have some extra copies at the January meeting.

She encouraged all members to vote for this important part of WI business.

Sue Lines gave final details of the trip to Singin’ in the Rain at the Mill at Sonning theatre in January and promised more news of outings in 2020 at the January meeting.

The entertainment for the afternoon was a fun rendition of seasonal songs from Adrian Broadway. He sang and played a wonderful mix of winter songs, Christmas tunes and “happy” songs.

Adrian had brought with him a collection of 11 instruments which he played with amazing agility, swapping between them and singing and telling jokes at the same time.

Two of the more unusual instruments were the Nepalese nose flute and the one-string phono-fiddle. Most members had never heard these and were fascinated by the sound.

A lovely Christmas tea was enjoyed by everyone and thanks were given to all the members who had contributed. The committee and a small band of volunteers did a wonderful job in the kitchen.

The afternoon was rounded off with each lady taking home a small gift from the Secret Santa basket. The speaker at the January meeting will be Fiona Barker who will be talking about “The wonderful world of picture books”.

More details about Shiplake WI are on the Shiplake village website and visitors are always welcome.


WE started the festive celebrations by hosting the Sonning Common village coffee morning, serving seasonal refreshments.

WI members had decorated the village hall and had crafted wreaths which made a splendid display.

There will be no coffee morning in January so the next one will be on February 5.

Members enjoyed their Christmas lunch at Badgemore Park in Henley.

The Christmas party required hasty rearrangement when at short notice we had to change the date.

Thanks to Alison Bishop and Jenny Ward, the change to Friday, December 13 was far from unlucky and we all had a great time.

Martyn Harrison, a recent addition to the Oxfordshire Federation’s recommended list of speakers, kindly stepped in to entertain us. Martyn’s jolly mixture of Christmas songs, poems and jokes soon had us in the mood and joining in the singing.

Members enjoyed a buffet which had been provided by the committee members. The evening finished with a quiz.

A vote of thanks to Martyn, Alison and the committee was given by Sue Hedges.

Christmas flower arrangements were presented to Alison and Jenny, who had worked hard to ensure the party could go ahead.

Rose and Wendy, who were enjoying a welcome night off from raffle sales, also received a small token to show our appreciation of the work they do.

Members are reminded to bring their voting slips for their preferred WI resolution for 2020 to the next meeting. Subscription fees for 2020 are also due then.

The meeting will take place at Sonning Common village hall on Thursday, January 16 at 7.30pm. Erica Cunningham, of Brambles Floristry in the village, will be giving a floral arrangement demonstration entitled “From Foxglove to fritillary — my journey in flowers”.

Visitors are welcome. For more information, call Carol on 0118 972 3738.

Sonning Common WI will hold its Green Heart Show the Love campaign’s open day at the village hall on Saturday, February 8 from 2pm to 4pm.

There will be a display of artwork by local school pupils, Sunday school children, brownies, cubs, scouts and youth club members.

Eco Soco, a group working to make Sonning Common plastic-free, will be in attendance.

The plastic-free community scheme is an amazing project designed to encourage, promote and support the reduction of avoidable single-use plastics.

There will be craft recycling demonstrations and recycling displays and an opportunity to swap toys and other preloved items.

Refreshments will be available. For more information, call Sue Hedges on 0118 972 3678 or visit the Eco Soco Facebook group.


OUR Christmas meeting on December 10 had a very festive feel.

We were entertained by the Didcot Divas, a choir of lovely ladies who sangChristmas songs and carols.

This was followed by a sumptuous afternoon tea provided by the committee and a very Christmassy raffle.

Our chosen charity this Christmas was “Orla’s new spine” and we were delighted to give a cheque to the family.

Our first meeting of the New Year will be on Tuesday, January 14 when our speaker Barbara Hately will be talking about “Idle women”, the ladies who worked the waterways during the Second World War. Visitors are welcome.


DECEMBER brought our Christmas celebration party in the village hall.

Sandra, our president, welcomed us to a decorated hall with tables set with beautifully handmade crackers. We had all brought a bring and share supper.

