Our first 100 years !

Stanhoe and Barwick WI

Stanhoe & Barwick WI proudly celebrate their centenary year in 2019, along with Norfolk Federation. We are one of only 6 of the original 24 Norfolk WIs, founded in 1919, still in existence.

In 1919, Mrs Seymour of Barwick House, along with several other local gentry ladies, was summoned to Sandringham House to be told of a new idea, “The Women’s Institute”. The ladies were instructed to go home and set up a WI in their villages.  As a result, Barwick & Stanhoe WI was founded; our original name probably being influenced by our first President, Mrs Seymour.

A direct connection continues, as two of our present members are descendants of founder members. We have an archive of nearly all the minute books from 1926 to the present day, which one of our members has trawled through to piece together our history.

Meetings until 1926 were held in the Men’s Reading Room. However, a note in the ‘suggestions box’ led to the construction of the WI Hut, which was financed by the WI and money raised from a garden fete. It was built on a parcel of Mrs Seymour’s land in Stanhoe and had a residential caretaker. The hut was used until December 1978 when the refurbished Reading Room was brought into use as a village hall. This remains our meeting place.

The WI was involved in good works for villagers’ benefit, from children’s parties to old folks’ outings, fetes, jumble sales and the annual Flower Show; support was given to the young men of the village who had gone to war and our archives contain letters of thanks from these soldiers. As now, monthly meetings were held for members, with some kind of ‘education’ in the form of a speaker or demonstrator. We like to consider this to be for enjoyment!

Originally, ten monthly meetings were held each year, with August and September, harvest months, being omitted.  September was permanently fixed in the schedule in 1949, with the inclusion of an August garden meeting some forty years later.  In 1989 a meeting day of Thursday was decided upon, remaining so ever since.  Timings have also seen changes.  Originally meetings were held on summer evenings and winter afternoons, but from 2014 all meetings convened at 2.30pm, with a final change to 2pm in April 2018.

Institute membership was high in the late 1920s and early 1930s: 40 subscriptions were paid in 1928.  Women of the villages were joined by "our friends from Bircham aerodrome usually for six months at a time".  In 1962, 44 members were listed, since when numbers have fluctuated, and cause for concern regarding sustainability came in 2013 when numbers dwindled to 16.  However, thanks to an influx of members from neighbouring villages our viability was ensured.  Membership in 2019 is 29 representing 13 different communities, with more new members in the pipeline.  As a result, we have changed from a community-based group to an out-going group of ladies with a diverse range of experience and interests.

Our Centenary Sub-Committee has worked hard over the past 12 months to plan and seek sponsorship and funding for a varied programme of events throughout 2019. To mark our centenary, a plaque has been  installed in Stanhoe Reading Room, as well as a tree and bench on the village playing field. Members will be presented with commemorative items, including a history of our WI. There will be an educational visit to the Houses of Parliament and we have enjoyed a celebratory lunch with Tim Bentinck aka David Archer.

We would like to extend thanks to Norfolk Community Foundation and our centenary sponsors:  Paris Print, M.E. Ayres & Sons Ltd,  Aldiss, Hylton Gott, Terry Ashwell, Chris Robson and the family of former member Betty Brown