This year Badsey W.I. celebrate their 75th Anniversary. In 1987 they produced a booklet detailing their first 60 years. A copy of which is found below. For details of the Women's Institute today see our local information page.
Badsey Women's Institute - A Brief History
Written and researched in 1987, the year of our Diamond Jubilee, by Mrs. Yvonne Haynes, assisted by Mrs. Joyce Lashford.
With special acknowledgements to Mrs. Gwen Hughes, Mrs. Freda Ackroyd, Mrs. Lucy Addis, Mrs. Daphne Bell, Mrs. Gertie Cowley, Mrs. Sheila Knight, Mrs. Eva Reed, Mrs. Win Smith, Mrs. Doris Sparrow and Mrs. Hilda Stewart.
Badsey W.I. was founded in March 1927 and was affiliated to the National Federation of Women's Institutes on 23rd November 1927 by Miss D. Slessor. The President was Mrs. Boucher, who instigated its formation, Vice-president was Mrs. E. Carter of Wickhamford, Secretary Miss Ella Jones, and Treasurer Miss Kelland. The population of Badsey at that time was 1013, and of Wickhamford 305. The Institute became known as Badsey/Wickhamford Women's Institute as members came from both villages. In March 1952 it became Badsey W.I. as Wickhamford then formed their own W.I.
The first meetings were held at the home of Mrs. Boucher, but as membership increased meetings were held at the Old School, now the site of the Royal British Legion Club. For many years meetings were held at the Wheatsheaf Inn and the Bell Inn (now a private dwelling), and then at the new school. For each meeting at the new school members had to collect chairs from the Bell Inn and carry them across the road to the school. After completion of the Village Hall in 1956 meetings were held there, and are still held there.
The format of the meetings has changed very little. They begin with the singing of 'Jerusalem' and there has always been a Social Half-hour. In earlier years social time was a form of entertainment - monologues, sketches, singing, etc., rather than the games or quiz we enjoy today.
'Members' night' was held once a year when volunteers organized and ran the evening. This was a very popular practice, and has only ceased during the past few years. The membership fee in the early years was two shillings (10 pence). Today it is £5.60. Refreshments have always been provided and served by members. When meetings were held at the old school washing up after refreshments was done in a chipped enamel bowl on an old wooden table, using soda as the washing agent (no washing-up liquid in those days!). The crockery was drained on a tin tray, the water having been drawn from a cold water tap on the wall and boiled on an old iron gas stove. A far cry from the modern kitchen we use at the Village Hall today.
Badsey W.I. had a Folk Dancing Group right from the beginning, as did most other W.I's at that time. Badsey's Folk Group was very popular and entertained at many functions throughout the County, entering many Folk Dancing competitions, and in 1928 won a W.I. competition held at Middle Hill, Broadway.In 1956/57 a Square Dancing Group was started for Badsey W.I, by Mr. Maurice Savory. Lessons and rehearsals were held on the lawn at the home of Mr. Arthur Sears during spring and summer, and at Blackminster Secondary School during the colder months. Music was supplied by Mrs.K. Taylor's wind-up gramophone, complete with H.M.V. style horn. For competitions a trained dance tutor would coach the dancers and select the best.
Badsey W.I. Drama Group was started in 1930 by Mr. Syd Carter, husband of the then President Mrs. D. Carter, of Wickhamford. The Group flourished and performed at many functions, meetings and village events throughout the County. In 1937/38 they won the coveted Lily Brayton Cup at a competition held in Worcester. The group folded in 1939, but was re-formed after the war by Mrs. Chapman, only to fold again in 1949.
In 1951 Mrs. Daphne Bell re-started the group, writing the first three plays herself. These were rehearsed at her home in Aldington and performed at the Wheatsheaf Inn, the stage being constructed of trestle table tops placed on top of wooden beer crates. Mrs. Lucy Addis joined the W.I. at a very young age solely to be able to join the Drama Group, and was a 'staunch actress' for many years. Sometimes the plays called for children to take part, and Mrs. Sheila Knight and Mrs. Freda Ackroyd recall being 'reluctantly dragged along' by their enthusiastic W.I. mums to take part. In one play the part called for a chicken to be plucked and a real chicken was actually plucked on stage.
In the 1950's the group performed four plays a year, but as time passed this was reduced to one play a year.