Before long we had a visit from Father Christmas, who distributed sweets, and then we were entertained by a pair of musicians who provided background upbeat music as we chatted.

Then it was time to join in with modern songs by John Lennon and Bob Dylan to name just two (words provided).

Supper was splendid and so was the fizz, with plenty of both.

There were a few reminder dates but mostly it was left to the minuted diary dates to cover anything interesting.

We had the inevitable quiz to argue over and a grand raffle to finish off a good evening.

We were all saddened to hear of the unexpected death of Pat Eades who was our WI advisor and some of us will be going to her funeral in January.

The December walk had to be cancelled because of torrential rain but we continued on the same day with the festive tea at three at Sandra’s house, a venue change because of the general election.

We had a lovely time and can be seen in the photo, playing with some props brought along by a member.

A nice meal had been enjoyed at the Italian restaurant in Wallingford and the craft and book clubs had also met.

Our village hall was featured in ITV’s How To Spend It Well at Christmas, presented by Phillip Schofield.

It looked very nice but our noticeboard had to be covered up.

Some of us will be going to the discussion on climate change in January and our own meeting sounds interesting with a talk on “The codebreakers of Bletchley Park”.

Then it will be our birthday meeting in February and subs are due, so a good time to join to get your full year’s programme.


IT was the season to be merry and so it was at our Christmas evening.

Rick Griffin was our master of ceremonies for the evening and we started off with a version of musical chairs called fishes in the sea. This caused much merriment.

We then had a musical quiz organised and played on the piano by Rick.

We had delicious food, made by our members, and festive drinks. After pulling crackers, many groans were heard.

After our food Rick led us in a selection of carols requested by the members and, finally, Jerusalem.

Many thanks to Rick and our committee for making this evening special.

February’s meeting will feature a talk called “Cliveden, power and politics” by Peter Hague. March will be our annual meeting so there won’t be a speaker.

If you would like to come and meet us, you would have a warm welcome. We meet in Watlington town hall at 7.30pm.

For more information, please call Dawn Matthews on (01491) 612023.


CHRISTMAS is now a memory but for those of us in Whitchurch Hill WI it proved to be full of interest, good humour and a little festive cheer to swill it all down. December is traditionally dedicated to all things Christmas, of course. We made floral decorations for the home and shared Christmas lunch together at a local restaurant.

Those who joined the community walk around Goring Heath parish finished off with mulled wine and mince pies — probably undoing much of the exercise value of the walk itself. Oh dear.

A real achievement was the delivery of our 112th bag of food donations to Wallingford food bank. Our target had been to donate 100 during 2019, one for each year the Women’s Institute has been in existence.

To surpass that was a delight to us all and, we hope, a welcome boost to those in and around Wallingford who found themselves in need of such services.

Our 2020 programme of activities looks as promising as 2019 proved to be.

We start in January with an afternoon tea in the parish hall. At our monthly meetings we look forward to a very varied mix of speakers, from auctioneers to historians and everything in between.

We will enjoy regular walks, visits, lunches and some fundraising with good companionship and laughs along the way.

Visitors are always welcome. For more information, please call Frances on 0118 984 2162 or just come along and see what we do.

Our meetings are held at Goring Heath parish hall on the third Tuesday of each month (except December) from 10am.


PATRICIA SOLOMONS welcomed members and visitors to our Christmas meeting.

The tables were decorated with seasonal flower arrangements, the candles were lit and, with a glass of cheer, it was all set for the party to begin.

Celebrating birthdays were Joan Snook, who had a very special birthday, and Vivien Stevens, who was to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.

Earlier in the month we went to Caversham Heath Golf Club for our Christmas meal, which was excellent. Our thanks to all the staff for a lovely time.

We were entertained at our meeting by Mike Brook, who gave us a “Christmas miscellany”, which was very entertaining,

Mike read poems, gave readings and then staged a pantomime, Cinderella, with six of us volunteering to take part.

It was all good fun and several members showed their acting skills.

After all the hilarity we had a festive tea.

At our February birthday meeting we will be entertained with songs by Hannah.

We meet at Woodcote village hall on the third Wednesday of the month at 2.30pm, so please come and join us.

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