In September 2009, we celebrated the 90th birthday of Cromhall WI. A warm welcome was given to all of our visitors, and also to Fascinating Rhythm who came to entertain us. During the evening we looked back at things we had done and places we had been to. All of the scrapbooks and photograph albums created over the years were there to jog our memories.
The first meeting of the Cromhall Institute was held on Oct 22nd 1919 – just after the end of the 1st World War. At that time it was held in the Reading Room at the side of the Hall and there was an average attendance of 20- 25 members, very similar in size to current membership.
The meetings began with ‘Roll Call’ which always included a challenge to which each member was invited to respond. It might have been ‘identify the uses of a lemon’, ‘ the best way to use up scraps’ or ‘the most useful article in a medicine chest’. This was a good way of involving everyone and also sharing knowledge and ideas between the women of the village. At the first meeting Mrs Barton gave an ‘instructive address on ‘Women’s Clubs in the United States’. Other speakers’ topics were ‘a demonstration of soft toy making’, a lecture on rural housing, and Raffia Basketwork.
The meetings also included a competition. At the first meeting there was apple peeling. Six entries were thought to be equally good and lots were drawn to decide the winner. Mrs Agnes Pullin won and was presented with the Prize Badge. At the second meeting the competition was ‘drawing a pig while blindfolded’! This caused much amusement and the Prize badge went to Miss E Pratt. Other competitions included – ‘the best made article costing less than one shilling’,- ‘a buttonhole’ and ‘guessing the number of sultanas in a slice of cake’ provided by Miss Kimber. I was amazed to read that at a couple of meetings fines were charged for not doing the competition!!!
The first President was Mrs Curtoys and her vice president was Mrs Parham. Mrs Stansbury was the first Secretary and Treasurer. Other committee members were Mesdames Barton, Binns, Cullimore, Drew, Eacott, Hatton, Kimber, Musty, Payne and Pratt, all well known local names.
Looking at their early accounts we see that Members’ fees were then 2 shillings, badges were one shilling each or 11p if more than 5 bought at a time and Home & Country subscription was also 2 shillings. The hire of the hall was 2s 6d per meeting and a chararbanc for an outing cost £9.
The WI helped within the local community. They entertained local children with tea and a local entertainer and gave a gift of £2 to the school sports fund. In 1923 a donation of £10 was given towards the debt on the National School and in 1924, £3 was given for a clock for the Reading Room.
Sadly I have to announce that we were unable to get a committee together for 2010 and, after much thought, decided that we could not continue. The Institute was suspended in November 2010 but our tablecloth, scrap books and paperwork will be held by Avon Federation for three years in case the Institute re-opens.
In December we all finally met for a most enjoyable Christmas dinner at The Railway Tavern in Charfield.
For more information concerning Avon Federation of Women's Institutes, see www.avonfwi.org.uk.