Astbury Women’s Institute

80 Years of WI at Astbury: 2020 was destined to be a memorable year for Astbury WI and memorable it has certainly been! Unfortunately, in common with many other WIs, it has been memorable for all the wrong reasons.
80 years ago last month our WI held its Foundation Meeting. It was 6th November 1940 when the first Meeting to form a Committee was held at The Rectory, following the first meeting of The Women’s Institute. The Minutes of this meeting show that the first Secretary was Mrs Yates and the minutes were signed by the first President Marjorie Stuart Johnson on 27th November. The plan for the second meeting was discussed and Miss Caterham ‘kindly undertook to light the fire
and prepare the room.’
The first officers were: President, Mrs Stuart Johnson; Vice President, Mrs Dunkley; Secretary, Mrs Yates; Treasurer, Mrs Porter. There was a committee of ten elected members plus two co-opted members, which was almost half the membership. 20 years ago, when I first joined Mrs Joyce Porter was still quite an active member and Mrs C.W Hocknell (co-opted member of that first committee) was mother-in-law to Margaret Hocknell, who has herself been both President and Treasurer
in her time and is a stalwart of our bowling team.
Amongst our archives there is a letter dated 15th November welcoming the newly formed group at Astbury from Lady Denman, who was then the National Chairman. We were, according to the letter the five thousand, seven hundred and twenty seventh institute to be formed and in an organization of 331,883 members across all counties in England and Wales. She talked of sister Institutes in Canada (where the organization originated) and Australia and was keen that we should
recognise that our Women’s Institute was part of ‘something more than just social clubs!’ At the moment, though we are not able to meet, we are sharing the suggested resolutions which the WI nationally will work to bring to the nation’s attention to influence those who can bring about change for the better.
The Programme for the first year at Astbury included a Cookery Demonstration at Henshall Hall, Wool embroidery and War-time Thrift, Community Singing, Salvage — the prevention of waste and a Dressmaking Demonstration.
Times have changed but the themes and interests remain largely the same. Early in the year I wrote; 2020 has begun well for members of Astbury WI with a talk by Valerie Jones of Tytherington Treacles, who gave us a lively and fascinating account of Why they Bared All. She told us all about the process of making a
calendar for breast cancer.
On Wednesday 5th February, we had a wonderfully informative talk and demonstration from Charles Hardy, a Chocolatier from The Old Fire Station at Tarporley. He told members of his family connections with sweets like Cherry Lips. when his grandfather took over the Squirrel factory in Stockport. He chatted about the family connections with sweets through three generations when finally he and his family decided to specialise and make beautiful hand-made, continental
In March we had a drumming session, led by David Hext, leader of the percussion section in the Hallé Orchestra. We have since sewn scrubs and made ear-protectors for the NHS, knitted squares for blankets for the homeless, crocheted blankets in lockdown. Our most prolific knitter has now achieved 30 sets of hats and mittens for children from disadvantaged families. Thanks must go to all those members who have contributed. Our officials have chatted regularly and tried to communicate with members on a regular basis.
We have created a risk assessment in the hope that we could resume our meetings in the Autumn, but were only able to hold one socially distanced Committee
Meeting, before the rule of six destroyed our plans. Sadly we have not risen as a group to the challenge of Zoom Meetings, although the National Federation seem to be keen that we should all be doing so. We shall hope that with the recent developments we have light at the end of the tunnel that was 2020 and that we shall be able to meet and celebrate a belated 80th Birthday in 2021.
We would like to wish all our members and friends a Happy Christmas
and a very Happy, Safe and Healthy New Year. Margaret Pearson (President), Kath Wainwright (Vice President), Liz Edmunds (Secretary) and Lisa Spencer (Treasurer) and all our hardworking committee members.