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Village History

Wealth of W.I. history

Posted on December 23 2015 at 12:32:43 0 comments

Jill, Val and Jessica

When Finstall Women’s Institute began in 1937, its founding members surely could not have realised that their meticulous records would still survive almost eight decades later – or perhaps they provided such detail precisely so that the material could be marvelled at by today’s members.

The treasure-trove was discovered during the recent renovations of Finstall Village Hall, where box upon box of paper records had been hidden for years under the eaves.

Amazingly, the archive is in excellent condition, from handwritten reports to play programmes to the pile of receipts for every tiny purchase – and current President Val Wheeler and committee members Jessica Wilson and Jill Findon showed just some of the collection to The Village.

Dating back to the very beginning, some of the highlights include memorabilia sent from the group’s “linked” WI in Balarat, Australia (a friendship that continues today), and a 1973 petition to save Finstall Post Office, which boasts signatures from pretty much the whole village and proved successful at the time.

There’s even a stack of “Press Books” containing every report sent by the WI to the local newspaper, plus an album of press clippings.

Reports from early meetings show the WI’s educational leanings, with members receiving instruction on cooking, dressmaking and digging for victory. They also lobbied local MPs for free milk for schoolchildren and, later, with concerns about hospital facilities.

“In 1937, membership cost two shillings a year and hall hire was £2 a year!” says Jill, who has been a member for 44 years.

The group, which became Finstall & Cofton Hackett WI when the Cofton branch faced closure, now has 26 members – although only Jessica actually lives in Finstall.

“We’re quite an active WI, and new members are very welcome!” says Jessica. The group meets at Finstall Village hall on the first Monday each month at 2pm (except January).

Pictured: Jill, Val and Jessica with some of the archive


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