WI (Women’s Institute)

Hickling Women’s Institute.

Grantham Journal 18th January 1936 (Wadkin)
Grantham Journal 18th January 1936 (Wadkin)

The Grantham Journal reported the first meeting of the joint Hickling and Kinoulton Women’s Institute on 16th February 1935 with Mrs Foster of Hickling (the wife of the Rector) as President, she was elected by ballot. “Meeting Hickling Institute Thursday to enrol members, social evening following. New Institute would belong to Wolds Group.”

A year later, at the first annual meeting, it was announced that Kinoulton would be forming its own branch. Hickling Women’s Institute continued until 1940 but took a break during WWII, re-forming in 1947. In 2017 the Hickling WI received a certificate from the National Federation marking 70 years of continuous membership.

We plan to expand our history of the WI in Hickling; if you have any information or photographs that you would like to add, please get in touch.

Hickling WI Archives – the black suitcase:

The Hickling Women’s Institute was first formed in February 1935 (see top of page) but it took a break in 1940 during WWII and, sadly, no records survive from these first years.

Since the WI was reformed in 1947 meticulous records have been kept – their repository until recently, a rather battered old suitcase.

In summary:

  • Minute Books 1947 to 2016
  • Record and Meeting books 1947 to 2016
  • Programmes 1956 to 2020
  • Account Books 1957-1978 and financial statements
  • Recent photograph albums
  • Extensive correspondence, competition results, suggestions and loose papers; including Jerusalem and contacts with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. These also include correspondence about more local concerns such as objections to the closure of the village school and concerns about the Smite flooding.
  • Annual Reviews, including for national anniversary years: 50 years, 60 years, 100 years
  • WI publications such as: Time to be Social (1957), Programme Making (1958), Keeping Yourselves Informed (1974), International Countrywomen (1967), Procedures at Meetings (1974).
  • Hickling WI Collection of Member’s Recipes (1987)
  • A copy of Home and Country, the Women’s Institutes Journal from March 1919 – vol 1 no. 1. (see gallery below)

The contents of the suitcase have now been scanned and archived and the originals returned to the WI. It is hoped that a member of the WI will take on the challenge of assembling the story of the Hickling WI from these fascinating documents; in the meantime a selection can be found in the galleries on the button (below) and access to the collection is possible with the consent of the WI. Many of these records are very candid and contain a treasure trove of anecdotes, detail and records – if this is a project that you would be interested in, please contact us!

To see a selection of galleries from these archives, click below:

Hickling WI; in the news:

The National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

The first British WI met on Anglesey in North Wales on September 16th 1915.
The first British WI met on Anglesey in North Wales on September 16th 1915.

The first WI group met at Stoney Creek, Ontario in Canada in 1897 and it was for the wives of the local Farmer’s Institute. It was one of the founding members of this group, Madge Watt, who organised the first WI meeting in Great Britain; on the 16th September 1915 at Llanfairpwll on Anglesey, Wales. The early aims involved revitalising rural communities and helping with food production during WWI.

Only two years later, the National Federation of WIs, a democratic, non-party political and voluntary organisation, is formed and mainly led by women who were involved in the suffrage movement. WI members pass the first resolution in 1918, urging local authorities to take advantage of the government scheme for state-aided housing. By then 137 WIs have opened.

(National Federation of Women’s Institutes)

Although linked to the suffragette movement in its early years one of the features of the WI is its independence; it deliberately has no political or religious affiliation and is open to all, taking pride in its democratic foundations. By 1919 there were already 1,400 WI groups. The Queen Mother was a member of the WI and Queen Elizabeth II has been a member since 1943; she is President of the Sandringham Branch and attends their meeting every January – in 2019 participating in a version of the TV show Pointless with her fellow members. Other Royal members include, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Anne, Princess Royal and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

Although the ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ label isn’t always helpful it is a part of the WI identity; William Blake’s 1804 poem was set to a new musical arrangement for the WI in 1924 (marking the organisations links to the suffrage movement) and continues to be widely sung although it has never been officially adopted as the organisation’s anthem. During both WWI and WWII the WI’s role in growing and preserving food was of great importance as was their support for women in the home and in their communities; “During the ‘Great Jam Debate’, the NFWI successfully lobbied for members to be exempt from having to register with the local authority to sell jam to the public.” In a nod to this reputation, the WI broke the world record for the ‘number of people knitting simultaneously’ at their AGM in 2012.

