(This article was first written for the Chrishall Scrapbook in the 1950s. You can see copies of the scrapbook on our open days.)
The Chrishall Womens’ Institute was formed in February 1926, and it has plodded on staunchly and steadily, without let or hindrance, ever since. During the last war, 1939-45, even Hitler’s bombs did not check its regular monthly meetings, although transport problems often made it difficult to get speakers from far afield.
During the war, under the supervision of Mrs L Kent and Mrs Langford, a Fruit Preservation Centre was opened. Here, enthusiastic women made, literally, hundredweights of jam, using fruit grown in the cottage gardens, that would otherwise have been wasted. As the well-known broadcasting chef, Ambrose Heath, said later, “When the Womens’ Institutes made jam, they made History!”
Not only did they make jam, but they bottled and canned fruit, then, at the end of the fruit harvest, they turned their attention to chutneys and pickles.
In 1926, the President was Mrs L Drage, with Mrs F Rogers and the late Mrs Rush joint secretaries.
In its early days it was the “W.I” that was instrumental in getting the County Library to supply books from Chelmsford. They came by rail, in a large and somewhat unwieldy box. The W.I. committee is still the official Library Committee.
It was the W.I. too, that started the fund for a Village Hall. A nucleus of £6.10 was paid into the bank on June 13th 1939 to this end. This sum remained in the bank all through the war – and, with its interest, is still there. After the war, a Village Hall Committee was formed, and many W.I. members served on both committees. Their combined efforts have raised the V.H. Fund to over £800.
Producing, acting in and watching sketches, has always been a popular pastime in the Chrishall W.I. The first sketch ever produced here was entitled “Jackets”. The cast, (shown here) was Mrs W. Pitches, Miss K Guiver, Miss Revell (seated), Miss P Cranwell and Miss P Miller.
During the war, an entry in a competition for a rhyme about the W.I. gave this rather telling insight about the W.I. from a member’s point of view:
We congregate in Chrishall School,
In winter frigid – in summer cool.
We snatch a pianist – and then
Begin by singing “Jerusalem”.
Minutes follow, are read and signed –
Correspondence discussed – we’re not behind!
The speakers vary – as speakers should,
Some awful, some passable, some even good.
By the time we’ve listened, marked and learned,
A hot cup of tea we all have earned:
And how welcome it is, as we sit and shiver
Why even our very noses quiver!
Over that blessed cup of tea
We suddenly rival the BBC –
News, and views, and latest prices
Somebody’s virtues – NOBODY’s vices!
Cookery recipes – how to bite ’em,
Clothes coupons – coal shortage – ad infinitum
(I like Mrs Flack to help with tea
She brings cheese straws and spoils me!)
Roll Call gives us all a chance
To air our views – or tilt a lance.
Competitions invite us to pit our skill –
The response is sometimes small – but still,
We hope for real co-operation,
As craftsmen we come of a gifted nation.
The social time brings programmes various
We’re seldom glum – more often hilarious
The “daily round, the common task”
Don’t furnish all we need to ask;
An occasional break is good for all –
Although a pity our number’s small,
We hope ’twill continue to bear much fruit –
Our Chrishall Womens Institute.