Felbridge Women's Institute Celebrates 90 years

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Potted history of the Felbridge WI

The Felbridge Women’s Institute was established in 1924 by Mrs Evan-Evans.  Well before the establishment of the Parish Council, the WI was involved in improving the village drainage and widening the Star Corner bridge.  The Institute started the village flower show in 1928 and held a weekly market throughout the Second World War.  At one period, the WI included a strong dramatic and choral section among its members and took part in the East Grinstead Pageant to mark the Festival of Britain in 1951.  To mark the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, the Institute planted a tree in the King George’s Playing Field, behind the present bowling green.  A member won the East Grinstead Silver Jubilee Banner competition in 1977.  Her hand embroidered design still has pride of place in the Village Hall.

Taken from Felbridge Parish and People 1976


A seat was given to the Village Hall to celebrate the Institute’s 70th Birthday in 1994, and October 1999 saw the erection of a wrought iron weather vane in the shape of the WI tree symbol to mark the Millennium.  Also, until the WI became a registered charity, money was raised annually for other local charities, and by 1999 a stalwart band of knitters have produced 241 jumpers and 118 blankets for Oxfam and the Red Cross.

Taken from Felbridge Parish and People Millennium Edition 1999


FHG Commemorative Document

This document has been pieced together by the Felbridge and District History Group in celebration of the Felbridge WI 90th anniversary.  Sadly the original records of the Felbridge WI do not survive before 1954 and there is a second gap between 1986 and 2004 for which only newspaper clippings have been kept.  The following is therefore made up of what little has survived or has been donated to or collected by the FHG archive, along with memories of local residents, so unfortunately there may be gaps in the full story of the Felbridge WI.


In February 1962 attempts were made to determine who had the Minute Books from the foundation of the Felbridge WI in 1924 until 1955, followed again by another attempt in March 1967 to ascertain their whereabouts.  In 1967 the Secretary, Mrs Aldridge, reported to the committee that all the Minute Books were ‘available and former Secretary Mrs Exell will let me have them’, but nothing more is recorded about the issue so it is not known if they were handed over then or not.


What is the WI?

The WI (Women's Institute) was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War.  Since then the organisation's aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary women's organisation in the UK.  The WI will celebrate its centenary in 2015 and currently has 212,000 members in around 6,600 WIs.  The WI plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities.

Taken from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes www.thewi.org.uk


Today membership is open to women who have reached the ‘Age of Majority’, and by paying the required subscription.  The Women’s Institute organisation is based on the ideals of fellowship, truth, tolerance and justice, with its original roots in rural and agricultural communities; however, today it embraces the interest of women in both rural and urban communities.  All women who are interested in the values and purposes of the Women’s Institute organisation may join, no matter what their views on religion or politics may be.  The organisation is non-sectarian and non-party political.  This does not prevent WIs from concerning themselves with matters of political and religious significance provided the views and rights of minorities are respected and provided the organisation is never used for party-political or sectarian purposes.  WIs are charitable and everything they do must be consistent with that special legal status.


Why 1924 and not before?

Up until 1911, Felbridge had been a gentleman’s estate with a static population of employees and their families occupying the area.  However, in 1910 the Felbridge estate was purchased by a developer and in 1911 parts of the estate were put up for auction [for further information see Handout, 1911 Sale of the Felbridge Estate, SJC 01/11].  Some of the lots sold and the first major development of Felbridge was started with the construction of houses along Rowplatt Lane by Major Thomas Stewart Inglis [for further information see Handout, Eating and Drinking Establishments of Felbridge Pt. I, SJC 05/07].  The outbreak of the First World War obviously slowed the break-up of the Felbridge estate but by 1915 the new houses in Rowplatt Lane were attracting residents from outside the formerly closed community of Felbridge, bringing with them new ideas, expectations and outlooks.


After the conclusion of the First World War, the development of Felbridge continued with a string of larger houses being built along the Copthorne Road attracting more residents to the Felbridge area and it is with this influx of new people (many of whom were women) that Felbridge began to grow as a community.


With the loss of the Felbridge estate the community no longer had a ‘lord of the manor’ to attend to its growing needs.  At the time Felbridge, the bulk of the area being in Surrey, was a detached part of the civil parish of Godstone, with little or no interest from the distant Godstone Rural District Council.  There was no local Parish Council to assume responsibility for community needs and interests; that would not be formed until 1953 [for further information see Handout, Civil Parish of Felbridge SJC 03/03], so it would seem natural that a group of women would band together to campaign on issues that mattered to them and their community and the best way at the time to achieve results would have been to become associated with the Federation of Women’s Institutes, to become a member under the umbrella of a national organisation that gave women a voice.


It is therefore the development of Felbridge and its growing community that created the circumstances and need for a group of women to band together to form the Felbridge WI in 1924.


Founder and Early Members

Unfortunately the names of most the founder members of the Felbridge WI have been lost over the past ninety years but a few names have been passed down by word of mouth and one can speculate on a few other names.  What is known is that the Felbridge WI was established by Mrs Evan-Evans together with fifteen committee members in 1924, the first President was Mrs Back and a founder member is noted as Mrs Wheeler, with Mrs Warner (formerly Gardner) and Mrs Pentecost featuring prominently in the earliest archives, along with Mrs Dewhurst and Miss Weightman who were recorded in 1959 as ‘old members’ (not in the sense of age but time serving).  With research it has been possible to determine a few facts about these women, but sadly not all sixteen founder members.


An inherent problem with both the word of mouth and scattered early written archives for the Felbridge WI is that the married members were referred to as Mrs ‘this or that’, and if an initial was used it was that of her husband’s first name not her’s, and for single women they were simply Miss ‘this or that’, with no initial.  Therefore on this basis some of the early members have had to remain as Miss or Mrs ‘this or that’ simply because it has not been possible to determine whose daughter a single woman was or, if married, who they were before they married.


Mrs Evan-Evans was born Emily Soffe Stuart Barker in Walworth, London in 1869, the daughter of Charles Stuart Barker and his wife Elizabeth Clarissa née Soffe.  Charles was an auctioneer and surveyor from Derby who settled in the London area.  Emily married Benjamin Herbert Evan-Evans on 5th September 1896 at St Andrew’s Church, Kensington.  Benjamin, recorded as a clerk in 1891, had been born in St. Pancras in 1873, the son of Benjamin and Marion Evans; Benjamin senior was recorded as a journalist in 1891 and living on his own means in 1901.


Emily and Benjamin did not have children and after starting their married life living with Benjamin’s parents in Hammersmith, the couple had moved to Chiddinghurst, an eight-roomed farmhouse in Winkhurst Green Road, Bough Beech, Kent, by 1911, where Benjamin was recorded as a poultry farmer.  In 1916 the couple purchased the remaining part of Stream Farm, Felbridge, (consisting of just short of twenty-five acres now the site of The Feld, Standen Close and the Felbridge Hotel) from the East Grinstead Estate Company.


Without a family, Emily made an ideal candidate to become involved with the Women’s Institute and living near to the ‘Star Corner’ may well have been the instigator behind the widening of the bridge.  Sadly Emily only lived at the property for ten years before she died aged just fifty-seven on 10th September 1926 and was buried at St John’s Church, Felbridge.  Benjamin remained at The Stream until 1928 when he sold off some of the farm land to Major Thomas Stewart Inglis and the house and surrounding grounds to Major Douglas Carter Stern [for further information see Handout, Old Felbridge House and The Feld, SJC 02/01]. As a point of interest, in 1933 Benjamin re-married, Beatrice A Hughes, and died in Bournemouth on 10th April 1964, aged ninety.


Mrs Back was born Minnie Gertrude Mills in East Grinstead in 1893, the daughter of James Mills and his wife Sarah Ann née Buckland.  In 1901 the Mills family were living at 88, Glen Vue, East Grinstead, the census recording that Minnie’s father James was a bricklayer.  However, by 1911 the Mill’s family had moved to Forest Row where James was working as a builder’s foreman.  Minnie, aged seventeen, was still living at home but not working.  In 1919 Minnie married John Joseph Vestey, heir to the Vestey food company and a widower with two sons from his first marriage.  In 1922 John and Minnie and his two sons (Derek and Charles) moved to a newly constructed property called Bosworth House in Copthorne Road.  It would appear that John and Minnie did not have a family of their own and sadly John Vestey died in 1932 [for further information see Handout, Three More Biographies from the Churchyard of St John the Divine: John Hogger, Frederick & Emma Millard and John Vestey, SJC 09/10].


After the death of John Vestey, Minnie continued to live at Bosworth House and in 1934 married Richard H Back.   As a couple they both showed a keen interest in the village of Felbridge making Minnie another ideal candidate as a founding member of the Felbridge WI, becoming its first President and remaining a fully paid-up member until 1963.  As a point of interest, in 1953 Richard Back became a founding member and Chairman of the Felbridge Parish Council [for further information see Handout, Civil Parish of Felbridge, SJC 03/03].  Minnie died in 1966, aged seventy-three.


Mrs Meppem was born Isabella Banister in Salehurst, Sussex, in 1858, the daughter of Henry Banister and his wife Jane née Gurr.   In 1881 Isabella married Ormond Edwin Meppem and they had ten children including: Earl James born in 1881, Ormond Edwin born in 1882, Samuel Edgar born in 1884, Hubert John in 1885, Eleanor Bethia born in 1887, Bessie Matilda born in 1890, Serena-Mahaleth born in 1892, Sydney Clarence born in 189, Adelaide Isabel born in 1898 and Cyril Thomas born in 1899.  Isabella Meppem and her family moved to Felbridge in the first decade of the 20th century when her husband Ormond began work for the Gatty family as Estate Bailiff; living first at Hart’s Hall, now the site of Felbridge Court, Copthorne Road, and then Rose Cottage, Imberhorne Lane, now the site of Wicks.


Both Ormond and Isabella were heavily involved in the Felbridge community, in particular the allocation of the Beef and Faggot Charity [for further information see Handout, The Beef and Faggot Charity, SJC 03/03].  By 1924, with a grown up family, Isabella was an ideal candidate to be a founding member of the Felbridge WI, remaining a member until her death, aged eighty-two in 1942, being buried in the churchyard at St John’s, Felbridge.  Several descendants of Isabella have followed in her footsteps and become members of the Felbridge WI, these include: daughter Serena (Mrs Albert Pitt) and her daughters Jean (Edwina) Pitt (Mrs Cyril Starr) and Barbara Pitt (Mrs Arthur Gill), the latter being secretary before her marriage, and Linda Meppem, (later Phillips), the daughter of Isabella’s son Samuel.


Mrs Murrell was born Edith Mary Mills in East Grinstead on 22nd June 1885, the sister of Mrs Back (see above).  In 1891 the Mills family were living at 88, Glen Vue Road, Edith’s siblings being Alice aged three and James aged two.  However, by 1901 whilst the Mills family were still living at 88, Glen Vue, Edith was living with her cousin Nellie Mills, a laundress, at 160, High Street, Lambeth.  On 19th March 1911 Edith married Frank Murrell at Christ Church, Plumstead, and by the 1911 census was living in the Murrell household at Summer Vale, Ashurst Wood, but Frank was living at his place of work, the Fire Station, Shooters Hill, Woolwich.  Frank had been born on 18th September 1883 at Streatham, the son of George Murrell and his wife Catherine J née Wellstead.  Edith and Frank had one son, Frank James George Murrell born on 5th October 1912 and possible one daughter called Elsie BM born in 1914, the birth registered in the Southwark registration district.


During WWI Frank senior saw active duty, serving with the Royal Navy on board HMS Glory.  Until well after the Second World War there were close links between the country’s fire services and both Royal and Merchant Navies.  The brigades recruited extensively from among seaman which meant that when war was declared in August 1914 large numbers of reservists were quickly called away from fire fighting duties, one of these was Frank Murrell.  Sadly Frank was killed on 15th August 1915, leaving Edith with two small children.  It is not known when Edith returned to East Grinstead but by 1928 she was living at 10, Halsford Croft where she continued to live until her death, aged eighty-three, in 1969.


Mrs Wheeler was born Dora Jane Pattenden on 16th May 1893, the youngest of six children born to Amos Pattenden and his wife and niece Jane née Pattenden of  Little Hedgecourt, Copthorne Road, [for further information see Handout, Pattenden Family of Felbridge, SJC 07/01].  Known siblings of Dora’s include, Annie Sophia born in 1873, Alice born in 1875, Alfred John born in 1877, Arthur Ernest born in 1879, and Agnes Mary born in 1882.  Dora married Charles Wheeler on 6th July 1919 at St John’s Church, Felbridge; Charles (known as Charlie) had been born on 19th June 1891, the son of Thomas Wheeler and his wife Betsy Susannah née Baldwin [for further information see Handout, Wiremill, SJC 03/06].  Known siblings of Charles include, Frederick George born in 1890 and Emily Ellen born in 1895.


In 1919 Dora and Charlie moved to 4, Rowplatt Lane where they had their three children: Frederick born in 1920, Charles born in 1921 and Agnes born in 1923.  Their cottage had a lean-to on the side and in 1925 the Wheeler’s decided to start a small shop in it [for further information see Handout, Shopping in Felbridge Pt.I, JIC/SJC 05/10].  From its humble beginnings, Wheeler’s Stores became the preferred shop to supply the allocation of provisions made under the Beef and Faggot Charity to the people of Felbridge who were chosen to benefit from the scheme.  The Charity had been set up by James Evelyn of Felbridge Park, who made provision after his death (as he had done during his life) to enable the most needy of the Felbridge community to benefit from the provision of food and nutrition on a regular basis [for further details see Handout, Beef and Faggot Charity, SJC 03/03].


In 1949 the Wheelers decided to sell the shop moving to Brockworth in Crawley Down Road (now the site of Wheelers Way), from where they ran a small holding and grew fruit and vegetables on a large scale.  In their later years Charlie and Dora bought the bungalow adjacent to Felbridge School called Cluden from where Charlie died aged seventy-four in 1965 and Dora died aged seventy-nine on 1st May 1972, both being buried at St John’s Church in Felbridge.


During their lives both Dora and Charlie were heavily involved with the community and village of Felbridge, Dora being a founder member of the Felbridge WI.  They were both members of the Felbridge Bowling Club founded in 1931 and the Felbridge & District Horticultural Society founded in 1951.  Charlie Wheeler served on the committee for both the old Felbridge (St John’s Institute) in Copthorne Road and the new Felbridge Village Hall in Crawley Down Road [for further information see  Handout, Felbridge Village Halls SJC01/12], the Felbridge Parish Council from 1951 [for further information see Handout, Civil Parish of Felbridge, SJC 03/03] and sang in the choir at St. John’s for most of his life, and Dora kept a scrapbook on Felbridge from 1959 providing a wonderful source of news about the Felbridge community along with a history of the area based on word of mouth passed down through her family.


Mrs Warner was born Ivy Beatrice Louisa Smith on 5th September 1906 in Bedford, the daughter of William Samwell Smith and his wife Ada Louisa J née Spencer.  In 1911 the Smith family was living at 20 Spencer Bridge Road, Northampton; William working as a butcher.  Ivy had at least five siblings including: Connie born about 1905, Louisa Alice born in 1909, Elsie S born 1912, Winifred S born in 1913 and Joan C born in 1916.  The last child was born in Norwich suggesting that the Smith family must have moved from Northampton between 1913 and 1916.