However, beyond this work the WI has been at the forefront of working and campaigning for the welfare of our nation – looking after evacuees in WWII; demanding equal pay for men and women; free school milk for children; extra women police officers; more midwives for rural communities; initiating the Keep Britain Tidy campaign; the Freedom From Hunger Campaign raising awareness of worldwide hunger and malnutrition; as early as the 1970s the WI was campaigning on recycling and marine pollution as well as raising awareness about HIV/AIDS; in the 1990s they were a founding member of the Fair Trade Association. In 2012 the first WI in a prison was formed and many more have followed offering support to inmates. Work today continues with mental health awareness, social and environmental issues.

“(2020/21) Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the NFWI offices temporarily close and WI members once again show their resilience and collective strength by keeping their communities connected and supporting those in need. From sewing for the NHS, supporting food banks and delivering prescriptions, the WI Community Champions go above and beyond to help others.”

(National Federation of Women’s Institutes)

A survey of 1,000 WI groups in 2001 concluded that members volunteered close to 3.5million hours every year and as their centenary was celebrated in 2015 there were over 200,000 members in 6,500 Institutes. Most of all, a campaigning independent spirit characterises the organisation; whether it is the ‘Calendar Girls’ of Rylstone WI or the slow hand clap at an AGM when members objected to Tony Blair’s use of the platform to make a party-political speech …

“The WI is a force to be reckoned with and is here to stay” (Countryfile).

Hickling WI; 1967-8 Programme of Events (from the Wadkin Archive).

WI Golden Jubilee Bench 28th May1965 (from John Tomlinson)
WI Golden Jubilee Bench 28th May1965 (from John Tomlinson)

A Collection of Newsclippings – Hickling WI 1965-1970 (from John Tomlinson)

Hickling WI; Time Capsule (and presentation of a new Union Flag to the village).

In 2015 Hickling Women’s Institute celebrated 80 years since the group first opened in the village. During the War years there was a short break as the women had to do farm work and other work normally done by men at that time.

In 2015 the Hickling Village Hall had improvement work completed and it was suggested that a Time Capsule installed in the new roof would be an interesting way to commemorate the WI’s anniversary.

46 Star Flag flown 20th July 2017
46 Star Flag flown in honour of Fred Maltby Warner & placing of the WI time capsule; 20th July 2017

Hickling W.I. has always been very actively involved in all the social and fund-raising events in the village. It was decided that items put into the container should reflect how the W.I. had been and still is at the forefront of village life and the community.

A small milk churn was donated and was the perfect container for items as it was metal, water proof and had a tightly fitted lid. A milk churn was also very relevant as Hickling has a number of dairy herds whose milk goes to make the world-famous Stilton Cheese at the Long Clawson Dairy.

The contents put into the container depicted life in Hickling Village in 2015.

Letter from Clarence House (17th June 2015)
Letter from Clarence House (17th June 2015)

The placing of the Time Capsule was at a ceremony in the village hall on 20th July 2015. This ceremony was shared with the celebrations for Fred Warner Maltby’s 150th birthday. A number of dignitaries attended including the High Sheriff and Councillors. There was press coverage in all the local newspapers. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla) were invited and despite them not being available sent their best wishes.

Prior to the Time Capsule being put into its final resting place, it was entered into a W.I. Federation Competition ‘to produce a Time Capsule showing the W.I. involvement in the Community’. Hickling W.I. won this competition and were presented with the Sheila Norris Rose Bowl Trophy at a ceremony at the Royal Centre Nottingham.

One of the items in the capsule was a poem written by Gwen Cane who is now deceased. How life will have changed when the capsule is found and opened in the future.

(Carol Beadle, June 2021)

At this same event the WI presented the Parish Council with a new Union Flag to replace the one they gave in 1977 at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and the Federation of WIs’ Diamond Jubilee.

(If anyone has any photographs of this evening, a copy of Gwen’s poem or a list of the contents of the time capsule, we would love to hear from you)

Hickling Standard report of 20th July 2015: Time Capsule, new Union Flag, Fred Maltby Warner.
Hickling Standard report of 20th July 2015: Time Capsule, new Union Flag, Fred Maltby Warner.
Hickling Standard report of 20th July 2015: Time Capsule, new Union Flag, Fred Maltby Warner.
Hickling Standard report of 20th July 2015: Time Capsule, new Union Flag, Fred Maltby Warner.
Hickling Standard report of 20th July 2015: Time Capsule, new Union Flag, Fred Maltby Warner.
Hickling Standard report of 20th July 2015: Time Capsule, new Union Flag, Fred Maltby Warner.

Hickling WI 70th Anniversary: planting of a new black poplar.

