The first WI in Warwickshire was formed on 24th March 1917. Now known as Tysoe WI, the original title was “Compton Winyates in Association with Tysoe” as the Marchioness of Northampton was very much involved with the formation.
Mrs Gerard of Harbury Leyes took on the role of the first President and Mrs Tom Gardener of Church Farm was Secretary. Newbold on Stour was formed in June 1917 and Kineton in September 1917. Further to the formation of these three WIs, Lady Willoughby de Broke made a suggestion to form a Warwickshire Federation. As a result, a Committee was formed with Miss Bryson, formerly Secretary of the Warwick and Leamington Women’s Suffrage, as the first Federation Secretary. The Committee went to work in earnest, despite transport difficulties, to interview residents in villages throughout the country. In March 1918, the first council meeting of the Federation was held in Leamington. By the end of 1919, there were more than 1400 WIs in the country.
Membership fees were 2 shillings (10p) and in Tysoe, meetings took place on the first Wednesday of the month at 4.45pm in the Old School Room. The meeting commenced with tea and they had talks and demonstrations; much as we still do 100 years later. Some of the talks and demos focused on clean milk production, goat keeping, healthy homes, the art of saving, slipper making and mending shoes and boots using old rubber tyres.
In 1929, a “Children’s Day and Baby Show” was held together with a jumble sale, tea, a parade, a competition and a Flower Show. £4 15 shillings was donated to the Village Hall Fund.
Much of interest was going on pre 1939, mainly revolving around Whist and Beetle drives alongside cake baking, jam making and pickling with crafts such as knitting, rag rug making and sewing featuring in most minutes.
Competitions took place each meeting with the ever popular “peeling a potato whilst blindfolded” and “sing a song or pay” where each member either sang a song or paid a fine.
Community singing was also a regular part of most meetings accompanied by the piano that was purchased by the WI in 1933.
This piano also helped to raise funds as use of it other than by the WI incurred the following fees: Villagers 1/- Dances in the village 2/- Persons not living in the village (outsiders) 2/6.
From 1934 and throughout WW2, members brought an offering of their chicken’s eggs to be donated to either the Horton or Ellen Badger Hospitals. On average 103 eggs were collected per month.
In 1937 we hear the first mention of a Keep Fit Club which is still going strong today but with none of the original members as they didn’t keep that fit!
In 1938 “A very interesting demonstration was given by Miss Millie Mason and her assistants of Banbury introducing the latest scientific method of permanent waving; one member of the WI acting as model. Several ladies took advantage of a complimentary trim. The WI were a stylish ensemble.
However 1939 brought the outbreak of WW2 and the September meeting was cancelled. Membership at this point had risen to 31 and the WI began to “Knit for the Navy”.
The then President, Miss Brinkley was now on “War Duty” and was unable to continue in position.
In October of 39, the WI donated a magnificent £18.14.0 to the Heart of England Spitfire Fund which equates to £828.99 in today’s money.
In 1940 the much treasured piano was auctioned for the War Effort and raised £8.7.6 or £340.51.
During the next five years many dances and socials were held as morale and fund raisers. RAF Edgehill personnel were regular attendees along with the Home Guard, ARP Wardens, local Searchlight operators, National fire Service and local land Army girls. These were very popular in the village. Towards the end of the war, wounded American soldiers were also invited.
Providing the music were Mr Bert Bloxham with his tubular bells, Mr Frost on accordion and Mr Fairbrother on the piano which is still in situ.
The WI kitted out the Tysoe serving men with knitted comforts and lined the village hall curtains with blackouts.
In 1940, Cadburys presented a film show for the WI who invited the village to attend. The programme consisted of 4 short films: the life story of gannets; Life on the Gold Coast; A Mickey mouse film and an informative film on the making of Cadbury’s products.
In January 1941 4/- or £14.00 was sent to each of the Tysoe serving men and in 1942 the ladies begin trimming camouflage nets as it was work of “national importance”.
The content of monthly meetings continued to maintain some normality and in April 1944 members had to each give short talks or again, be fined. The three best were judged to be:
- Miss Brinkley “her most embarrassing moment”
- Mrs Hibberd “what she did before she got married”
- Mrs Pope “the many adventures she had when visiting France and Belgium with the Legion”
In May 1945, the WI provided a Victory in Europe tea party for the children of Tysoe…it was, in their words “a lavish spread”, followed by games until six, then a 2 hour film show. Each child was sent home with a cake.
During the period of the war, the WI raised money for:
- The Heart of England Spitfire Fund
- Lord Southwood’s fund for “Sick and bombed children”
- Mrs Churchill’s Aid to Russia fund
- The Help Holland Fund and the Aid to China fund
Approx in today’s money £3,677.00 was raised. This is commendable for a small Warwickshire Village WI.
In 1955, a table cloth was presented to each member in memory of Miss Styles.
Oxhill WI was dissolved in 1959 and I’m sure some of the members moved here to Tysoe.
In 1968, there was a change of name and we became Tysoe Women’s Institute.
In those days, they had monthly competitions as we still do a century later! However, there was a major difference; members were fined if they did not enter the competition!
Unfortunately, no records exist prior to 1920 so we are unsure of what happened in those first three years. Fortunately, we now hold very good records so future generations of WI members will know exactly what we did and how much we achieved.