In 1923 Ivy married Ralph Alan Gardner, in Aylsham, Norfolk; Ralph had been born in 1889 in East Preston, Sussex.  It would appear that Ivy and Ralph did not have a family but must have moved to the Felbridge area around 1928 when Ivy became a member of the WI.  Sadly Ralph died in 1944 from 18, Rowplatt Lane, Felbridge, and was buried in St John’s churchyard on 23rd April 1944.  A year later, Ivy married Frank Warner at St John’s Church; again they did not have a family.  Frank had been born on 12th January 1903, the son of John Alfred (known as Alf) Warner and his wife Lillian Marion (known as Lily) née Medhurst.  At the time of Frank’s birth the family were living at High Grove Cottages, Imberhorne Lane, East Grinstead; Alf working as a grainer, paper hanger and colourman, the same line of work that Frank went into as a high class decorator.


Ivy spent over fifty years as a member of the Felbridge WI and sadly died in November 1987 at the age of eighty-one.  Frank survived Ivy by nearly ten years, dying in April 1997, aged ninety-four, their ashes interred in the grave of Ivy’s first husband Ralph Gardner at St John’s churchyard on 25th April 1997.


Mrs Pentecost was born Amelia Florence Richardson on 20th September 1904, the daughter of William Richardson and his wife Amy née Hodge of Blindley Heath.   In 1911 the Richardson family was living at 2, Lagham Road, South Godstone; William working as a domestic gardener.  Amelia married John William Pentecost on 20th July 1929 at St John’s Church, Felbridge; John having been born on 6th July 1905, the son of  John William Pentecost, a domestic gardener.  At the time of Amelia and John’s marriage in 1929, both the Pentecost and Richardson family were residing in Felbridge.   Amelia died aged sixty-six in 1970 and John died a few months later from 11, Rowplatt Lane.


Amelia was certainly a member of the Felbridge WI appearing in the surviving Minute Books until her death was reported in 1970 with the following entry:

It was with a deep sense of regret that the Committee discussed plans to raise a sum of money in memory of Mrs Pentecost, a most valuable and active member for many years past.  The money is to be donated to Cancer Research and it was decided to place a bowl on the table for members to contribute as they wished. Many have already done so.  To the last Mrs Pentecost had a warm and affectionate interest in the WI members and one of her last acts was to send £5 to the President to pay for the birthday cake in November.  The Institute has lost a good and loyal member and we all mourn her passing whilst remembering with gratitude her great courage in the face of suffering so bravely borne.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minute Book, September 1970


Unfortunately it has not yet been possible to determine whether Mrs Pentecost was a founding member or just an early member.


Mrs Dewhurst is probably Agnes Mary Dewhurst who was living at Wheatley, Copthorne Road, Felbridge, with John Arthur Dewhurst in 1928.  Agnes is a very illusive woman to trace but would appear to have moved to the Felbridge area between 1925 and 1928.  Agnes was probably not a founding member of the Felbridge WI although she does appear in the surviving Minute Book until her death was reported in 1959.


Miss Weightman was born Alice Mary Weightman in Pancras in 1862, the daughter of Christopher Weightman and his wife Charlotte née Richards.  Alice’s siblings included: Christopher born in 1851, Ann Elizabeth born in 1852, Thomas born in 1853, Henry born in 1854, Charlotte Jane born in 1855, James Alderson born in 1857, Emily Caroline born in 1858, Christina Helen born in 1860, William Alexander born in 1862, Mary Ann Ellen born in 1863 and Jessie born in 1864.  Sadly Alice’s mother Charlotte died in 1864 and Jessie in 1865.


Christopher Weightman was an upholsterer by trade living at 56, High Street, Camden, in 1851, moving to 57-59, High Street, Camden by 1861, 118-120, High Street, Camden, by 1871 and 71, Kentish Town Road, Camden, by 1891, Christopher still trading as an upholsterer, daughter Charlotte working as a School Governess and Alice living at home but not working.  Christopher died in 1906 and in 1911 Alice and two of her sisters, Ann and Charlotte, were still living at 71, Kentish Town Road, Ann was keeping house, Charlotte was working as a teacher at a public school and Alice was working as a shop keeper at a bedding warehouse.


By 1922 the sisters had moved to the Godstone area (possibly Felbridge which fell under Godstone at that date) and Ann died aged sixty-nine in 1922, her death registered at Godstone.  Charlotte died aged eighty-three in 1939, her home address given as 30, Rowplatt Lane and Alice died aged ninety-six of 39, Rowplatt Lane in 1959, the only sister to be buried at St John’s Church, Felbridge.


Alice was certainly a member of the Felbridge WI appearing in the surviving Minute Books until her death was reported in 1959, but it has not yet been possible to determine whether she was a founding member or just an early member and Charlotte may also have been an early member.


Jerusalem – the WI Anthem


And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the Holy Lamb of god

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?


And did the countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

Among those dark Satanic mills!


Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! Oh clouds unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!


I will not ease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant land.

William Blake


WI Flower Show introduced in 1928

According to the information in the Felbridge Parish and People, originally published in 1976, the WI started a Village Flower Show in 1928.  Although there are no other documents to back-up this statement the information was given by members of the Felbridge WI, some of whom could trace their roots back to the formation of the branch, therefore I have no doubt that the Flower Show was in fact instigated in 1928.


In 1931 Mrs E Rayner presented the Felbridge WI with the Women’s Institute Flower Show Cup, which over the years has become assimilated with the awards given out by the Felbridge & District Horticultural Society, probably due to the close connections between the two associations from the formation of the FDHS in 1951 (see below under Felbridge WI, the Village Produce Association and the Felbridge & District Horticultural Society) [for further information see Handout, Felbridge & District Horticultural Society, September 2011].


Mrs E Rayner was Elizabeth Isabel Rayner of Garden Cottage, Wiremill Lane, Newchapel, born Elizabeth Isabel Nixon in 1864, the daughter of Joseph Nixon and his wife Elizabeth née Bell.  By 1871 the Nixon family was living at 12, Vassall Villas, Holland Road, Brixton; Joseph working as a hosier.   Elizabeth’s siblings included: John born in 1859, Henry born in 1861 and Catherine born in 1863.


Elizabeth Isabel married William George Rayner in 1883; William having been born in 1856, the son of Charles and Emily Rayner of Essex.  Elizabeth and William had three children, including William Anthony and Joy Elizabeth both born in 1885 in Croydon.  In 1911 the Rayner family were living at Armaside, Peaks Hill, Purley, a substantial house of twelve rooms; both Williams recorded as Incorporated Accountants.


William George Rayner died in 1922 and in 1923 Elizabeth Rayner purchased Garden Cottage, Wiremill Lame, from Leonard M Pink.  The time at which Elizabeth Rayner moved to the Felbridge area and the date of the establishment of the Felbridge WI suggests that Elizabeth may also have been a founder member, as she, like Mrs Evan-Evans and Mrs Back, would have been in the position to devote her time to this fledgling branch of the WI.


The following is a write up from one of the local newspapers of one of the Felbridge WI flower shows, dated 19th July (year unknown).


Felbridge W.I. flower show

Felbridge Institute was a sight worth seeing on Saturday when the Felbridge Women’s Institute and Village Produce Association staged a flower and vegetable show.  It was a great success and was opened by Lady Dowson.

Beautiful flowers and good quality vegetables were exhibited and some Excellent work could be seen in the handicrafts section.  The Women’s Institute Cup for the most points in the show was won by Mrs. Wheeler.


Tray of vegetables, 1 G. Handley, 2 Mrs. Wheeler, 3 H. G. Smith; round potatoes, 1 H. G. Smith; kidney potatoes, 1 G. Handley, 2 W. G. Phillips, 3 W. Durrant; cabbage lettuce, 1 W. G. Phillips, 2 Mrs. Agate, 3 Mrs. Parks; dwarf beans, 1 F. Voyce, 2 H. G. Smith, 3 Mrs. Wheeler; peas, 1 W. G. Smith, 2 W. Durrant, 3 F. Voyce; carrots, 1 G. Handley, 2 Mrs. Wheeler; shallots, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 L. H. Granger, 3 G. Handley; onions, 1 Mr. Peters; beetroot, 1 G. Handley, 2 H. G. Smith, 3 F. Voyce; sweet-peas, 1 G. Handley, 2 E. H. Cox, 3Mrs. Roberts; sweet-peas (vases),m 1 G. Handley, 2 E. H. Cox, 3 F. Voyce; roses, 1 Mrs. Hope, 2 Mrs. Fowler, 3 Miss Bernan; vase of roses, 1 Mrs. Hope; ramblers, 1 Mrs. Sanderson, 2 Mrs. Martin, 3 Miss Bernan; mixed hardy flowers, 1 G. Handley, 2 Mrs. N Phillips, 3 Mrs. Martin; mixed annuals, 1 F. Glover, 2 Mrs. Martin, 3 Mrs. Parks; table centre, 1 Mrs. Thomas, 2 Mrs. Roberts, 3 Mrs. Hawthorn; raspberries, 1 Mrs. Fowler, 2 Mrs. Thomas, 3 Mrs. Agate; gooseberries, 1 Mrs. Agate, 2 Mrs. Roberts, 3 Mrs. Fowler; black currants, 1 Mrs Wheeler, 2 H. G. Smith, 3 Mrs. Roberts; red currants, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 Miss Bernan, 3 Mrs. Roberts; dessert fruit, 1 Mrs. Fowler, 2 Miss Bernan, 3 Mrs. Wheeler; special prize, Mrs. Agate.

Novices’ Section – Potatoes, 1 Mrs. Thomas, 2 Miss Bernan, 3 W. Durrant; peas, 1 W. G. Phillips, 2 W. Durrant, 3 Mrs. Martin; sweet-peas, 2 L. H. Granger, 2 W. G. Phillips, 3 Wing-Cmdr. G Phillips; roses, Mrs. K. Phillips, 2 Mrs. Agate, 3 W. G. Phillips; special prizes, Mrs. Thomas and G. Handley.

Ladies’ Section – White loaf, 1 Mrs. Fowler, 2 Mrs. Wheeler, 3 Mrs. Buckland; sponge, 1 Mrs Brighty, 2 Mrs Roberts, 3 Mrs. Brooker; cherry cake, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 Mrs. Glover, 3 Mrs. Brightly; scones, 1 Mrs. Duckworth, 2 Mrs. Roberts, 3 Mrs. Osborne; baked custard, 1 Mrs. Brooker, 2 Mrs. Richardson, 3 Mrs. Corby; last season’s jam, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 Mrs. Barton, 3 Mrs. H. G. Smith; new season’s jam, 1 Mrs. Hope, 2 Mr. Agate, 3Mrs. Duckworth; jelly, 1 Mrs. Duckworth, 2 Mrs. Brooker, 3 Mrs. Martin; bottled rhubarb, 1 Mrs. Brooker, 2 Mrs. Corby, 3 Mrs. Sanderson; fruit flan, 1 Mrs. Corby, 2 Mrs. W. H. Phillips, 3 Mrs. Roberts; salad dressing, 1 Miss Mart, 2 Mrs. Buckland, 3 Mrs. Martin; lemon curd, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 Mrs Sanderson, 3 Mrs. Buckland; eggs, 1 Mr. Agate, 2 Mrs. Martin, 3 Mrs. W. H. Phillips; special prize for bread, Mrs. Fowler.

Handicrafts – Woollen gloves, 1 Mrs. Corby, 2 Mrs. Roberts, 3 Mrs. Wheeler; jumper, 1 Mrs. Handley, 2 Mrs. MacFarline, 3 Mrs. Richardson and Mrs. Wheeler; coloured embroidery, 1 Mrs. Duckworth, 2 Mrs. Bowry, 3 Mrs. Handley; woollen embroidery, 1 Mrs. Duckworth, 2 Mrs. Martin, 3 Mrs. Handley; best entry, Mrs. Handley; special prize, Miss Mart; wild flowers, 1 Michael Brooker, 2 C. Fowler, 3 K. Osborne; special prize, Felicity Balfour-Smith.

Gardens – Novices, 1 Capt. Lowe, 2 H. G. Smith, 3 W. G. Phillips; others 1 F. Glover, 2 H. Handley, 3 Wing Cmdr. Phillips; special consolation, Mrs. Ord.

Taken from the local newspaper, date not known but probably early 1950’s


The Felbridge WI still hold an annual Show and their members are also been invited to compete for the Women’s Institute Cup in the annual FDHS Flower Show.


WI Annual Meeting at the Albert Hall – 1934

I was one of the 7,000 at this meeting. D.J. Wheeler







“Daily Express” special Representative

“Why wasn’t this broadcast?......... (Signed) Willie”


THIS telegram was heard by the 7,000 women from 5,000 villages of England and Wales who were attending their one-day annual meeting at the Albert Hall yesterday.

They were delegates to this Federation of Women’s Institutes.  Nobody knew whose husband “Willie” was, but as soon as Lady Denman, their president, had read it, she said:-

100,000 MEMBERS

“We did ask the B.B.C. if they would broadcast this general meeting, as we have nearly 100,000 members scattered over England, as well as thousands of interested families, most of whom have never been to London, and certainly could not afford to come to this meeting.  They refused.

“So I suggest that every one of us write to the B.B. C. asking permission for next year”.

This means that the B.B.C. is going to be deluged with letters, written singly and collectively, by thousands of pleading and indignant women in the next few days.

For this suggestion was passed unanimously by this “Country-women’s Parliament”.


It was the only one, apart from the agenda, which received the slightest consideration.

I have never seen such a business-like meeting.  It is a pity that they could not all be transferred as an object lesson to the House of Commons one afternoon.

The lie was given once and for all to the proverbial “long-windedness” of women’s meetings.

These women are practical and realists.  They come from every rank of society.

A duchess and her scullery maid sat side by side on one bench.  The scullery maid represented the local institute; the duchess came as a guest.

But most of them are wives of hard-working farm labourers and farmers, whom the institute with its thousands of interest brought into wider touch with the rest of the world.

They come from villages where omnibuses run only twice a week.  Now they give plays, do clever handicrafts, understand public health, national policies exchange country lore and scientific farming principles.

They are the most wide-awake group of women in England.

Taken from the Daily Express, Thursday, May 17, 1934



Felbridge WI – 1934

Some years ago, the Felbridge archive received an early photograph of the Felbridge WI showing a group of twenty-one women of varying ages.  The photograph was donated by Doris Trefine, and her mother, Mrs Curtis (seated with foot extended, second right in the front row), appears in the picture.  Mrs Curtis was born Emma Kathleen Streeter on 21st August 1901, the daughter of William and Emma Streeter, who from 1906 lived in the southern half of the old mill house then known as 1 and 2 Mill Cottages, Hedgecourt, from where William Streeter worked as a carter at Hedgecourt Farm for over fifty years.  Emma Kathleen’s siblings included:  Elizabeth Polly born in 1897, Samuel born in 1899, William Alfred born in 1900 and Sidney James born in 1904.


