65 Years of Weston Favell Evening WI

Next year is the centenary of both National Federation of the Women’s Institutes and the Northamptonshire Federation, but this year is the 65th anniversary of Weston Favell Evening WI. To celebrate here are snippets of  some of the activities over the years.
The WI is the largest Voluntary Organisation in the UK, and is independent from political and religious institutions. The WI also provides education opportunities through their own Denman College and provides a wide variety of activities and campaigns for issues that matter within our communities

The WI movement was born in 1897, when the wives of members of the Farmers Institute, of Stony Creek Ontario, Canada decided to bring women in isolated communities together, to educate them in cookery and childcare.
The first WI in England and Wales was formed in 1915 at Llanfairpwllgwyngyll in Angelsey to bring rural communities together and get women producing food during WWI. (In WW2 members also looked after evacuees, and belonged to a preservation programme for excess produce).  In 1918 the National Federation was formed and will be celebrating their centenary next year.

At the end of WWI government funding continued, but in 1926 the WI became financially independent and by that time was part of nearly every village in England and Wales. In 2014 The WI is appearing in towns and cities too, even in London at lunchtimes, fitting in with the modern lifestyle and busy working lives of women everywhere.
The Northamptonshire Federation was also formed in 1918, so will also be celebrating their centenary next year. There are now 119 Institutes in the Northamptonshire Federation, with a total of 3747 members, with Weston Favell Evening WI having 74 members.
 In 1924, ‘Jerusalem’, set to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916, was first sung at the AGM of the NFWI in the Queens Hall in London, led by a choir of WI members. It was so successful that has continued to be sung at the AGM to this day. Although it has never actually been adopted as the WI’s official anthem, in practice it holds that position, and is sung at the beginning of most meetings at National, County, and local Institute level. In 1968 some Institutes proposed a resolution to drop Jerusalem as being out of date but here we are, still singing ‘our song’. Anyone who has heard several thousand members sing in the Albert Hall, will know it is a very moving experience.
The WI National magazine ‘Home and Country’ was available by subscription for many years, but had a low take up. About four years ago it was changed to ‘WI Life’ and sent free to all WI members as part of the annual subscription. This brought in more advertising revenue which enabled the National Federation to update the format of the magazine, improving communications and give it wider appeal.
In 1949, as Northampton began to expand after WW2, the Parish Council decided to form a WI in Weston Favell. The first meeting was held on 22nd March 1949. The first committee was made up from wives of members of the Parish Council. Olwen Briggs, who was a president and committee member for many years, was ordered to go to the first meeting by her husband!  Further meetings were held monthly alternating between afternoon and evening meetings. In 1949 membership was 2/6 (twelve and a half pence) per month (£3 per year) and use of the Parish Hall was free.
Winnie Shurville was one of those founder members, and is still with us after 65 years. Over the years she has been President of Weston Favel WI and held every office within the County Federation, was a County Trustee, serving on various county committees, rising to County Chairman. In 1965 she was invited to the Queens Garden Party at Buckingham palace to mark the Golden Jubilee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.  Winnie appears in many photographs we hold in our archives, of activities in the WI from the early days to the present.
A choir was formed in 1949, and in 1950 a Drama group was also started, with a joint concert taking place in September 1950. Members of the choir and drama groups joined with other institutes in several County and National events over the years.
Weston Favell WI also entered, and still do , WI competitions at the East of England Show and many County produce and craft competitions over the years, winning the co-operative class for the first time in 1956 and several times since.
About this time membership reaching about 100, the afternoon and evening meetings separated with each holding their own monthly meetings. The afternoon meeting closed about nine years ago due to lack of support, reflecting lifestyle changes, as more women were out at work.  We are still known as Weston Favell Evening WI, even though we are the only one left in Weston Favell.
The tablecloth, still used at monthly meetings, was made by a group of members for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953; it was designed by Dick Hawkins husband of the president. The cloth is now registered at the National Needlework Archive, and would be considered a WI heirloom.
With the expansion of the Eastern District, in the 1960’sand 70’s, new estates were built in the Weston Favell and Lumbertubs areas. This brought many newcomers to the area, who were welcomed and given the opportunity to make new friends, The average age of membership was much younger in those earlier years and Winnie can remember members knitting for the new babies coming along.
Anniversaries came and went. April 1970 brought the Institutes 21st birthday. A birthday card from our sister institute in Weston Favell reads – ‘Forget the Jam, Go easy on Jerusalem, Pile up the cake and congratulations!’ Good to know they had their priorities right then, we are still piling up the cake now!
In 1968 there were celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of the National WI and the County Federation,and the drama group members joined in a pageant, and a cherry tree was planted outside the entrance to the village hall.  In 1998 the 80th anniversary was celebrated with an County Federation event at All Saints church, Northampton with many local dignitaries attending.
On one National Marmalade Day Winnie as chairman of the County catering committee, was featured in the local press with her recipe for making marmalade, and was named as the ‘Marmalade Marvel’.
Olwen Briggs, a WI expert in cake decorating, demonstrated
how to make sugar decorations as part of the National WI display ‘This green and pleasant land’ at the Ideal Home exhibition at Olympia. There came a time when Olwen was very busy and asked a new member, Jenny Slater, if she could make a cake to help her out. Jenny not too sure, made the cake, and a star was born! She signed up for every cooking and craft course she could and now our Institute has an expert in both, very much in demand as a demonstrator, and County Judge.  Always ready to give advice and help to all of us, anytime.  A worthy successor to Olwen
Many charities have been supported over the years, for example in 1971 we raised money for deaf and autistic children, and ongoing support is given to the Cynthia Spencer Hospice, a local cause, and dear to our hearts.
The website was set up in 2003 by Bill Allen, husband of the President Anne-Marie. After their move to Cheshire, Colin Stonell husband of then new President Margaret took over as webmaster and still continues to take care of it for us. It is worth a visit.
In June 2004 a sample of a monthly newsletter was produced as an entry for a county competition. There were reports of activities, a list of upcoming events, and the obligatory ‘Recipe of the Month’. We have reprinted one item in that newsletter we think you would like to enjoy, and relate to.

