100th party for one of UK’s oldest WI groups

100 not out...Centre, Meriel Godfrey president of Medbourne & Holt WI cuts the cake to celebrate it's 100th anniversary at Medbourne village hall.
PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
100 not out...Centre, Meriel Godfrey president of Medbourne & Holt WI cuts the cake to celebrate it's 100th anniversary at Medbourne village hall. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
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One of the UK’s oldest Women’s Institute (WI) groups - which is in the Harborough area - has just celebrated its 100th birthday.

Medbourne WI was founded in 1917, just two years after the WI movement came to Great Britain from Canada.

It is believed to be the first WI group in Leicestershire and in the Midlands.

The WI branch in Medbourne - seven miles north-east of Market Harborough - was formed in April 1917 after a visit to the village from Madge Watt, who was a founding member of the world’s first WI in Canada.

Current Medbourne WI president Meriel Godfrey explained that Mrs Watt had been enlisted by The Ministry of Agriculture to encourage village women to take on the skills of men absent in the First World War and get more involved in food 
production.

Early meetings at Medbourne WI included talks on rural skills like skinning rabbits and re-soling boots.

It was Medbourne women too who undertook major village projects during the war, like the demolition of two cottages to extend the parish churchyard.

On her visit to Medbourne, Mrs Watt stayed with the Rev Thomas Nevinson and his wife Ethel at the village 
rectory.

Ethel Nevinson subsequently became the first president of Medbourne’s WI, and helped form many other English WI groups.

The British WI movement was formed in 1915 in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey.

It is now the largest women’s voluntary organisation in the UK with 220,000 members in around 6,300 WIs.

Meriel Godfrey said the Medbourne branch celebrated its 100th birthday with a party, with entertainment by members and by Susan Bedford from Nevill Holt 
Opera.

She added: “We’re still going strong because we give women a strong sense of identity and comradeship. And we still have some very interesting speakers - not just about useful skills but about topics like mindfulness - and some important campaigns like the current one on reducing our use of plastics.”