In 1924 Emma Kathleen married Sydney Frederick Curtis at St John’s Church; Sydney having been born in 1902 the son of William and Kate Curtis.  In 1911 the Curtis family were living at 45, West Street, East Grinstead.  William moved to East Grinstead in about 1885 and established a grocer’s and baker’s shop at 137, West Street.  He opened another shop in 1896 at 86, London Road, and Curtis’s ‘refreshments rooms’ at 94 (now no. 104), London Road in 1907.  In the 1920’s and 30’s Curtis’s bakery was run from 16, De la Warr Road.


Returning to the photograph, not knowing exactly who the twenty-one women are, one can now only speculate in 2014, but names such as Minnie Back, Agnes Dewhurst, Ivy Gardner (later Warner), Isabella Meppem (central with face turned to her left), Amelia Pentecost, Elizabeth Rayner, Alice Weightman and Dora Wheeler spring to mind as early members.


Felbridge Herb Gathers of WWII

The Felbridge Herb Gatherers was formed during World War II in response to the Vegetable Drug Committee’s directive to encourage the people of Britain to collect and dry plants found in this country that could be used as substitutes for medical plants imported from the Continent.  Dora Wheeler, a prominent member of the WI, mobilised the children of Felbridge School to gather and dry the required herbs from gardens, hedgerows, waste ground and the Commons of the Felbridge area to help meet the shortage of imported botanical plants and herbs.  These were then sent to botanical drug trader Brome & Schrimmer in London to be processed.  The children also picked blackberries that were sent to make jam for the troops, at home and abroad.


There is no evidence of herb gathering on a large scale in Felbridge during World War I even though the medical plants in use then were also in short supply.  However, from the Felbridge School Log, it is known that during World War I the school children did pick blackberries for jam making, as they did again in World War II [for further information see Handout, Felbridge Herb Gatherers, SJC 01/04].


Felbridge WI and the Felbridge Village Produce Association

The Felbridge Village Produce Association was formed in 1940 in close connection with the Felbridge WI with the aim to encourage all Felbridge residents to grow their own produce in support of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign that had been instigated in Britain soon after the start of World War II in 1939.


By the late 1930’s Britain imported over 55 million tons of food and with the outbreak of World War II the government realised that the population would go hungry if the war lasted longer then a few months, therefore the British reliance on imported food needed to be significantly reduced.  One of the ways to achieve this was rationing that was introduced in 1940, which lasted until 1954.  However, the government was aware that rations needed to be supplemented and the easiest way to achieve this was to encourage the population to grow its own food, thus the introduction of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.


The Felbridge VPA held weekly markets on a Friday at the Felbridge (St John’s) Institute in Copthorne Road, now the site of the development called Mulberry Gate.  Villagers would take any fruit and vegetables they had grown, or eggs and poultry that were surplus to their own requirements to be purchased by those that needed them.  One contributor was Vera Quilter who regularly supplied produce from her garden at Glendale (now the site of the development known as Glendale) near The Limes estate.  Former Felbridge resident and Parish Councillor Ken Housman, another contributor, once said that even as little as one spare egg would be taken to the market as it was bound to supplement someone’s rations during the war.

Taken from, Handout, Felbridge & District Horticultural Society, September 2011


Felbridge WI, the Village Produce Association and the Felbridge & District Horticultural Society

The Felbridge & District Horticultural Society was formed in 1951, having its roots in the Village Produce Association that had been established in Felbridge in 1940.  It has become apparent that the VPA continued to operate until at least the late 1950’s, and that both the VPA and the FDHS worked very closely with the Felbridge WI, holding twice yearly shows incorporating both horticultural exhibits including fruit, vegetables and flowers, and home craft exhibits including cookery and handicraft up to 1958.


Founding members of the FDHS include Richard and Minnie Back of Copthorne Road, Frank Glover of Bitterne, Rowplatt Lane, Geoff and Mary Handley of Furnace Wood, Tom Pentecost, Wing Commander John S and Mrs Nancy Phillips of Copthorne Road, William G Phillips of Pinecroft, Lake View Road, Furnace Wood, Douglas and Edna Roberts of Crawley Down Road, Frank and Ivy Warner of Rowplatt Lane, and Charles (Charlie) and Dora Wheeler of Crawley Down Road.  As can be seen from this list of founding members, Minnie Back, Edna Roberts, Ivy Warner and Dora Wheeler were all known founding or early members of the Felbridge WI as well.


In the early days, the FDHS held one show a year – the Annual Flower and Vegetable Show held in the Summer.  This was organised and held in conjunction with the Felbridge WI, offering members of both the FDHS and the WI classes in which they could exhibit, including: vegetables, flowers, fruit, home produce, knitting, sewing and basket making, a children’s section and a Gardens award open to gardeners who gardened without paid help or with no more than six hours of help a week that ran during the 1950’s.  Awards must have been given for each class but without early documentation it has not been possible to determine exactly what was given for which class, except perhaps the W I Cup (referred to above under WI Flower Show – 1928) , that was awarded to the member with the most points in the home produce and handicraft classes.

Taken from, Handout, Felbridge & District Horticultural Society, September 2011


Basket Making

Handicraft and providing classes for women to learn new skills feature highly on the WI remit and this photograph, from one of the local newspapers from the late 1940’s/early 1950’s shows, Miss M Roffey of Caterham (standing), instructing members of the Handicraft section of the Felbridge WI in basketry.  Identified WI members under instruction include Doris Martin (far left) and next to her is the young woman from the 1934 group photograph.


Fund Raising

One of the aims of the WI movement is to make charitable donations and as such many a Whist Drive, Raffle, Coffee Morning, Jumble Sale and Sale of Handicrafts/Produce has been held by the Felbridge WI over the years to raise funds for a wide range of charities they have supported.  Here a windmill decorated with hankies can be found at one of their fund raising events in the early 1950’s.  Pictured are several members of the Felbridge WI, names known include: Doris Martin (pointing at the windmill), Mrs Duckworth (next to Doris) Mrs Florence Godwin (to right of sail), Edna Roberts (second to right) and Doreen Brew (right).


Felbridge Women’s Institute

Husbands and friends of members were invited to the October meeting of the Women’s Institute, when a highlight was a film show.  The projector was lent by the Rev. R.E. Theobald (vicar) and was opened by Mr. Dossett and a friend.  They were thanked by Mrs. Roberts.  Songs were contributed during the social half-hour by Mrs. Pentecost, Mrs. Young and Mr. Philpott, accompanied by Mrs. Wingrave, and thanks were expressed to them by Miss Morrison.  Mrs. Corby won a prize for the four best rock cakes, which were judge by Mrs. Kusel, and Mrs. Brooker for the four best cooking apples, judged by Mr. Barnet.  Mystery parcels went to Mrs. Best and Mr. Oliver.

Taken from East Grinstead Observer, October 1950


Fun and Games at Felbridge Women’s Institute

Ladies wearing bathing costumes, exotic skirts and big hats, and men with pixie hoods, Spanish shawls and straw boaters, made an hilarious picture at Felbridge Women’s Institute party at Felbridge Institute on Saturday.

A hundred members and friends were present and Mr. F. Warner had charge of the merriment.  The party was organised by Mrs. F. Warner and a committee.  Mr. J. Pentecost played the radiogram which had been lent by Mr. Hopper.

Fancy dress winners were Mrs. J. Pentecost and Mr. D. Roberts.

A competition for making the ugliest faces was won by Mr. C. Best and Mrs. Litchfield.  The Vicar, Rev. R.E. Theobald, and Mrs. Theobald, were the judges.

Taken from East Grinstead Courier, 3rd February 1951


East Grinstead Pageant 1951

In July 1951, the Felbridge WI took part in the Pageant staged at East Court, East Grinstead as part of the Festival of Britain.  The Pageant was based on local historic events that had touched East Grinstead.  It was presented in six episodes between 2nd and 7th July.  The Pageant began with the Prologue given by a ‘Quite Ordinary Man’ played by John Day.  Episode 1 portrayed the Normans and was performed by members of the clubs and societies of Forest Row.  Episode 2 portrayed Edward I and was performed by the East Grinstead Dramatic Society.  Episode 3 portrayed Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s Escape of 1468 and was performed by the Felbridge WI.  Episode 4 portrayed the Sussex Martyrs of 1556 and was performed by members of the clubs and societies of West Hoathly.  Episode 5 portrayed the Parliamentary Election of 1640 and was also performed by members of the clubs and societies of West Hoathly.  Episode 6 portrayed Highwaymen of 1770 and was performed by the Lake View Drama & Social Club.


The Felbridge WI Episode portrayed Queen Elizabeth Woodville (wife of Edward IV from 1464 until his death in 1483) visiting Brambletye from her manor of East Grinstead in 1468 where she spoke sadly about the War of the Roses.

At the time of Elizabeth’s birth, the Woodville family was a middle-ranking family of the English aristocracy.  Elizabeth’s first marriage was to a minor supporter of the House of Lancaster, Sir John Grey of Groby but he died at the Second Battle of St Albans, leaving Elizabeth a widowed mother of two sons.  Her second marriage was to Edward IV.  Edward was only the second King of England since the Norman Conquest to have married one of his subjects and Elizabeth was the first such consort to be crowned Queen. Her marriage greatly enriched her siblings and children, but their advancement incurred the hostility of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and his various alliances with the most senior figures in the increasingly-divided royal family.

This hostility turned into open discord between King Edward and Warwick, leading to a battle of wills that finally resulted in Warwick switching allegiance to the Lancastrian cause.  Elizabeth remained politically influential even after her son, briefly proclaimed King Edward V of England, was deposed by her brother-in-law, Richard III, and she would play an important role in securing Henry VII's accession to the throne in 1485, which ended the Wars of the Roses.  However, after 1485 she was forced to yield pre-eminence to Henry's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, and her influence on events in these years, and her eventual departure from court into retirement, remains obscure.

Elizabeth Woodville's children included the Princes in the Tower and Elizabeth of York; by the latter she was maternal grandmother of Henry VIII and great-grandmother of King Edward VI, Queen Mary I of England and Queen Elizabeth I and the great-great-grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots. Through her daughter, Elizabeth of York, she is the ancestor of every English monarch since Henry VIII and every Scottish monarch since James V of Scotland.

The Episode of Elizabeth Woodville’s life portrayed by the Felbridge WI was directed by WI member Coralie Bardwell who also took the role of Elizabeth Woodville, with Joan Rigden as Lady Catherine Lewknor; Jennifer Uphill as Child; Lolli Rigden and Kathleen Fowler as Princess Elizabeth; Kathleen Marks and Doris Buckland as Catherine Lewknor’s Children; Greta Taylor as the Queen’s Nurse; Alice Weller as Lady Lewknor’s Nurse; Marjorie Wingrave, Grace Uphill, Evelyn Dossett, Molly Pentecost, Helen Cologhan, Doris Martin, Marjorie Corby and Muriel Aird as the Ladies of the Court; and Jack Cologhan, Edward Stanton, Barbara Uphill and Mary Voice as the Musicians.

Taken from East Grinstead colourful Week of Pageantry. Photograph courtesy of Gwynneth Huntley


‘Sugar and Spice’ was a triumph

I went to a most delightful entertainment on Friday at the Felbridge Institute (writes a contributor).  It took the form of a revue, “Sugar and Spice” – an inspired title.  It was well conceived and carried out and reflected the greatest credit on everyone both in front of and behind the curtain.

The revue opened with a very effective concerted number by the company, and was followed by 19 items, well contrasted and performed.

The singing was very good, and in fact some of it was of a very high quality.  Molly Pentecost and Ray Parks gave us some lovely songs, especially “Ma Curly Headed Babby” and “The Only One for Me” – a particularly charming song.

The little dancer, Pip Tattersfieild, was the very spirit of youth and grace, her fragility of figure and air of pre-occupation with the meaning of her dances being enchanting.

All the comedy sketches were Exellent and most amusing.  I liked in particular “The Sow’s Ear”, and I can hardly wait to be told how to turn my geese into swans as Coralie Bardwell promised us!

“Other People’s Babies” I thought quite delightful, with a real touch of pathos coming from the heart of the eternal “nannie” who never sees her little charges grow up, and who suffers a tearing of her heartstrings each time she has to leave her nurslings, and never having the consolation of a baby of her own.

Verve and swing

“Splashington-on-Sea” had a verve and swing to it that was wonderful and made a fine finish to the first half.

“The Three Old Maids of Lee” was really charming and so well performed.  The dresses of this were really very pretty and clever.  “Dear Eliza” was given a most original and effective performance.

The company were very fortunate in having two such exceptionally good leaders as Coralie Bardwell and Norah Young.  The latter has the true dash of the West End musical comedy stage and she carried her audience with her in all she did.  I liked her sketch, “Medley”.

Coralie Bardwell has the great gift of endearing herself to her audience, and her versatility is remarkable.  The sketch “Matinee” with herself and Norah Young, was devastatingly true to life.  Her “Mrs Twiceover” was equally devastating in a completely different style.

I should like to mention everyone, but there would not be room.  Special thanks are due to all the clever people who devised the dresses, and the décor, the stage managers, and the pianist who performed a noble task.  The production was remarkable for its slickness.

Taken from East Grinstead Observer, date unknown (early 1950’s and definitely before July 1953)


Women’s Institute produces a snappy revue

It is not often that amateurs will attempt to stage a sophisticated London revue in a Village Hall – it is so much easier to put on a straight play.

On Saturday night, however, at Felbridge Village Hall [Felbridge (St John’s) Institute], the local Women’s Institute presented “Sugar and Spice”, a revue of 20 scenes.

Some of the material was taken from West-end shows of the past and proved well worth reviving.  Other items should have been left in honourable retirement undisturbed.

Polished Work

The most attractive feature of the show was the remarkably polished work of Ray Parks, a good-looking young man who not only knows how to sing, but also how to carry himself on stage.  Here is a performer well up to professional standards.

Another first-rate display was forthcoming from Norah Young, who contributed point and an entertaining boisterousness to all she did.

Coralie Bardwell, who not only produced the revue, but appeared in a number of the items, was at her best as a cockney theatre bar girl dispensing tea.

Lillian Richards scored as a “nanny” in the nostalgic “Other People’s Babies” number and Pip Tatterfield danced effectively at intervals during the evening, but should smile a little more often.

Office Interlude

Among the “black-out” sketches, the one that stood out was “That’s the Ticket”, in which Lydia Tattersfield, Robert Philpott, Grace Uphill and Jack Coghlan gave deft point to the cynical story of a business man, his flirtatious secretary and a fur coat.

Elsie Bush, Janet Cleverley, Tony Jones and Brian Roberts appeared to advantage in a period scene.

Taken all round “Sugar and Spice” was a courageous experiment that sometimes came off and sometimes did not.  It suffered by the lack of stage space, lighting equipment and production speed.

The main stage decoration was a floral backcloth and some of the “props” were first rate – particularly a field gate for a milkmaid song number.

In the case of the “That’s the Ticket” sketch, two screens representing a party-wall between offices was less effective.

Mrs. Wingrave played the piano (that deputised for an orchestra) with good effect and other production credits were: Scenery – Mr. Litchfield and Mr. Penn; stage managre – Phyllis Hall; assistant stage manager – John Pentecost.

Taken from East Grinstead Courier, date unknown (early 1950’s and definitely before July 1953)


Felbridge W.I. Flower Show

Felbridge Institute was a sight worth seeing on Saturday when the Felbridge Women’s Institute and Village Produce Association staged a flower and vegetable show.  It was a great success and was opened by Lady Dowson.