A day in the Life of a WI member’     by Hazel Hollis.

6.45 am   Feed cat. Notice asterisk against tonight’s WI meeting on calendar. Make early breakfast for Significant Other, who’s golfing.

   Shower. Think about asterisk. Must have agreed to take cakes. Dress to shop in baggy old track suit.

   See Marcia Fosdyke, committee member in supermarket, wearing lilac designer co-ordinates. Escape unseen down aisle 21. Stock up on Blueberry Muffins, 2 for 1.

10.00 am
  In aisle 25, come face to face with Marcia Fosdyke. Hide muffins behind box of cornflakes. MF staring at my track suit, asks if I have remembered tonight. Answer affirmative.

11.00 am
  Home. Discover I’ve left muffins at checkout.

12.00 pm
  Return from corner shop with cake ingredients. Thought I already had eggs, flour, etc. Significant Other appears – golf rained off. Make unexpected lunch for two.

1.30 pm
  Stack dishwasher, Significant Other having departed to the greenhouse.

2.15 pm   Fat and eggs curdle. Start again. Finally put 16 cakes in oven.

2.20 pm
   Phone rings – best friend, wanting chat.

2.45 pm
   Still chatting. Smell burning. End call.

3.00 pm
   Scrape worst bits. Make pot of tea. Call Significant Other. Take two headache tablets.

3.45 pm
   Ice remaining 12 cakes. Significant Other always did like them burned a little.

4.00 pm
   Think how nice he garden is looking. Remember asterisk. Perhaps it was flowers I was supposed to bring?

