Sue Rivett, a resident of Stokenchurch, has recently completed the mammoth task of transcribing the minutes of the village’s branch of the Women’s Institute (WI).

She has kindly agreed that highlights from these minutes can be shared with readers of the Nostalgia page.

Stokenchurch WI was formed on the 19th August 1920, although minutes of meetings only exist from 1924.

These meetings were held monthly in The Hut, a wooden building alongside the old Infant School (now Adkins Court) and the Common, now used as a carpark.

The land the Hut was on belonged to the WI. The Hut was also let to other groups, the Red Cross, Girls Club, Guides, Welfare, and Folk Dancing, at a charge of £4 each group per year.

The first President was Mrs Slade who lived at Mallards Court and the Vice President was Miss Towerton, who lived at The Patch.

These names are still in the village today, with Mary Towerton School and Slade Road. The branch included a Coal Club, where coal was bought in bulk to be sold on to members.

There was also an Entertainment Club and a Bath Chair* (a previous name for a wheel chair) Club. The latter acquired a wheel chair which was lent to any member who needed one.

A fee was charged for the use of it, except for one member who could not afford to pay. The branch also ran a library in The Hut using books donated by members.

In the early years there was an average annual membership of seventy ladies. As well as organising talks for their members WIs put forward Annual Resolutions each year for approval, first to Buckinghamshire Federation of WIs, and then to the National Federation.

The Resolution from Stokenchurch for 1924 was “Pensions to be given to Civilian Widows”. The branch was also instrumental in establishing a “WI Group System” to include Lane End, West Wycombe, Sands and Downley.

This was called the Slade Group and met twice a year.
Annual events during the 1920s and 30s included a tea for the old people in January, with food being taken to those who could not come, egg collections for the local hospitals, and the debate of each year’s Resolution.

By the time the second world war started in 1939 the branch was firmly established in the local community.

It was during the war years that the WI really “came into its own” nationally by making a major contribution to the Home Front effort.

The work of the Stokenchurch branch included:

  • Helping villagers to utilise rationed items to the maximum extent, for example by arranging a demonstration on making use of cheaper joints of meat
  • Showing villagers how to make use of freely available items, for example nettles, dandelion roots etc. for cooking
  • Assisting in the integration of, and providing support to, evacuees from St Paul’s School, Hammersmith.
  • Making moss-filled pads and knitting woollen blankets for Home Guard casualties
  • From 1943 ten shillings was sent each quarter to friends of local men who were Prisoners of War to enable them to provide the POWs “with comforts”
  • Being responsible for the distribution of Ration Books
  • In 1944 the branch was asked by the Director of POW Organisation to adopt two soldiers who were prisoners of war, but were friendless and had received no relief parcels since being imprisoned in Germany (it was noted that Mrs E Messenger’s son was a POW)

To be continued...

*A Bath Chair was effectively a light carriage for a disabled person with a folding hood, which could be open or closed. It was mounted on three or four wheels and drawn or pushed by hand. It was so named from its origin in the city of Bath. Its invention is attributed to John Dawson, who lived in Bath, around the middle of the 18th century. In the 19th century Bath Chairs were often seen at spa resorts, such as Buxton and Tunbridge Wells, when sick or disabled people were being pushed by an attendant to and from their lodgings and the spa.