Beautiful flowers and good quality vegetables were exhibited and some Exellent work could be seen in the handicrafts section.  The Women’s Institute Cup for most points in the show was won by Mrs. Wheeler.



Tray of vegetables, 1 G Handley, 2 Mrs. Wheeler, 3 H.G. Smith; round potatoes, 1 H. G. Smith; kidney potatoes, 1 G. Handley, 2 W. G. Phillips, 3 W. Durrant; cabbage lettuce, 1 W. G. Phillips, 2 Mrs. Agate, 3 Mrs. Parks; dwarf beans, 1 F. Voyce, 2 H. G. Smith, 3 Mrs. Wheeler; peas, 1 W. G. Phillips, 2 W. Durrant, 3 F. Voyce; carrots, 1 G. Handley, 2 Mrs. Wheeler; shallots, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 L. H. Granger, 3 G. Handley; onions, 1 Mr. Peters; beetroot, 1 G. Handley, 2 H. G. Smith, 3 F. Voyce; sweet-peas, 1 G. Handley, 2 E. H. Cox, 3 Mrs. Roberts; sweet-peas (vases), 1 G. Handley, 2 E. H. Cox, 3 F. Voyce; roses, 1 Mrs. Hope, 2 Mrs. Fowler, 3 Miss Bernan; vase of rose, 1 Mrs. Hope; ramblers, 1 Mrs. Sanderson, 2 Mrs. Martin, 3 Miss Bernan; mixed hardy flowers, 1 G. Handley, 2 Mrs. N. Phillips, 3 Mrs. Martin; mixed annuals, 1 F. Glover, 2 Mrs. Martin, 3 Mrs. Parks; table centre, 1 Mrs. Thomas, 2 Mrs. Roberts, 3 Mrs. Hawthorn; raspberries, 1 Mrs. Fowler, 2 Mrs. Thomas, 3 Mrs. Agate; gooseberries, 1 Mrs. Agate, 2 Mrs. Roberts, 3 Mrs. Fowler; black currants, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 H. G. Smith, 3 Mrs. Roberts; red currants, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 Miss Bernan, 3 Mrs. Roberts; dessert fruit, 1 Mrs. Fowler, 2 Miss Bernan, 3 Mrs. Wheeler; special prize, Mrs. Agate.

Novices’ Section – Potatoes, 1 Mrs. Thomas, 2 Miss Bernan, 3 W. Durrant; peas, 1 W. G. Phillips, 2 W. Durrant, 3 Mrs. Martin; sweet-peas, 1 L. H. Granger, 2 W. G. Phillips, 3 Wing-Cmdr. G. Phillips; roses, 1 Mrs. K. Phillips, 2 Mrs. Agate, 3 W. G. Phillips, special prizes, Mrs. Thomas and G. Handley.


Ladies Section – White loaf, 1 Mrs. Fowler, 2 Mrs. Wheeler, 3 Mrs. Buckland; sponge, 1 Mrs. Brighty, 2 Mrs Roberts, 3 Mrs. Brooker; cherry cake, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 Mrs. Glover, 3 Mrs. Brighty; scones, 1 Mrs. Duckworth, 2 Mrs. Roberts, 3 Mrs. Osborne; baked custard, 1 Mrs. Brooker, 2 Mrs. Richardson, 3 Mrs. Corby; last season’s jam, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 Mrs. Barton, 3 Mrs. Hope; new season’s jam, 1 Mrs. Hope, 2 Mrs. Agate 3 Mrs. Duckworth; jelly, 1 Mrs. Duckworth, 2 Mrs. Brooker, 3 Mrs. Martin; bottled rhubarb, 1 Mrs. Brooker, 2 Mrs. Corby, 3 Mrs. Sanderson;  fruit flan, 1 Mrs. Corby, 2 Mrs. W. H. Phillips, 3 Mrs. Roberts; salad dressing, 1 Miss Mart, 2 Mrs. Buckland, 3 Mrs. Martin; lemon curd, 1 Mrs. Wheeler, 2 Mrs. Sanderson, 3 Mrs. Buckland; eggs, 1 Mrs. Agate, 2 Mrs. Martin, 3Mrs. W. H. Phillips; special prize for bread, Mrs. Fowler.


Handicrafts – Woollen gloves, 1 Mrs. Corby, 2 Mrs. Roberts, 3 Mrs. Wheeler; jumper, 1 Mrs. Handley, 2 Mrs. MacFarlane, 3 Mrs. Richardson and Mrs. Wheeler; coloured embroidery, 1 Mrs. Duckworth, 2 Mrs, Bowry, 3 Mrs. Handley; woollen embroidery, 1 Mrs. Duckworth, 2 Mrs. Martin, 3 Mrs. Handley; best entry, Mrs. Handley; special prize, Miss Mart; wild flowers, 1 Michael Brooker, 2 C. Fowler, 3 K. Osborne; special prize, Felicity Balfour-Smith.


Gardens- Novice, 1 Capt. Lowe, 2 H. G. Smith, 3 W. G. Phillips; others 1 F. Glover, 2 G. Handley, 3 Wing-Cmdr. Phillips’ special consolation, Mrs. Ord.

Taken from East Grinstead Observer, July 19th, date unknown (possibly early 1950’s)


Write ups of Felbridge WI meetings from the 1950’s

Annual Meeting

At the annual general meeting this month it was announced that Mrs. Back would shortly be retiring from the committee after 16 years as president.  She thanked the members for their help and co-operation during her term of office.  Mrs. Pentecost and Miss Hudson (vice-presidents) received a vote of thanks for their work, and thanks were extended to Mr. Frazer for this work as auditor.  It was announced that cash in hand realised from the mystery parcel would be sent to the Sunshine Home for Blind Babies.  Three parcels from Australia were given to members and the president appealed for gifts for the Rotary Club’s Christmas Tree.  Arrangements for a visit to the circus at Olympia were completed.  During the social half-hour, Mrs. Mason won a prize for a two-minute speech on a given subject.  Mrs. Roberts gained first prize for the best Christmas present under 2s 6d.  For the best biscuits a prize was presented to Mrs. Corby.  Mrs. Back gained most points for competitions gained during the year.  Mystery parcels went to Mrs. Bridgland and Mrs. Pentecost.  The following committee was elected: Mrs. Bardwell, Mrs. Corby, Mrs. Dossett, Mrs. Duckworth, Mrs Hope, Mrs. Litchfield, Mrs. Marks, Mrs. Mason, Mrs. MacFarlane, Mrs. Pentecost, Mrs. Uphill, Mrs. Warner and Miss Walton.  Mrs. Duckworth was elected president.


New Year Meeting

The story of her journey by cargo boat to China and back was told by Miss Rowe at the first New Year meeting of Felbridge Women’s Institute on Tuesday last week.  Mrs. MacFarlane (president) was in the chair, and in spite of bad weather there was good attendance.  Mrs. Martin (secretary) reported that an invitation had been received from Copthorne Women’s Institute to attend their next meeting.  Prizes for the highest number of marks gained for last year’s competitions were presented to Mrs. Roberts and Mrs. Corby by Mrs. MacFarlane.  The competition for a dressed wishbone was won by Mrs. Pentecost and Miss Walton, and Mrs. Roberts and Mrs. Harris won a competition for the best sausage rolls.


Annual Meeting

A report on the year’s work was given by the secretary Mrs. Martin, at the annual meeting, presided over by Mrs. MacFarlane.  After the treasurer’s report a vote of thanks was moved to the auditor, Mr. W. G. Phillips.  Mrs. MacFarlane was re-elected president, and the new committee includes Mesdames Back, Buckland, Davies, Dossett, Duckworth, Litchfield, Martin, Mart, Pentecost, Spray, Jnr., Tattersfield, Warner and Oliver.  Two members from Lingfield W. I. acted as tellers.  Mrs. Prideaux gave an interesting demonstration on Winter floral arrangements and Christmas decorations.  A competition “Wits and Bits” was won by Miss Sandilands and Mrs. Roberts won the prize for green tomato chutney.  Flowers were placed on the Holy Table by members in memory of Mrs. Penn [possibly Lucy Penn who died in 1952 aged seventy-four].


Green Tomato Chutney

1lb [430g] green tomatoes

3 to 4 oz. [80 to 110g] onions

2 oz. [50g] dates or prunes, chopped

3 tablespoons sugar or 2 tablespoons syrup

a few peppercorns or red chillies (crushed)

1 rounded teaspoon salt

1 ½ gills (tea cup fulls) vinegar


Slice tomatoes and chop onions, mix in a basin with the salt.  Stand over night.

Next day, dissolve the sugar or syrup in the vinegar and boil up.

Ad the chopped dates or prunes and the peppercorns or crushed chillies and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and onions and simmer until a thick jam consistency.

Spoon into sterile, warmed jars and tie down.

Leave for 3 months in a cool, dark place to mature.

Taken from Felbridge WI member Mrs V Pike’s hand-written recipe book


She excels at competitions

There was a large attendance at Felbridge Women’s Institute’s first meeting of the year, when the new president Mrs. Martin took the chair.

Dresses and suits made at the dressmaking classes were shown and seven new members, and one who had transferred from another Institute, were welcomed.

Birthday poses made by Mrs. Bird were distributed.

For the third year in succession Mrs. Roberts won the prize for the highest number of points in competitions during the year.

Competitions for a worked buttonhole and a party sweet were judged by Mrs. Day.  The winners were Mrs. Bird and Miss Paddle respectively.

Mr. King and Mr. Carr of Southdown Motor Services, showed coloured slides of a tour of the Scottish Lakes, and were thanked by Miss Walton.

Taken from a local newspaper articles in the 1950’s


29 Years Young

Mrs. MacFarlane (president) lighting 29 candles on the Felbridge Women’s Institute birthday cake at their party on Tuesday.

Taken from a local newspaper article, 1954


Felbridge WI Programme 1955

Each year the Felbridge WI produce a programme of meetings that generally include a talk given by a guest speaker and a competition:



President: Mrs. J M Pentecost,

12, Rowplatt Lane, Felbridge


Vice Presidents:

Mrs R Back & Mrs F Warner


Hon. Secretary: Mrs G Sorrell,

157, Holtye Road, East Grinstead

East Grinstead 1182


Hon. Treasurer: Mrs Spray (jun)

“Comber”, Felcot Road, Felbridge.

Copthorne 417


Mrs E Agates

Mrs R Agates

Miss D Bird

Mrs G Cox

Mrs Howard

Mrs Marks

Mrs Oliver

Miss Walton

Mrs W J Wheeler

Miss Wackett



January 4th, 2.30 pm

Demonstration. Mrs Diana Ritchie “Beauty Counsellor”

Competitions. Jar of Mince Meat

Home Made Brooch.

Social Half-Hour. Carol Singing

New Year’s Party. January 1st, at 7 o/c

Group Meeting at Charlwood, January 19th

July 5th , 2.30 pm


Talk. Miss M Maughfling: Drama

Competitions. Ankle Competitions

6 Rock Cakes

Social Half-Hour

Group Meeting at Felbridge, July 20th

February 1st, 2.30 pm

Travel Talk. Mr H Burgess.

“Diamonds and Diamond Smuggling”

Competitions. Cheese Scones, Pair of Knitted Gloves.

Social Half-Hour. Sing, Say or Play.



No Meeting. Outing

March 1st, 2.30 pm

Talk. The Story of Knitting, by the wool Secretariat

Competitions. A Vase of Flowering Shrubs
A Jar of Bottled Plums.

Social Half-Hour. Musical Parcel.

Country Annual Meeting at Dorking, March 20th

September 6th , 2.30 pm

Talk. Carpet Design by Wool Secretariat

Competitions. Longest Runner Bean

Baby’s Matinee Coat

Social Half-Hour. Programme Planning.

April 5th, 2.30 pm

Member’s Day.

Competitions. Hot Cross Buns

Easter Present, not to cost more than 6d.

Social Half-Hour.

Group Meeting at Copthorne, April 27th

October 4th ,7 pm

Evening Meeting. Open to Husbands and the Village

Talk and Film. Miss I. Blanch, “The Royal River”

Competitions. 4 Cooking Apples
Baby’s Feeder for Stildon.
12 by 10ins.

Social Half-Hour. Games

Half Yearly Council Meeting at Dorking October 10th.  Country Home Exhibition, Dorking, October 26th to 28th.  Group Meeting at Horley, October 19th.

May 3rd , 2.30 pm

V.C.O. Mrs Martin

Competitions. “A Poem on Spring”

An Apron.

Social Half-Hour. Entertainment by Drama Group

Regional Handicraft Exhibition, May 19th

and 20th, at Redhill

November 1st, 2.30 pm

31st Birthday Meeting.

Musical Entertainment. Miss A. Tullock.

Competitions. Chocolate Sponge Sandwich

Dressed Parsnip

Social Half-Hour.  Community Singing

June 7th, 2.30 pm

Talk. “Betty Eve”, “Crowning Glory”

Competitions. Home Made Marmalade,

Vase of Three Roses

Social Half-Hour. Work Making

N.F.W.I. Annual General Meeting, Albert

Hall. June 7th and 8th

December 6th, 2.30 pm

Annual Meeting

“The Names the Same”

Competitions. Soft Toy

Christmas Decoration


Judges liked the Exhibits

The high quality of the exhibits, especially those in the vegetable section, was praised by the judges at the annual flower and vegetable show organised by the Felbridge Women’s Institute and the Village Produce Association on Saturday.


But the exhibit, which probably attracted the most attention - at least from the ladies -, did not come out of a garden.  It was a beautiful embroidered willow pattern design in literally thousands of tiny stitches, and it won Miss Jean Sargent first prize in the silk embroidery class.


There were about 300 entries for the show, which was held at the Institute.  This total was about the usual.  Mr W. G. Phillips, the Hon. Secretary, told the ‘Observer’, but was less than last year, which was exceptional.


Mr G. Morling and Mr J. Piper, both of East Grinstead, judged the flowers, fruit and vegetables.  The miniature flower arrangements were judged by Miss Prideaux, the handicrafts by Miss Wiltshire and the wine by Mr and Mrs T. P. Peters.


Judges for the cookery classes were Miss Bagot and Mrs Bonwick, and the eggs were judged by Mr Randall.


The Coronation Cup, presented by Wing-Commander J. S. Phillips and Mrs Phillips to the V P A member for gaining most points in the vegetable, fruit, flower and garden sections, went to Mr G. Handley and the runner-up was Mr C. Wheeler.


Mrs R. H. Back was the winner of the W I Cup for the member with most points in the home produce and handicraft classes, joint runners-up being Mrs Corby and Mrs Uphill.


Prizes were presented by Wing-Commander Phillips.




Tray of vegetables: 1. G. Handley: 2. C. Wheeler.  Kidney potatoes: 1. G. Handley.  Round potatoes: 1. C. Wheeler.  Beetroot: 1. G. Handley: 2. C. Wheeler.  Carrots: 1. Mrs Warner.  Onions: 1. Miss C. E. Salmon, 2. Mrs Warner.  Shallots: 1. Miss C. E. Salmon, 2. Mrs Back.  Marrows: 1. G. Handley.  Lettuce: 1. Mrs Back.  Cabbage: 1. W. G. Phillips.  Runner beans: 1. T. Pentecost, 2. W.   T. Westgate.  Tomatoes: 1. C. Wheeler, 2. J. S. Phillips.