In 2017 the WI received a certificate from the National Federation to mark 70 years of continuous membership (the group was reformed in 1947 after a break during WWII) and, to commemorate this occasion, decided to plant a black poplar sapling – grown as part of a Suffolk Conservation project. A Black Poplar tree was chosen as WI members realised the rare 200yr+ tree in Hickling Churchyard is now very old and will not last forever … It wasn’t easy to find the right location for the new black poplar (it was decided that the churchyard was too congested) but in early 2019 the sapling was planted in the cemetery on Clawson Lane in view of the churchyard and its black poplar elder.

The sapling was planted by the WI and Tina Combelleck (Borough Councillor) in the north-west corner of Hickling Cemetery. It was carefully tended and regularly watered by members of the WI who carried containers of water from their homes to do this.

Unfortunately, the tree was accidently cut down during hedge cutting work at the cemetery.

A replacement tree was acquired and planted in 2022 which hopefully will grow to maturity and live for the next 200yrs. Please, when in the cemetery take a few moments to look at the rare tree which can be found in the top left-hand corner.

Hickling WI: Ukraine – children’s reading cushions project (Dec 2022)

Please click here.

Hickling WI: Reading cushion project for child refugees from the Ukraine (Dec 2022)
Hickling WI: Reading cushion project for child refugees from the Ukraine (Dec 2022)

The WI Coronation Bench (Sept 2023)

To celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III, the Women’s Institute have installed a commemorative bench in the churchyard of St. Luke’s, Hickling. Surprisingly, this is the first bench in the churchyard.

WI Coronation bench (Sept 2023)
WI Coronation bench (Sept 2023)
WI Coronation bench (Sept 2023)
WI Coronation bench (Sept 2023)

This gallery is from the Wadkin Archives

Hickling WI in the Wadkin Archive:

Scrapbook of Hickling: The Institute was re-formed in 1947 after the war with Mrs Muriel Ashworth of the Manor House president. Mrs Windey was the first Hon. Secretary and Mrs Timms the first Hon. Treasurer. Presidents until the present time were as follows: Mrs Ashworth 1947-1952, Mrs Windey 1952-1955, Mrs VS Walker 1955-1958, Miss Mabel Salt 1958-1963, Mrs Windey 1962-1967, Mrs Morris 1967-1969, Mrs J Wadkin 1969-1973, Mrs Vear 1973-1976, Mrs Spackman 1976-1978, Mrs Johnson 1978-1980, Mrs Evans 1980.

W0448 WI 4th annual handicraft & produce show 1961
W0448 WI 4th annual handicraft & produce show 1961

Mrs Windey was at one time County Vice-Chairman and a VCC for a number of years. Membership at one time exceeded 60. During the 34 years the Institute has been in existence a number of activities have taken place. There was at one time a choir and a drama group, classes have included: embroidery, flower arranging, art, rugmaking, dressmaking, crochet and cookery.

[By tradition] WI members have always been invited to take charge of the teas at the Royal British Legion Horticultural Show every other year when it is held in Hickling.

The ACWW (Associated Country Women of the World) Pennies for Friendship has always been supported.

Saxondale Hospital has its own Women’s Institute and birthday cards are sent to the members from Hickling WI and exchange visits have also taken place.

Alternate years see an exhibition of arts, crafts and produce which are judged in the morning by outside independent judges and awarded points – gold stars 20, 19 points, silver stars 18, 17 points, red stars 16, 15 points. The standard of the exhibits is usually extremely high.

W0449a WI Golden Jubilee Bench 1965
W0449a WI Golden Jubilee Bench 1965

In 1965 the National Federation of Women’s Institutes celebrated their Golden Jubilee and to commemorate this the Hickling WI presented the village with an 8ft teak seat set overlooking the canal basin. The gift was handed over to Mr W Woolley, Chairman of the Parish Council, by the institute’s president Mrs M Windey. After the ceremony the institute staged an ‘At Home’ session in the village school for those attending the presentation.

To commemorate the WI’s Diamond Jubilee a Union Jack was presented to the Village Hall in May 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

[Some years after the seat was presented it was vandalised (something Hickling was not used to) and the commemorative brass plate thrown in the canal.]

(paragraphing and some extra notes [denoted] taken from Wadkin Archives)

Also in the Wadkin Archive Notes:

Cemetery 1955: Although the churchyard had not been officially closed a piece of land on Clawson lane was purchased from Mr W Morse for use as a cemetery. Flowering trees and a pair of wrought iron gates erected at the entrance. Daffodil bulbs given by the Women’s Institute were planted by the caretaker, Mr Frank Sisson, along the side of the central path.

Hickling Women’s Institute: In 1947 Mary and Fred Windey moved from Cropwell Bishop to live in Elm House in Hickling. Mrs Windey was a staunch WI member and on her arrival here she re-formed the Hickling Women’s Institute and took the role of honorary secretary, Mrs Timms became honorary treasurer.