4.20 pm
   Bring in sodden flowers.Discovered cat has licked icing on three cakes. Put these on bird table. Admonish cat. Create droopy flower arrangement.

5.00 pm
   Pack remaining nine cakes in box.

5.30 pm
   Grill fish. Fend off cat. Cook veg. Lay table. Dish up. Call Significant Other.

6.15 pm
   Get changed. Remember that button’s off that skirt. Change again. Stack dishwasher. Take indigestion remedy.

6.40 pm
   Arrive at community centre. Discover cakes and flowers done by other members. Rack brains anew over asterisk.

6.45 pm
   President asks me where Marcia Fosdyke is. Recall finally that I agreed to pick MF up tonight as her son needed her car. 

6.50 pm
   Marcia  Fosdyke doesn’t live far. We might even be back in time for Jerusalem. She is watching out for me, dressed now in electric blue silk. Apologise for lateness. Blame Significant Other

7.05 pm
   Arrive at community centre. As we enter, Marcia Fosdyke says she particularly wanted to hear tonight’s speaker, on Retraining Your Memory for Life’. ‘Oh yes, so do I’, I assure MF fervently!

Recipe of the month 2004.

Mushroom Roast
220gm (8oz) of mushrooms                       1 large onion
30g (1oz) butter or margarine.                  Pepper & salt
165g (6oz) grated cheese                           1 egg beaten
110g (4oz) wholemeal breadcrumbs         1tsp dried oregano
1 tblsp tomato puree
1lb loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper or parchment

Chop onion and add to melted butter or margaine and cook until soft, add peeled and chopped mushrooms and saute togetherfor 5 minutes.
In a bowl place breadcrumbs, seasoning, herbs and beaen egg with tomato puree and half of the cheese,
dd the mushroom and onion mixture and mix well. Place into the loaf tin and press down well with the back of a spoon. Top with remaining cheese and bake at 190C for 30 to 40 minutes
Remove from tin and slice and serve hot, or cool and place in fridge to set, then thinly slice and serve with salads. It freezes well, whole or ias individually wrapped portions.

I served this at one of our WI parties, everyone enjoyed it so much that I was inundated with requests for a copy of the recipe.  – Judy Stockon.


Weston Favell Evening WI awards a bursary every year, drawn at the AGM, so that any member gets an opportunity to take a course and experience a few days at Denman College. In 2005 Weston Favell Institute were awarded a lottery grant for members to go in two groups, to take a course at Denham College. We had a choice from three different courses, and enjoyed soaking up the Denman atmosphere and traditions.  Not all members could manage go away for three days, so in 2006 with the remaining money from the lottery grant, there was a free trip for all members, for a day at Stockwood Park in Luton.  It was such a lovely day,  we repeated it in 2013. 2006 was a busy year as there was also a visit to Highgrove, (set up by Judy Stockton). The weather was perfect for beautiful day in Prince Charles wonderful gardens. The day was completed with afternoon tea with the WI at Tetbury.
The Committee organise several visits to the theatre every year, also a trip to a nice garden every summer. There are coffee mornings twice a year and the occasional garden party. The most notable of which in recent times was probably the fun we had in Harry Hayne’s garden (ably supported by husband Allan) for the handing over of the jubilee baton in 2012. Followed next day by our President, conveyed in Allan’s vintage sports car, to handover the baton to Gt Billing WI.
The committee try to book a varied programme of speakers each year. There is a choice of – a charity, slide show, wildlife, healthcare, interesting place, travel, and entertainment, so you do not get bored, and in December a Christmas Party with a good entertainer. The Monday following meetings during the colder months, there is a ‘Tea, Tatting and Talk’ afternoon, a social afternoon with a craft session included. Everyone welcome to drop in.  


Photographs of many of the events described are in the archives held by Margaret Frost. If you would like to see them contact Margaret.
With thanks to all ‘WI husbands’ who give much support behind the scenes.
Dedicated to our late President Margaret  Stonell who supported the idea from the beginning.