Chrysanthemums: 1. Mrs R. L. Barber.  Chrysanthemum sprays: 1. F. Glover.  Roses: 1. Mrs Warner, 2. Mrs D. Roberts.  Pompom dahlias: 1. Mrs T. Pentecost.  Dahlias: 1. T. Pentecost, 2. Mrs Barber.  Gladioli: 1. G. Handley.   Flowers and foliage arranged for effect: 1. Miss Mart, 2. Miss Taylor.  Miniature flower arrangement: 1. Mrs Pentecost, 2. Miss Mart, 3. Mrs Roberts.  Garden flowers: 1. Mrs J. S. Phillips.


Cooking apples: 1. Mrs Fowler.  Dessert apples: 1. Mrs D. Roberts.  Mixed fruit: 1. C. Wheeler.



White loaf: 1. Mrs Bailey.  Jam tart: 1. Mrs Warner, 2. Miss Wallis, 3. Mrs A. E. Pentecost.  Eccles cakes: 1. Mrs Back.  Cherry cake: 1. Mrs Butterworth, 2. Miss Taylor, 3. Mrs H. Smith.  Ginger biscuits: 1. Mrs Back, 2. Mrs A. E. Pentecost.  Fancy cakes: 1. Mrs Handley.  Strawberry jam: 1. Mrs Corby, 2. Mrs E. R. Bird, 3. Mrs Roberts.  Grapefruit marmalade: 1. Mrs Uphill.  Apple jelly: 1. Mrs Uphill.  Mustard pickle: 1. Mrs Corby.  Lemon curd: 1. Mrs Back, 2. Miss Walton.  Hen’s eggs: W. Durrant.  Home-made wine: 1. Miss C. E. Salmon, 2. Mrs Handley.



Knitted bed jacket: 1. Mrs Back.  Men’s socks: 1. Mrs G. Handley.  Quilted cushion cover: 1. Mrs D. Roberts.  Hand-made handkerchief: 1. Mrs Back.  Silk embroidery: 1. Miss J. Sargent, 2. Mrs Back, 3. Mrs P. Granger.  Wool embroidery: 1. Miss Eedy, 2. Miss D. C. Bird.  Hand-made cane basket: 1. Mrs Pike.




Painting: 1. Jennifer Cobbing, 2. Richard Narraway.  Most interesting scrap-book: 1. Judith Scott, 2, Christine Lake, 3, Margaret Denman.  Wild foliage and berries: 1. Jennifer Wood, 2, Glyn Rees, 3, Christine Lake.



Open to gardeners without paid help or with not more than six hours of help a week.

Vegetable garden: 1. G. Handley, 2. Miss C. E. Salmon.

Flower garden: 1. Miss C. E. Salmon, 2. G. Handley.


Taken from the East Grinstead Observer, September 1955



Two Felbridge organisations that always work together well to combine to stage an annual horticultural show in the village.  They are the Felbridge Horticultural Society and the Women’s Institute.


They usually stage a summer show, but this year, for a change decided on an autumn show, and it was held in the Felbridge Institute on Saturday – in better weather then is usually experienced in the height of an English summer!


The Judges verdict on the show – ‘Good Show!’


The Institute presented a colourful scene for the 241 entries.  The only real disappointment was the very small number of entries in the classes open to children.


Mr G. Handley is always a prolific winner at the Felbridge shows and Saturday was no exception.  He again retained the Coronation Cup, presented by Wing Commander and Mrs J. S. Phillips for gaining the most points in the sections for vegetables, flowers and fruit.


Mr F. Warner was runner up with the next highest total of points and third was Mr C. W. Wheeler.


The Women’s Institute Cup, awarded for the most points in the other three sections open to adults, went to Mrs Wheeler, Mrs Tutt and Mrs E. Roberts tied for the next highest number of marks and were followed by Mrs Butterworth.


The Judges

The judges were Mr M. Compton (vegetables, flowers and fruit), Mrs W. Ingwersen (floral arrangement), Miss Bagot and Miss Knight (cookery, jams and wine) and Miss Letchworth (knitting and needlework).


Much of the success of the show is due to the work of Mrs A. Edgerton, on behalf of the Women’s Institute, and Wing Commander Phillips for the Horticultural Society.  They were ably assisted by a hardworking committee consisting of Mrs R. H. Back, Mrs C. Randall, Mrs Acason, Mrs Ford, Mrs R. Pearson, Mr A. C. Acason, Mr C. W. Wheeler and Mr W. Parnell.


Mr Parnell won half a bottle of whisky in a competition and offered it for auction to swell the funds.  It fetched £1 1s.  Mrs Edgerton was the winner of a cake, and also offered it back to help the show and this raised a further 10s.  Mrs Parnell also won eggs in a competition and Mr A. J. Edgerton won a chicken.


Dr Joan Godfrey presented the prizes.



Collection of vegetables – 1. F. Warner, 2. W.T. Westgate, 3. C.W. Wheeler.  Round potatoes – 1. T. Pentecost, 2. A. Morley, 3. W.T. Westgate.  Kidney potatoes – 1. C.W. Wheeler, 2. T. Pentecost, 3. A.T. Morley.  Runner beans – 1. Mrs Roberts, 2. Mrs Morley, 3. G. Handley.  Turnips – 2. W.T. Westgate.  Carrots – 1. F. Warner, 2. G. Handley, 3. Mrs Morley.  Shallots – 1. F. Warner, 2. G. Handley, 3. C.W. Wheeler.  Onions – 1. 1. G. Handley, 2. T. Pentecost, 3. Mrs J. Lake.  Globe beetroot – 1. J.W. Durrant, 2. W.T. Westgate, 3. G. Handley.  Special prizes in this section – F. Warner and T. Pentecost.



Medium flowered dahlias – 1. G. Handley, 2. Mrs Shephard, 3. T. Pentecost.  Pompom dahlias – 1. G. Handley, 2. T. Pentecost.  Outdoor disbudded chrysanthemums – 1. F. Warner, 2. G. Handley, 3. Mrs F. Warner.  Roses – 1. Mrs F. Warner, 2. Mrs Ford, 3. Mrs Fowler.  Gladioli – 1. G. Handley.  Michaelmas daisies – 1. Mrs F. Warner, 2. Mrs Shephard, 3. G. Handley.  Mixed garden flowers – 1. F. Warner, 2. Mrs Shephard, 3. G. Handley.  Special prizes in this section – F. Warner (2).



Dessert apples – 1. Mrs E. Roberts, 2. G. Handley, 3. Mrs G. Fowler.  Culinary apples – 1. T. Pentecost, 2. R. Parks, 3. G. Handley.  Dessert plums – 1. C.W. Wheeler, 2. T. Pentecost.  Cultivated blackberries – 1. G. Handley, 2. C.W. Wheeler.  Special prizes in this section – C.W. Wheeler.



Miniature flower arrangement – 1. Mrs Edgerton, 2. Mrs Handley, 3. Miss K.G. Johnston.  Floral arrangement of flowers and foliage – 1. Mrs Edgerton, 2. Mrs Ford, 3. Mrs Warner.  Table centre – 1. Mrs Edgerton, 2. Mrs Wheeler, 3. Mrs Tutt.  Special prizes in this section – Mrs Edgerton.



Treacle tart – 1. Mrs E. Roberts, 2. Mrs Parks, 3. Mrs Wheeler.  Sausage rolls – 1. Mrs E. Roberts, 2. Mrs Butterworth, 3. Mrs Brooker.  Cake – 1. Miss Paddle, 2. Mrs Butterworth, 3. Mrs Tutt.  Rock cakes – 1. Mrs Butterworth, 2. Mrs Tutt, 3. Mrs Bird.  Plain scones – 1. Mrs Warner, 2. Mrs Buckland, 3. Mrs E. Roberts.  Last season’s jam – 1. Miss Kelminster, 2. Mrs Tutt, 3. Mrs Wheeler.  New season’s plum jam – 1. Mrs Wheeler, 2. Mrs Parks, 3. Miss Kelminster.  Orange marmalade – 1. Mrs Parks, 2. Mrs Acason, 3. Miss Paddle.  Baked custard – 1. Mrs Wheeler, 2. Mrs Richardson, 3. Mrs Tutt.  Lemon curd – 1. Mrs Wheeler, 2. Mrs Duck, 3. Miss Johnston.  Home-made wine – 1. Mrs Barton, 2. Mrs E. Roberts.  Boiled potatoes – 1. Mrs Agates, 2. Mrs Warner, 3. Mrs Tutt.  Special prizes in this section – Mrs Agates and Mrs Barton.  Diplomas, Miss Paddle, Mrs Butterworth and Mrs Tutt.  Highly commended – Mrs Lake and Mrs Wheeler.



Any article containing 5oz. of three ply wool – 1. Mrs E. Roberts, 2. Mrs Butterworth. 3. Mrs Richardson.  Pair of bed socks – 1. Mrs Richardson, 2. Mrs Handley, 3. Mrs Wheeler.  Hot water bottle cover – 1. Mrs Handley, 2. Mrs Wheeler.  Embroidered tray cloth – 1. Mrs B.D. Roberts, 2. Mrs Acason, 3. Mrs Handley.  Soft toy – 1. Mrs Wheeler, 2. Mrs Handley.  Special prizes in this section – Mrs B.D. Roberts and Mrs E. Roberts.



Handwriting (9-11 years) – 1. Angela Cook, 2. T. Tutt.

Jar of wild flowers and grasses – 1. Angela Cook.

Taken from the East Grinstead Observer, 1959



Sweet Chestnut Trees

In 1959 members of the Felbridge WI, together with some of the children from Felbridge School, planted several new sweet chestnut trees to replace some of the felled Evelyn Chestnut trees in the avenue along Crawley Down Road.

Taken from the documented memories of a Felbridge resident


Evelyn Spray Cup

The cup came into existence through a donation of £5 made in 1961 by Barbara Christie of Nova Scotia.  It was reported in the Minutes of January 1962 that the donation had been made in memory of one time Treasurer Mrs Spray who had died on 1st June 1958.


Mrs Spray had been born Evelyn Mary Hall in 1911 and had married Donald Henry Spray in 1936, moving to Camber, Felcot Road, Furnace Wood, where she became acquainted with Barbara Thomas (later Christie) who, at the time, lived at Brook Nook, Furnace Wood.  Barbara later married and emigrated to Canada where she remained for the rest of her life.


The WI Minutes record that the committee decided that they would spend the donation on a banner with words of Jerusalem on it, at the cost 15/6d and a cup to be awarded each year to the Felbridge WI member with the highest cumulative marks gained from the monthly competitions; the Evelyn Spray Cup was first awarded in December 1962.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minutes for 1962


Felbridge WI Recipe Book

The Felbridge WI compiled a recipe book for the Border Group competition.  The recipes were written out by Mrs. Pentecost, with illustrations painted by Miss Johnson and the book compiled by Mrs. Needham.  The whole project overseen by Mrs. Edgerton and Mrs. Shrimpton.


It was later reported that the Recipe Book had taken 4th place and was raffled off at the November meeting and the proceeds were sent to the Heatherly Cheshire Homes.  Unfortunately the name of the winner for the Recipe Book was not reported.

Taken from the Felbridge WI minutes, April to November 1963


Gold Star

Mrs. Roberts reported that a Gold Star had been won by the Border Group for a collective wine exhibit at the Village of Achievement.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minutes for 29th May 1963


Orange Wine

To every 8 or 9 oranges allow:

1 gallon water

3 lbs sugar


Pour boiling water over the oranges (cut up).  Let stand for 2 -3 weeks.

Strain; then add the sugar.

Put into bottles to ferment which begins soon after a day or so.

After about a fortnight or longer, put corks very lightly in bottles at first.

Taken from Felbridge WI member Mrs V Pike’s hand-written recipe book


Committee Members for 1963

Mrs Agates of 43 Lingfield Road, Mrs Cole of The Bungalow, Halsford Park House, Mrs Earll of 11 Moat Road, Mrs Etherington of Strath Cottage, Felbridge, Mrs Giles of Hawthorns, Crawley Down Road, Mrs Harrison of Fittleworth, Mill Lane, Mrs Martin of Warrenpoint, Southlands, Mrs Needham of Acorns, Mrs Nichol of 11 Oakhurst Gardens, Mrs Oliver of Wendover, Copthorne Road, Mrs Piddlesden of 75 Lingfield Road, Mrs Pike of Oaklands, Lake View Road, Furnace Wood, Mrs Roberts of Littlecote, Crawley Down Road, Mrs Shrimpton of 120 Heathcote Drive, Mrs Sorrell (no address listed), Mrs Smith of 62 Heathcote Drive, Mrs Tutt of 33 Halsford Green, Mrs Walker of Woodhurst, Crawley Down Road, Mrs Warner of 18 Rowplatt Lane and Mrs Windsor of Linden, Lake View Road, Furnace Wood.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minute Books 1963


Fifty Years of Achievement – National Federation of Women’s Institutes

“We have no intention of allowing such a radical movement in our village” wrote a determined Lady-of-the-Manor, fifty years ago, to request that a Women’s Institute should be formed at her gates.  She understood that, owing to a most undesirable system of voting, in which her vote would count for no more than any cottager’s, there was no guarantee that she would be the Institute’s chairman, and she considered the whole affair would be most unsettling for the village.


But these were unsettling times.  The Great War had broken out the year before, and country-women everywhere were looking for a lead in the growing and preserving of food to meet the ever-growing menace of the submarine blockade, and in their common purpose the old social barriers were beginning to crumble.


Into this moment of crisis came Mrs Alfred Watt, a woman of missionary zeal, who watched the birth and growth of the Women’s Institute movement in Canada and was convinced that the same movement was needed in rural England.  Hers was a character hard to deflect from it purpose and on September 11th 1915 a band of courageous women, infected with her enthusiasm and with the blessing and support of the board of Agriculture, started the first women’s Institute in the British Isles, at a meeting in a small creeper- smothered garden-room at Llanfairpwll, Anglesey.


The rapid growth of the movement reads like some Managing Director’s dream: twelve Institutes formed before Christmas in the first year, and nearly 800 by the end of 1918!  With such an explosive expansion, the movement might well have got out of hand, but it was fortunate in the calibre of it first Central Committee, headed by Lady Denman, who remained its Chairman from 1919 to 1946.  With foresight and self-restraint, these pioneers forebore to impose a constitution on the new movement from above, but hammered out the underlying principles and ideals with the members themselves, giving the movement the democratic and self-governing basis on which it rests today.



From the start delegates from the W.I.s attended the Annual General Meetings held, in those days, at places like Blackpool, where speakers’ voices were drowned in the roars of wild beasts from the nearby Zoo, and the Queen’s Hall, London.  Here, greatly daring, they used “Mr Marconi’s system of amplifiers” and found them helpful.  Approving or vetoing the ideas put before them, countrywomen were learning not only to hold views but to get up and air them.


The early activities of the Institutes in the villagers were bounded by the War conditions and shortages, and they made a noble contribution toward ultimate victory which could be reckoned in sheer tonnage.  One small W.I. reported that one-and-a-half-tons of blackberries had been picked for jam, another that over a thousand pounds of wool had been knitted into comforts, and a third had made the distribution of frozen cod among villagers its war-work, doling out 280lb. a week, though the Institute was only twenty strong.  In the economy drive, Institute members learned boot-repairing and saucepan-mending; they converted waste land into allotments, and started the first market at Criccieth to sell produce.  They formed Pig Clubs – “We have secured a pig and given partial support to the village nurse” wrote a proud secretary in her annual report.  In a country faced with starvation, the pig would naturally rank first.  Twenty years later, the movement, now firmly rooted in the countryside, had to face an even stronger menace, and once more the members put their rural skills to good use, turning out an astronomical number of tins of fruit, jars of jam and tons of vegetables, and distributing to their neighbours the meat pies – a welcome substitute for frozen cod of the earlier war – which made Pie Day an event in a strictly rationed week.  This time, they opened their homes to thousands of evacuated town-dwellers and learnt, often with horror, the very different standards of hygiene, diet and behaviour prevalent in many city homes.  An interesting report compiled by W.I. members all over Britain on the wholesome results of food, fresh air and soap on their young guests, which was widely circulated and used by several societies working on child welfare.


It was not only in cities that living conditions were below standard.  Looking around them, Institutes found that in their own villages housing was in short supply and in primitive condition.  In hundreds of districts a good water supply was unknown and electricity and drainage despaired of.  The village bus, on which visits to Market day, relatives, or to the doctor depended, ran but seldom and at erratic times.  The Post Offices Authorities seemed reluctant to erect telephones in rural area, but eager to close down village Post Offices, making the buying of a stamp or the drawing of a pension into an Odyssey.


Into the battle went the Women’s Institutes, armed with the accurate first-hand knowledge of rural conditions denied to, or ignored by, those in authority.  With tireless importunity they obtained for their villages those public services which are now taken for granted: the scene would have been very different today had the W.I. members not possessed that gad-fly persistence which every Authority has come to recognise as unrelenting.  Two achievements stand out: a review, among members, of conditions under which country mothers bore their children at home, was pressed home in the In-Baskets of Whitehall and the boon of analgesia, operated by the Village Nurse, is the direct outcome.  And under Lady Denman’s especial guidance the Institute movement asked repeatedly for improved facilities for the education of the country child and the country adult in particularly rural skills – in cooking, preserving, dairy work and poultry-keeping – and the large part played in the Counties of the Rural Domestic Economy Instructresses today is directly due to the W.I.’s persistence.


The keeping alive, and handing-down, of old skills has been one of the Women’s Institutes happiest achievements.  Members have been encouraged to discover in themselves arts and skills they had no thought to possess and to share them with others.  From the first, the exquisite needlework done by members has drawn an admiring public to the various exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in a machine-made age more and more women have found pleasure in colour, design and fine stitchery.  Nor is it backward-looking, for the old techniques are re-designed for modern usage but with the same satisfaction in aiming at perfect craftsmanship.


At Agricultural Shows up and down the country, at the Ideal Home Exhibition in London, and at the W.I. Market stalls dotted as thick as measles over the map of England and Wales, people flock to admire, to taste and to buy the products of W.I. kitchens, farms and gardens.  By keeping a high standard of cookery and attractive presentation, the W.I.s in this field stand unchallenged.  The revival of wine-making has been greatly encouraged by the women’s Institute Wine Book which has run through many editions, sold not only to members but to men who hurry home from their offices to adjust their air-locks and gloat over the dandelions and parsnips happily fermenting in the corner of the sitting-room.  Jams and jellies, pickles and home-made bread, game-pies and farmhouse cakes – on these wholesome foundations much of the reputation of the Women’s Institute movement is built, and in these days of the Great Freeze and tasteless food, who would decry such a contribution to the happy and healthy life of the nation’s families?


In an age of mass entertainment, the Women’s Institutes have provided their members with opportunities to create entertainment for themselves and to enjoy the companionship shared in that creation.  From the five-minute Mime at the monthly Meeting to the blank verse play at the Drama Festival, and from the not always tuneful singing of Jerusalem at the start of a meeting to the Vaughan Williams cantata of 3,000 W.I. voices in the Albert Hall, acting and singing play an important part in W.I. life.


Painting, too, features on many Institute programmes.  As a pastime, it took root during the war as a never-failing escape from the brutal realities.  W.I. members were quick to catch the infection, and art groups sprang up all over England and Wales, introducing members who had never touched brush or palette before, to an utterly satisfying pursuit.  In 1963 an Exhibition was held in London of the best work done by Institute members, and excited great interest.  Many of the pictures were painted by busy farmers’ wives with children under their feet and poultry to feed, others by diffident members who were hard to persuade even to attend a single painting class, but who discovered in themselves a latent talent to bring them joy.  The standard was high, the approach fresh, and painting in the W.I.’s has come to stay.


A real interest in the people of other countries was shown by the work done by members for world Refugee Year and the Freedom from Hunger Campaign in which altogether £252,692 was collected by members in England and Wales.


Foreign travel, becoming easier and quicker year by year, is sponsored by many County Federations, and there are few countries in Europe unvisited by cheerful groups of W.I. members and their husbands.  This is often in the Institute programmes where “The Choice of Wines” is subject as likely to feature as “The Choice of Flowering Shrubs”, while in the cookery competitions the “Six rocks cakes” of standard usage may well yield place to “The Best Pizza”.


The National Federation had given warmest encouragement to these travel parties and its members work hard for the international organisation, the Associated Countrywomen of the World, in which the women’s Institutes hold honoured place.  At 39 Eccelston Street, near Victoria, the gracious Regency house in which are the central offices of the W.I. movement, visitors from over-seas are given hospitality and shown every facet of the work from starting a new Institute of fifteen members, to the leaflets and booklets covering the diverse interests and skills of the W.I. member.  A visit to Eccleston Street and to country institute in action is on the schedule of many students in England on a course of Welfare and Sociology.


The journal of any organisation is an essential part to its life, and in 1919 publication was begun of Home and Country, the W.I. magazine.  It has grown steadily from a first issue of 2,000 copies to a monthly circulation of 155,000.


Of all the educational work of the W.I. movement, its proudest achievement is the Denman College, planned, paid for and furnished by the members themselves, and opened in 1948.  Here week-end and mid-week courses are held on subjects ranging from ballet, baking, and basketry to the Norman Conquest and outer space.  Here every year, more than 3,000 members from all over the country enjoy meeting each other and learning together.  Some courses are open to husbands and one or two weeks are specially planned so that members can bring their children.  The College is the Women’s Institutes’ most valuable asset.


In fifty years the reputation of the Women’s Institute Movement for clear thinking has been established, and Government Departments increasingly use it as a sounding-board for questions of rural interest, from Agricultural Workers’ Budgets in 1937 to Primary School education in 1963.


In the villages themselves, the W.I.s stand for friendliness, fun and work for the community.  It is the W.I. that collect information for a village history, producing for future social historians a picture of rural life soon to be blurred by the rapid changes of day to day.  It is the W.I. that helps to erect or redecorate the Village Hall, the bus shelter and the children’s playground; that organises the chiropody sessions for old people with a cheerful mixture of tea and treatment; that starts a new Youth Club or runs the canteen in an old one; that caters for the horse show and rallies the Blood Donors.  It is the W.I. that gets the zebra crossing painted in the dangerous village street and persuades the local Council that old people cannot carry their dustbins to the garden gate.  It is the W.I.s who fight against an ever-rising tide of litter cast haphazard about the countryside.  It is the W.I.s who, following a discussion at the Albert Hall on the attitude of people towards the mentally ill, form links with their nearest hospital, offering help and friendship to those in need of it.  The formation of the first Institutes in mental hospitals has been highly successful and the number of such W.I.s will increase.


This is the Present; what of the Future?

The Planning Authorities are nibbling away at the countryside and doubling or trebling the size of the villages.  This is a situation the W.I.s have to face with resolution.  Newcomers with different interest and a different set of values have to be absorbed into Village life, and Institute meetings with their form exclusion of all maters of a party-political or sectarian nature, can prove a valuable meeting-ground.  The four ideals of Truth, Tolerance, Justice and Fellowship, on which the movement is based, have never been more urgently needed than today, and the Women’s Institutes, with gratitude for the wisdom of the founders of the movement and with pride in its achievements, step boldly forward into the next Fifty Years remembering the words of Lady Denman “We have enjoyed a great heritage; and we must do our share in ensuring that in years to come the value and the delight of the country are not lost to our successors”.

Taken from Jubilee Book 1915-1965 pub. by NFWI in 1964


This was the text of a booklet produced by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes to commemorate fifty years of their Movement.  Other Golden Jubilee celebrations included: the WI Golden Market at the Ideal Home Exhibition; and Exhibition of their history held at The Ceylon Tea Centre, Lower Regent Street; the AGM at the Royal Albert Hall; an Evening Reception at The Guildhall; a Reception and Dinner at the Windsor Banqueting Room, London; a Special Garden Party at Buckingham Palace; a WI Exhibition at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire; a Consultative Council held at Anglesey to commemorate the founding of the first WI in England; and an exhibition at the Royal Dairy Show at Olympia.  There were also a series of events organised at County level and in Surrey there were Handicraft Exhibitions held at Godalming, Dorking, Epsom, Redhill and Guildford; two County Dinners held, one at the Dorking Halls and the other at the Civic Hall, Guildford; an Art Exhibition held at the Dorking Halls; and an exhibition called Spotlight on Surrey held at the Dorking Halls.

Taken from Jubilee Book 1915-1965 pub. by NFWI in 1964


Garden Party

Mrs Sorrell was chosen by ballot to attend the Garden Party given by the queen to mark the Golden Anniversary of the W.I. Movement.

Taken from the local newspaper article, 1965


Felbridge WI Scrapbook 1965

The Felbridge WI entered the Border Group competition to celebrate the WI movement’s fifty years by creating a Scrapbook on Felbridge Village.  The Scrapbook, with an embroidered cover, was made up of photographs, old postcards, newspaper cuttings, Felbridge WI member’s art work, needlecraft and memories, telling the history of the village of Felbridge, its buildings, flora and fauna, clubs and organisations and people.  It was compiled as a walk round Felbridge pointing out places of interest by nine WI members: Marjorie Bardwell, Joan Brighty, Bettie Etherington, Marie Exell, Sadie Martin, Dorothy Nunneley, Mollie Pentecost, Dora Wheeler and Iris Windsor.  When complete, a wooden box was made by Mr Such to house the book for prosperity and for several years after the competition it was loaned out to raise funds for causes supported by the Felbridge WI.

Taken from the Scrapbook and Minute Books


Edna’s Sponge

4ozs soft margarine

4ozs caster sugar

4ozs SR flour

1 level teaspoon of Baking Powder

2 eggs

& water to fill half of egg shell (1 tablespoon)


Put in a bowl and beat or whisk until well blended.

Turn into greased sponge tins and cook in the middle of the oven at Reg. 4 for 20 to 25 minutes.


For chocolate sponge, add 1 tablespoon of cocoa


Taken from Felbridge WI member Mrs V Pike’s hand-written recipe book


Mrs Edna Roberts frequently volunteered to make the Felbridge WI birthday cakes and regularly won a place in the Home Produce/Cookery section of the annual Felbridge WI Flower Show.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minute Book


Life Members

It was decided that as the year was the Felbridge WI’s 42nd birthday that Mrs Murrell and Mrs Wheeler, founder members, would be made life members.  The proposal was adopted unanimously.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minute Books, 1968


Only 3 original members left

It was noted by Mrs Wheeler in 1970 that there were only three original members left in the Felbridge WI.  Dora Wheeler was one but unfortunately she failed to record who the other two were!

Taken from Mrs Wheeler’s Scrapbook, FHA


Felbridge Supper

Members of the Felbridge Women’s Institute and their guests enjoyed the Harvest Supper at the Village Hall.  The Supper was followed by items from the Lake View Drama Club.  The occasion was a great success and enjoyed by all.

Taken from the local newspaper article, October 1970



A Sunny Day marked the Felbridge women’s Institute Flower Show on Tuesday last.

There were no so many entries as usual, but the standard was high, especially for the cookery section and handicrafts, so much so that three first prizes and three seconds were given for ‘something new from something old’ section.  The number for pot plants was disappointing.

Mrs Wheeler won the cup, having gained most points in the show, which was also a financial success.

Mrs Ankers, Mrs Huggett and Mrs Handley were thanked for judging the entries and Mrs Weir addressed thanks to Mr Bennett for an interesting hour’s talk on ‘Live and Enjoy Living’.

Quiche Lorraine: 1, Mrs Oliver; 2, Mrs Whatmough; 3, Mrs Austin.

Cherry cake: 1, Mrs Dodd; 2, Mrs Harrison; 3, Mrs Oliver

Tomato chutney: 1, Mrs Wheeler.

Plum jam: 1, Mrs Wheeler; 2, Mrs Browne; 3, Mrs Austin.

Miniature flower arrangement: 1, Mrs Whatmough; 2, Mrs Roberts; 3, Mrs Pike.

Single bloom: 1, Mrs Roberts; 2, Mrs Pike; 3 Mrs Austin.

Dahlias: 1, Mrs Roberts.

Pot plant: 1, Mrs Wood; 2, Mrs Whatmough; 3, Mrs Durrant.

Runner beans: 1, Mrs Wheeler; 2, Mrs Harrison; 3, Mrs Bowne.

Knitted cardigan: 1, Mrs Whatmough; 2, Mrs Young; 3, Mrs Wood.

Something new from something old: 1, Mrs Whatmough, Mrs Callow and Mrs Browne; 2, Miss Burgess, Mrs Wheeler and Miss Niblett.

Taken from local newspaper,
16th September 1971











Drama Group Planned

Felbridge WI at their well attended February meeting decided to form a drama group.

Members interested in joining the group were asked to give their names to Mrs Dodd.

A tribute was paid to Mrs Chittenden who had been instrumental in collecting the sum of £4 towards a wreath for the late Miss Paddle, which also allowed for the purchase of a vase for the grave.

Taken from a local newspaper article, 10th February 1972


Annual Flower Show

A quite remarkable display of entries were exhibited at Felbridge Women’s Institute annual flower show.

The flower arrangements provided a colourful and attractive setting for the entries in the handicrafts and cookery sections.

Mrs F.L. Whatmough gained no less than six first places, and together with second and third placings, amassed sufficient points in the show to win the cup which is presented annually.


Judges for the event were: Vegetables, Mr Newton; flowers, Mrs Huggett; handicrafts, Miss Cole; and cookery, Mrs Ankers.




Runner beans: 1, Mrs Warner; 2, Mrs Oliver.

Potatoes: 1, Mrs Warner.

Tomatoes: 1, Mrs Smith.

Root vegetables: 1, Mrs Warner.



H.T. roses: 1, Mrs Nunnelly; 2, Mrs Browne; 3, Mrs Warner.

Floribunda roses: 2, Mrs Warner.

Mixed garden flowers: 1, Dr McGill; 2, Mrs Wood, 3, Mrs Warner.

Flower arrangement: 1, Mrs Oliver; 2, Mrs Roberts; 3, Mrs Pike.

Miniature arrangement: 1, Mrs Pike; 2, Mrs Roberts; 3, Mrs Oliver.

Single bloom: 1, Mrs Pike; 2, Mrs Whatmough; 3, Dr McGill.


Knitting or crochet, gift for elderly lady: 1, Miss Callow; 2, Miss Hussey; 3, Mrs Whatmough.

Sewing: 1, Mrs Whatmough; 2, Mrs Browne; 3, Mrs Austin.

Something new form something old: 1, Mrs Lulham; 2, Mrs Whatmough; 3, Mrs Austin.

Water bottle cover: 1, Miss Callow; 2, Miss Earll; 3, Miss Burgess.

Hand-made calendar: 1, Mrs Whatmough; 2, Miss Niblett; 3, Mrs Austin.



Coconut ice: 1, Mrs Austin; 2, Mrs Browne; 3, Mrs Warner.

Vanilla fudge: 1, Mrs Whatmough; 2, Miss Niblett; 3, Mrs Warner.

Gainsborough tart: 1, Mrs Whatmough; 2, Mrs Austin; 3, Miss Niblett.

Sausage rolls: 1, Mrs Whatmough; 2, Mrs Austin; 3, Mrs Warner.

Strawberry jam: 1, Mrs Austin.

Taken from the local newspaper 1972


Seat in memory of Mrs Wheeler

In June 1973 a wooden seat was erected in memory of founder member Dora Wheeler who had died the previous year after forty-eight years of service to the Felbridge WI.  The seat was positioned on the Felbridge Green between the bungalow known as Cluden (Dora Wheeler’s last home) and the front gates of Felbridge School.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minute Book


Felbridge WI Golden Jubilee

Felbridge Women’s Institute celebrate their golden jubilee with a wine and cheese party in the new village hall.

Taken from the local newspaper, 1974


Celebrating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee – 1977

Edna Roberts suggested that a Mountain Ash tree be panted to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee but the idea was abandoned due a spate of vandalism that had hit the area.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minute Book


East Grinstead Silver Jubilee Competition

Felbridge WI’s entry has been chosen as the best of 11 entries in the East Grinstead Silver Jubilee committee’s contest for the best designed decorative branch badge or emblem.

Shields and banners suitable for street decoration were submitted by Soroptimists, the East Grinstead Townswomen’s Guild, and nine WI (branches – Felbridge, Hartfield and Medway Coleman’s Hatch, Ashurst Wood, Crawley Down Evening, Kingscote, West Hoathly, Hilltop and Hammerwood and Holtye.

The judges, the town Mayor Cr. David Tricker, and Cr. Frank Osborne, chairman of the Silver Jubilee committee said: “The Felbridge design caught our eye because of the quality of the work and the detail of the design, incorporating as it did the river, the bridge and the village’s famous chestnut trees”.

The picture shows the winning entry with its creator, Mrs Frances Whatmough, of 35 De La Warr Road, East Grinstead.

The judges said they were impressed by the wide range of treatments and materials used, among them the beaten copper shield of Hartfield and Medway and the use of painted fabric in the Coleman’s Hatch banner.

Taken from the local newspaper, 1977


The winning banner of the East Grinstead Jubilee Committee’s competition, held to find a design for jubilee street decorations, was presented to Mr Godfrey Forward, chairman of the Felbridge Village Hall’s management committee on Tuesday last week, by Mrs Frances Humphrey, Felbridge WI’s retiring president.

On the right is Mrs Whatmough, who designed and embroidered the banner in her spare time over a period of two or three months.

Mr forward thanked the WI and congratulated Mrs Whatmough on her work.  He said: “I hope it will be the first of many items from organisations who think well of the village hall and feel it is the best place for safe keeping”.

Taken from the local newspaper, 1978


Felbridge WI Flower Show

Pensioner Mrs Pike turned her hobby to good use when she won a first prize at a flower show at Felbridge last week.

She has enjoyed flower arranging for years and entered a special arrangement in a bottle for the Felbridge Women’s Institute Show – and captured a top prize.

Her winning selection – in an old whisky bottle – included cream and brown chrysanthemums with golden-brown montbretias.

Bad weather kept entries down to only 46 and, unlike previous years, there were no vegetable and handicraft sections.


Arrangement in a bottle – 1, Mrs V. Pike; 2, Mrs B. Knight; 3 Mrs J. Barton.

All-green arrangement – 1, Mrs P. Parker; 2, Mrs Lulham; 3, Mrs B. Knight.

Song title – 1, Mrs M. Austin; 2, Mrs M. Bennett; 3, Mrs B. Knight.

Victorian posy – 1, Mrs L. Neal; 2, Mrs V. Seaman; 3, Mrs K. Oliver.

Taken from the local newspaper, 1977



Mrs Ivy Warner will celebrate 50 years with the Felbridge WI in June when she will be guest of honour at the Institute’s June buffet lunch.  Mrs Warner is still an active member and is on the committee this year.

To mark her 50 years as a member of the Felbridge WI, Mrs Ivy Warner was presented with a handbag, purse and card by our President, Mrs M. Bennett.

Mrs Warner said she had learnt and done many interesting things through belonging to the WI.

Taken from the local newspaper, 1978


Felbridge WI Flower Show

Pictured (on the next page) with her winner’s trophy is Mrs Frances Whatmough, of 35 De La Warr Road, East Grinstead, who gained most points in Felbridge Women’s Institute’s flower arrangements, domestic and handicraft competition.

Mrs Whatmough won four of the 10 classes, was second in two and third in another two. The flower section was judged by Mrs Olive smith, the domestic section by Mrs Kay Atherton, and the handicrafts by Mrs Joan Roberts and Mrs Beale.  Full results as follows:-

Arrangement of five flowers with foliage: 1 Mrs Barton, 2 Mrs Oliver, 3 Mrs Neal; arrangement incorporating driftwood: 1 Mrs Whatmough, 2 Mrs Roberts; 12-inch arrangement depicting Harvest Time: 1 Mrs Parker, 2 Mrs Roberts, 3 Mrs Whatmough; 1lb jam: 1 Mrs Whatmough, 2 Mrs Seaman, 3 Mrs Lulham; Victoria sponge: 1 Mrs Dodd, 2 Mrs Whatmough, 3 Mrs Neal; three plain scones: 1 1 Mrs Broom, 2 Mrs Roberts, 3 Mrs Smith. Collage: 1 Mrs Dodd, 2 Mrs Whatmough, 3 Mrs Young; knitted cap or hat: 1 Mrs Walker, 2 Mrs Hawkins, 3 Mrs Whatmough; apron: 1 Mrs Whatmough, 2 Mrs Walker, 3 Mrs Roberts; soft toy: 1 Mrs Whatmough, 2 Mrs Hodgson 3, Mrs Roberts.

Taken from the local newspaper, 1978


Harvest Supper Goes Down Well!

The Harvest Lunch of the Felbridge WI was a great success – 53 members got together to make it so.

Guest speaker, Mrs Pattenden, gave an interesting talk on harvest time in the good old days.


The Institute celebrated its 54th birthday with a party at its November meeting.  The president opened the meeting with the sad news of the death of Miss Williamson, a former president.  A minute’s silence was observed to her memory.


Taken from a local newspaper article, 27th September 1979


Coffee Morning raises £374

A coffee Morning organised by Felbridge WI members to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice was a resounding success last week.

A series of craft demonstrations pulled in the crowds and stall selling gifts, nearly new clothes, plants, jewellery, homemade produce and cakes and books helped to raise £374 for the WI’s main charity of the year.

Pictured are Felbridge members (from left to right) Vera Pike, Edna Roberts, Millie Summerville and Helen Brodrick.

Taken from the local newspaper, early 1980’s


Felbridge WI Diamond Jubilee

Cutting the Felbridge Women’s Institute Diamond Jubilee cake at Felbridge Village Hall last Tuesday afternoon were (pictured left to right): Treasurer Mrs Doris Hodgson, who made the cake; President Mrs Marjorie Bennett, and Federation Chairman Mrs Kaye Keeling.

Taken from the local newspaper, November 1984


Tablecloth in memory of Mrs Warner

In 1987 the President’s Tablecloth was replaced by a new one in the memory of Ivy Warner who had died after fifty-nine years service to the Felbridge WI.  The new tablecloth was made by Mrs Lulham, Mrs Oliver and Mrs Tutt and embroidered by Mrs Frances Whatmough.  The old one was retained for the Felbridge WI Scrapbook and for the Special Display Table.

Taken from the Felbridge WI Minute Book, 1987


Felbridge WI Programme for 1988

President: Mrs P M Yeats, 6 Felwater Court, Stream Park, Felbridge, EG 23552


Vice Presidents: Mrs J James, Oaklands, Effingham Road, Copthorne, Cop. 712228.

Mrs T Aldridge, 10 Felwater Court, Stream Park, Felbridge, EG 25113


Secretary: Mrs C Crowther-Hall, Woodcock, Felbridge, EG 26343

Treasurer: Mrs P Parker, Garth Lodge, Effingham Road, Copthorne, Cop. 712716


Committee: Mrs Hall, Mrs Neate, Mrs Larkin and Mrs Roberts.



A Women’s Institute is a country women’s organisation based on the spiritual ideals of fellowship, truth, tolerance and justice.

For Home and Country

January 5th



Sussex Scenes and Sussex Downs

A Sussex postcard

July 5th



A good life for giddy goats

Mrs Hobbs

Non-flowering indoor plant

February 2nd



Papua New Guinea

Mrs Van de Starre-Phillips

A souvenir from Abroad

August 2nd



Members Meeting


4 spicy biscuits

March 1st



With some walking sticks in hand

An attractive tray

September 6th



Beauty from toe to top

Mrs Holden

A glass decanter

April 5th



Fun  and games with a bird

Mrs Boreham

Feather decoration for a hat

October 4th



Churches and church-yards

Mr Dobson

A religious Christmas card

May 3rd





Resolution Meeting




Garden in a tea plate

November 1st





Birthday Meeting

Christmas Stall

Berlin – a divided city

Mrs Bogle

A war time souvenir

June 7th



Hooked and buttoned up

Mrs Jackson-Fielden

A pair of earrings

December 6th




Bran tub

A handmade calendar

Group Meetings

March 23rd - Copthorne 8 pm, June 2nd - Outwood 2 pm, October 26th - Hookwood 2 pm


Border Group Shield – 1989

Felbridge W.I. was formed in 1924 and was active in such matters as village drainage and the widening of the bridge.  In the past a weekly market was held, a choir flourished and village flower shows were introduced.

Now many women work so an afternoon group is not for them but the more mature members can turn their hands to several crafts, one of which won the Border Group Shield in 1989.

Note from the Felbridge WI


WI’s 70th birthday

Members past and present of Felbridge Women’s Institute celebrated the branch’s 70th anniversary at a recent gathering – without a single recipe for strawberry jam in sight.

The women, who meet in the Village Hall in Crawley Down Road, cut a cake to mark the momentous milestone.

Taken from the local newspaper, 25th November 1994


The Felbridge WI also commissioned a wooden bench to mark their anniversary and presented it to the Felbridge Village Hall committee.  The bench can now be found residing in the Entrance Lobby of the Village Hall.


Garden Party

Some of the Felbridge WI members got together for a Garden Party held by Cora Levermore in July 1995.



Edna Roberts, a well know resident of Crawley Down Road, Felbridge, since 1936, died at Queen Victoria Hospital on Thursday, August 12.  She was 92.

She was a keen member of the East Grinstead Flower Club, Felbridge Horticultural Society and a dedicated member of the Felbridge Women’s Institute since the early war years.  She was also an active member of a regular cookery class.

Taken from the East Grinstead Courier, August 1999


Felbridge WI

Mrs Doris Martin, who has been with the WI for 50 years, has retired from the committee although she will continue to support us in her usual cheerful manner.

Taken from the East Grinstead Courier, October 1999


Knit and Natter

Members of the Felbridge WI meet regularly for a Knit and Natter making woollen jumpers and blankets to be sent where ever they are needed.  By May 2000, they had made 292 jumpers and 133 blankets.


Marking the millennium

The wind of change came to Felbridge this week thanks to the village WI.

To celebrate the millennium and Felbridge WI’s 75th birthday members decided to have a weather vane made for the village hall roof.

Created in wrought iron [and made by Jon Jones of Reddick Forge, Crawley Down Road] the vane is the Women’s Institute logo of a tree with the I as the trunk, the W as branches and 2000 at the base.

Branch treasurer Jean Starr thought of the idea in January and the ladies raised the £200 needed though events such as boot sales and coffee mornings.  The vane was officially unveiled on Tuesday along with a bronze plaque inside the hall by chairman of the village hall committee Don Beale.

The plaque reads the weather vane is “to commemorate our 75th birthday and the millennium”.

The day was also celebrated with a cake marking Felbridge WI’s 75 years and was presented by a member [Doris Martin] who hade been with the branch for 50 years.

Branch press officer Daphne Ayerst said members thought the vane and the plaque was a special way of marking both events and wanted to express their thanks to the hall committee.

Taken from the East Grinstead courier, November 1999


Green, Gold and Gorgeous

Several Felbridge WI members and their husbands enjoyed a lovely day at the flower and craft festival held at Losely House in June 2000, where they we able to see a patchwork cushion made by fellow member Doreen Broom that she had submitted to the Green, Gold and Gorgeous craft section.


Felbridge WI

The WI joined the birthday celebration for the Queen mother’s 100 years.

Members arrived in some lovely hats to sit down to a ploughmans lunch prepared by Betty Buck, Rita Heseldon and Bridget Russell.

It was a real party atmosphere and all the tables had beautiful flower arrangements.  We drank a toast and sang happy birthday to the Queen Mother.

Feeling very full we then started our monthly meeting.  The usual business was gone through and birthday posies were given out.  Daisy Marshal will be a grand 95 years old.

Taken from the East Grinstead Courier, 23rd August 2000


Loss of a Member

At the February meeting members were sorry to hear that Joan Hall, a past member, had recently died.  Joan, a member of the entertainment group, would be remembered for her humorous “one woman sketches”.

Taken from a local newspaper article, 15th February, 2001


Woman’s World 2001

June Blake was delighted to learn that her poem has been published in the annual magazine Woman’s World 2001, and we congratulated her when she read it in our meeting.

Taken from a local newspaper article, 15th February, 2001



Flight paths nearly overhead giving

Easy access to the world:

Lakes whose waters worked the hammers of the

British iron industry:

Roads clogged with traffic:

Ideas of a bypass seem no more than a

Distant dream:

Good neighbours round the village green

Eyeing the Evelyn chestnut trees which,

after three hundred years, still stand tall:


This is Felbridge

Courtesy of Gwynneth Huntley


Happy Birthday

At the August meeting birthday posies were presented to members as usual and a special Happy Birthday was said to Miss Marshall on her 96th Birthday.

Taken from a local newspaper article, 23rd August, 2001


WI members salute Queen

A rousing rendition of Jerusalem by 80 members of the Border Women’s Institute helped to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee at Felbridge Village Hall.

The toast to the Queen was proposed by Gwynneth Huntley, the president of the Felbridge Women’s Institute.  The women enjoyed a cold buffet organised by Molly Murby with the help of June Blake.

Mary Garrock performed songs, poems and conversations from the past.

They finished off the afternoon singing the National Anthem.

Taken from the local newspaper, 22nd August 2002


Felbridge Parish Council commission Queen’s Golden Jubilee Tapestry – 2003

The Tapestry was a set of seven hexagonal panels that, when put together, formed a large hexagon, each panel being completed by members of the parish representing local clubs and organisations.  Each panel was an easily seen landmark in Felbridge and included: The Star Inn completed by Molly Murby, representing the Felbridge WI.  St John's Church completed by Ann Morely, representing members of the congregation.  Whittington College completed by Ann Tucker and Marilyn Marshall, representing the 1st Felbridge (St John's) Guides, Brownies and Rainbows.  An Evelyn Chestnut Tree, completed by Jean Roberts and Dorothy Harding representing the Felbridge & District History Group.  The Village Sign completed by Di Giles, representing the people of the parish.  Felbridge Primary School completed by the children under the direction of Kay Probert and Lesley Jones representing Felbridge School.  The Central Jubilee Commemorative panel was completed by Lesley Jones, representing local business The Fabric Patch.  The panels were then stitched together by Di Giles and Molly Murby, framed by Dee-Jay Framing of Lingfield and on completion the Felbridge Golden Jubilee Tapestry was hung in the Village Hall for successive generations to view.


Interests and Activities

Our recent interests and activities have been diverse.  Five of our ladies have taken part in a survey on the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and a donation has been made to the Sussex Kidney Trust by our members in memory of a colleague.

The knit and natter group continues to meet once a month and to-date has produced 150 blankets and 500 jumpers of all sizes and colours for Oxfam and 52 tiny jackets for the Redhill Hospital premature baby unit.

Other members have knitted small bears for children in the Third World countries who have lost everything in some dreadful tragedy; thus proving that the clicking of knitting needles is more powerful than the clicking of tongues.

Walking is another of our activities and we enjoy the companionship and exercise, if the weather should prove too wet and windy, there is always a comforting beverage at the other end of the car park.

Taken from the local newspaper, 13th March 2003


Border Group Shield

Felbridge WI has learnt they are now the holders of the Border Group Shield again, won for the first time in 1989.  Congratulations go to Margaret Lewis for her winning entry.

Taken from the local newspaper, 16th July 2003


Short Story wins place in National WI contest

An East Grinstead woman’s short story has been selected to represent the Surrey Federation of the WI in a national competition for the Lady Denman Cup.

Marjory Turnball a member of the Felbridge WI, 74, of King Georges Avenue, went through to the finals after sending her entry late, 13 days after judging began.

WI members and associates were invited to write a short story and were given the first line, which they then had to continue.

It had to be completed in no more than 500 words and needed to include at least one reference to the WI.

Mrs Turnball said: “My entry was about a lady that received a letter from her twin sister who lived in New Zealand.

The two were separated at a young age and the letter talked of the life her sister has been living since the separation”.

She said that she was very surprised and gratified by the success.

Phil Yeats, secretary for the Felbridge WI, said: “We are all delighted for Marjory and wish her all the luck for the final.”

Mrs Turnball said the entries were currently being judged and the results should be announced soon.

Taken from the East Grinstead Courier, 19th August 2004


Jean Starr

Edwina Starr, known as Jean, of Forest View Road, East Grinstead, died at East Surrey hospital on Tuesday June 24th, aged 80. She is survived by husband Cyril, sons Philip and Stewart, daughter-in-laws Peta and Di and grandchildren Linden, Chris, Oli and Alex.

Mrs Starr was president of Felbridge WI and treasurer of the East Grinstead Flower Club.

Taken from the local newspaper, 3rd July 2008

Felbridge WI send treats to troops

The group has been busily collecting sweets, snacks, cakes and toiletries to send over to the service personnel.

The group, which meets in Felbridge Village Hall on the first Tuesday of the month, teamed up with Copthorne WI for the project.

Collecting started when Felbridge WI treasurer Jean Blakeston came across Thank the Forces charity outside Sainsbury's in East Grinstead.  "I bought a badge to help the cause and they gave me lots of leaflets," she said.

With members on board the group managed to collect an array of items which were handed over to a Thank the Forces representative on Tuesday last week.

"I would never have thought about sending soldiers hand cream and lip balm," Mrs Blakeston said. "I know it must be pretty horrific out there so it must be nice to know people are supporting them."

The items will leave the country on November 22 with the help of the charity Thank the Forces.

Taken from the Crawley News, 8th November 2009

Who won coveted ‘Most unusual fridge magnet’ prize?

Flowers, crafts and cakes filled Felbridge Village Hall on Tuesday.

Felbridge WI held its Spring Show inviting members to show off their flower, art and cooking skills.

Categories included flowers in a wine glass, the most unusual fridge magnet, the best computer generated poster advertising Felbridge WI and spring pictures on a paper plate.

“There were 22 entries” said WI secretary Carol Lewis.  “We have all sorts of different categories so everyone gets the opportunity to take part”.

The joint winners were Gladys Emblem and Jean Blakeston who won 60p, Daphne Ayherst was named runner up and won 40p.

Jean Blakeston also won best in show for her hand-made basket.

“It is all about taking part”, Mrs Lewis added.

Taken from the local newspaper, 15th April 2010


Doris Martin

Doris Martin was born Doris A Wisden in Medway, Kent, in 1915, the daughter of William Wisden and his wife Emily Elizabeth née Bridges.  In 1911 the Wisden family was living in Norwood Green, Middlesex; William working as a nurseryman.  Doris had at least one surviving brother, William born in 1901 and at least two siblings that had died prior to 1911.  In 1949 Doris married Edgar Sidney Frederick Merrington Martin in Worthing, Sussex; Edgar having been born on 3rd July 1904 in Wandsworth.  By 1949 Doris and Edgar had moved to the area and Doris joined the Felbridge WI.  Both she and her husband worked in East Grinstead, Doris for the stationers W H Smith and Edgar for Bateman’s Opticians.   Doris was an active member of the Felbridge WI, holding most positions on the committee at some point during her membership and died, aged ninety-five, in 2010 ending a sixty-one year membership of the Felbridge WI.

Phil Yeats

Phyllis (known as Phil) Yeats came to live in Felbridge in 1953 when she married John Yeats.  Soon after her arrival to the area Phil joined the Felbridge WI and was a member for nearly 50 years.  During her time with the Felbridge WI, Phil held many offices and was Secretary and President several times, including when she was well into her 80s.


As well as her work for the Felbridge WI, Phil was also active in the local community.  As a member of the WRVS for over 37 years, she helped run the local Meals on Wheels kitchen and the mother and baby clinic.  She was also part of the reception team at Gatwick Airport and Hobbs Barracks that looked after Ugandan Asians when they arrived in the UK as refugees in 1970.


Phil and John (a Felbridge Parish Councillor for many years) also helped run the local Youth Club, and Phil was also active in St John’s Church, helping to produce the Parish Magazine for many years.


Weird and Wonderful entries at Felbridge WI Spring Show

When you think of the Women's Institute, your mind may wander to a world of jams, cakes and chunky chutneys.

But the Felbridge WI group are out to prove there is more to the institute than that – and also that they are not above having a little fun with the traditional stereotypes people might have.

Because for several years, the Felbridge WI Spring Show has been awash with weird and wonderful competition entries – including the smallest penknife, most unusual fridge magnet and funniest holiday photos. This year, the ladies continued their eccentric approach to the traditional contest by using kitchen items such as saucepans, whisks and steamers to hold their flower arrangements.

Secretary and WI member Carol Lewis said: "It's something we have always done. It keeps things fresh every time we have the show and it means we get some really lovely entries.

"We were really pleased how it went this time around because we did it differently this year. Normally, we have a meeting on the first Tuesday of every month and hold the spring show on the same day. But this time we decided to make it more of a social occasion so there wasn't any business and it worked really well.

"It's the first time we have done it separately, and it gave people the chance to sit and talk without any formal business. Everybody really enjoyed themselves."

Other entries at this year's show, held at Felbridge Village Hall on Tuesday of last week, included mixed spring flowers, unusual necklaces and earrings, chocolate sponge cakes and poems about St George's Day.

The show attracted around 30 exhibitors and Mrs Lewis was happy the recent wet weather failed to affect the quality of the entries. "The weather didn't have a huge impact," she said. "We just had what flowers were available."

The Felbridge WI celebrates its 90th anniversary later this year.

Taken from the Crawley News, 5th May 2013

Felbridge WI Silverware Past and Present

Bennett-Edwards Cup

Donated by Marjorie Nellie Bennett-Edwards who was born on 16th January 1920 and was a member of the Felbridge WI from the 1970’s and President on more than one occasion before her death in 2004.  The cup is noted as being awarded at the Felbridge WI Spring Show in April 2003 to Evelyn Pearson who was joint-second, attaining 12 points culminating from various competition classes.


Doris Martin Cup

Given in the memory of Doris Martin, a long serving member of the Felbridge WI until 2010 (see above) and awarded to the runner-up of the Spring (Flower) Show.


Evelyn Spray Cup

Given in the memory of Evelyn Spray of Camber, Felcot Road, Furnace Wood, a member of the Felbridge WI in the 1950’s (see above). The cup to be awarded each year to the Felbridge WI member with the highest cumulative points gained from the monthly competitions.  Today the Evelyn Spray Cup is awarded for highest cumulative points from the flower of the Month.


Levermore Cup

Given by Cora Levermore who was a member of the Felbridge WI from the early 1980’s.  The cup is noted as being awarded to Win Simmonds in January 2002 for attaining 42 points in the monthly flower competition of 2001.  Today this cup is awarded for the highest accumulative number of points from the Monthly Competition.


Murrell Cup

Given in the memory of Sylvia Ann Murrell who was born on 28th October 1938 and was a member and Press Officer for the Felbridge WI in the early 2000’s, before her death in 2002.  The cup is noted as being won at the Felbridge WI Spring Show in April 2003 by Daphne Ayerst, for attaining 15 points culminating from various competition classes.


Rose Bowl

Awarded to the entry considered to be the Best in Show at the Spring (Flower) Show.


Starr Dish

Given by Edwina (known as Jean) Starr who was born in 1928 and was a member of the Felbridge WI from the 1980’s, committee member, as well as President and Treasurer on more than one occasion.  The dish is noted as being awarded at the Felbridge WI Spring Show in April 2003 to Marion Cornish who was joint-second, attaining 12 points culminating from various competition classes.  Today the Starr Dish is awarded for the highest points attained in the Spring (Flower) Show.


WI Flower Show Cup

Given by Elizabeth Rayner in 1931.  Over the years it has become assimilated with the Felbridge and District Horticultural Society silverware (see above) and is awarded to the WI winner of Class 101 (WI class) in the Late Summer Show.


Felbridge WI Programme for 2014


7th January

The History of Hospitals


‘Hippocrates to Holtye’ - With Dorothy Hatswell
Competition: Winter Photograph

4th February

Humorous History of Fleet Street


With Peter Durrant
Competition: Souvenir Pen or Pencil

4th March



With Chris Phillips
Competition: Childhood Toy

1st April

Crafts and Social Afternoon


No Competition

6th May



12.30pm for lunch
Meeting @ 1.30pm

(After Fish and Chip Lunch)
No competition

3rd June

Women in the Police



With Sheila Willis
Competition: Unusual Handbag or Purse


1st July

The Crystal Palace


With Ian Gledhill
Competition: Glass Ornament

5th August

Summer Tea - with Conjuror


Roy Plumridge and Music
Competition: Hat Parade (elegant or just downright silly)

2nd September

RAF Heroes of Surrey


With Rupert Matthews
Competition: Wartime Souvenir

7th October


4th November

90th Birthday Meeting


Lewes Fireworks with Andy Thomas
Competition: Handmade 90th Birthday Card

2nd December

Christmas Meeting


With Charlotte Corless - Singer
Competition: Programme from a Stage Musical



In addition to the 2014 programme of event, members of the Felbridge WI were invited to celebrate their 90th Birthday with a ‘Steam & Cream’ trip on the Bluebell Railway between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead on 28thAugust.


Toast to 90 years of jam and Jerusalem

Member of Felbridge’s WI gathered to celebrate their 90th anniversary at a celebratory luncheon held in the Felbridge Village Hall on Tuesday 4th November 2014.  The guest speaker for the luncheon was Andy Thomas who gave a talk on the history of the Lewes fireworks.  Ironically (as the Felbridge WI has traditionally been known for its baking) they were let down by the suppliers of the special 90th birthday cake so a last minute replace was found and cut into very small pieces to allow everyone to have a slice!


The Felbridge branch is proud to still be a traditional, afternoon WI that regularly sings the Institute’s anthem, Jerusalem.  The current secretary, Carol Lewis says ‘We still maintain the traditional values and all enjoy singing Jerusalem.  Things haven’t changed much.  One thing that stands out for all of us is our enduring friendship.  We have different groups and activities to suit all interests but the main thing is how much of a tight bond there is between us all.  It feels wonderful that it has continued to flourish for so many years’.  The WI continues to offer a variety of activities including a re-introduced walking group with walks along the Worth Way, a Skittles team for the annual Felbridge Country Show and Skittles event and a craft group that makes items to sell at the previous event and the annual Felbridge Arts, Crafts and Food Market.


Anyone over the age of eighteen can join the Felbridge WI that currently meets on the first Tuesday of every month, between 1.30 pm and 4.00pm at the Felbridge Village Hall.  For further information on membership contact Carol Lewis, Tel: 01342 321934.


With their own 90th anniversary celebrations complete, the Felbridge WI are now planning crafts and activities to celebrate the centenary of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in 2015.



Felbridge Parish and People 1976, FHA

Felbridge Parish and People Millennium Edition 1999, FHA

National Federation of Women’s Institutes www.thewi.org.uk

Dora Wheeler’s Scrapbook, FHA

Handout, 1911 Sale of the Felbridge Estate, SJC 01/11, FHWS

Handout, Eating and Drinking Establishments of Felbridge Pt. I, SJC 05/07, FHWS

Handout, Civil Parish of Felbridge SJC 03/03, FHWS

Felbridge WI Minute Books June 1955 – Oct. 2008, FHA

Handout, Old Felbridge House and The Feld, SJC 02/01, FHWS

Handout, Three More Biographies from the Churchyard of St John the Divine: John Hogger, Frederick & Emma Millard and John Vestey, SJC 09/10, FHWS

Handout, The Beef and Faggot Charity, SJC 03/03, FHWS

Ancestry – www.ancestry.co.uk & www.FreeBMD.org.uk

Handout, Pattenden Family of Felbridge, SJC 07/01, FHWS

Handout, Wiremill, SJC 03/06, FHWS

Handout, Shopping in Felbridge Pt. I, JIC/SJC 05/10, FHWS

Handout, Beef and Faggot Charity, SJC 03/03, FHWS

Handout, Felbridge Village Halls SJC01/12, FHWS

Handout, Felbridge & District Horticultural Society, September 2011, FHWS

Handout, Felbridge Herb Gatherers, SJC 01/04, FHWS.

WI Golden Jubilee Felbridge Scrapbook, 1965, FHA

Felbridge WI Scrapbook, 1934 – 2014, FHA

Felbridge WI, www.carrieon.co.uk/FelbridgeWI

Documented memories of Phil Yeats, FHA

Texts of all Handouts referred to in this document can be found on FHG website: www.felbridge.org.uk

SJC 11/14