Unfortunately the group folded in 1985 with the retirement of Mrs. Daphne Bell as leader. She had lead a fine and successful Drama Group for thirty-five years. The group, headed by Daphne, took part in two village shows put on to raise money for a new Scout Hut before finally bowing out with 'rave reviews' for their two sketches.
BADSEY W.I. CHOIR
The choir was formed in 1946/47 by Mrs. Jeffries whose husband, an ex-R.A.F. Padre, was vicar of Badsey. Unfortunately Mrs. Jeffries was not in the village for long, but the choir was taken over by Mrs. Chapman, wife of the succeeding vicar, who ran it for many years. Again the choir was very popular and sang at meetings, concerts and other functions throughout the County. They also competed in many competitions organised by the Worcester Federation of Women's Institutes.
The first National musical event was held after the war. This was the National Singing Festival held at The Albert Hall, London, on 15th June 1950. At this Festival a cantata entitled "Folk Songs of the Four Seasons", written especially for the W.I, by Vaughan Williams was to have its first public performance. A competition was held to find two W.I. choirs to sing the Cantata Badsey entered, but the competition was won by Claines W.I. and Great Witley W.I. However, the local counterpart of this occasion was held on 21st October at College Hall, Worcester, and all the choirs who had competed in the preliminary rounds performed this beautiful cantata.
Two members of Badsey W.I. Choir—Mrs. Eva Reed and Mrs. Kathy Marshall—attended the Festival at The Albert Hall and were allowed to sing at the rehearsal, which was conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. In the afternoon they took their seats among the audience, and had the honour of watching Vaughan Williams conduct the final part of the concert.
Music for the choir was provided by Mrs. Amy Sadler, a wonderful pianist who although blind accompanied the choir at all events.
Mr. Allan Morton, a teacher at Badsey School, took over as conductor from Mrs. Chapman. He became known as 'the one who conducts with his bottom' as his rear always moved in unison with his hands when conducting. An adjudicator at a competition held at the Christopher Whitehead School in Worcester couldn't bring Badsey W.I. Choir to mind, but as soon as the 'conductor who conducts with his bottom' was mentioned there was instant recognition.
Many W.I. choirs had lovely 'choir outfits' to wear at competitions, but Badsey did not. At one competition they were asked, to wear navy blue skirts and white blouse. One member turned up suitably attired but wearing a navy beret (which never left her head despite a lovely head of natural curls). When asked by Mrs. Chapman to remove the beret she absolutely refused, even though on this occasion she was to sing the descant to the "Ash Grove" with another member. Mrs. Chapman was quite put out by her refusal, but had another attempt to coax her to take it off, all to no avail. When Badsey's turn to compete came the lady in the beret was missing and the choir sang with only a solo voice for descant. After their performance the lady in the beret emerged from the 'loo', where she had spent her time rather than appear on stage without her beloved beret.
Outings have always been one of the most enjoyable aspects of Badsey W.I. Members have enjoyed theatre trips, canal and river trips, exhibitions, mystery tours, outings to stately homes, flower shows, factories, vineyards, sea-sides, zoos and shows.
Outings started in the late 1940's, and amongst the most memorable was a trip in 1953 to London to see the decorations for the Coronation of our Queen. Members left Badsey Station at eight o'clock in the morning when they travelled to Windsor and had lunch while the rain fell in torrents. After lunch, and in somewhat better weather conditions, they visited the castle and gardens, noting with interest how vegetables had been artistically grown amongst the flowers. A ferry boat then took them to the outskirts of London where coaches were waiting to take them on a tour of the beautiful decorations.
Theatre trips have always been very popular and on one such trip to Cheltenham to see a play starring Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert some members had the pleasure of meeting with and talking to them in a restaurant after the show.
A theatre trip to Oxford to see Dame Anna Neagle, just after the war, ended with a visit to the Cadena Cafe where a meal of whole Dover sole was enjoyed for the lowly sum of five shilling's (25p.). On a later outing to London members took coffee at the Dorchester Hotel no less!
In 1966 the Queen held a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace for members of the W.I. Badsey was allowed to send one member and lots were drawn. The lucky winner was Mrs. Madge Harvey, who duly attended, not letting the fact that her leg was in plaster deter her in any way.
THE WAR YEARS
During the war years Badsey W.I. carried on as usual. Members received lessons in First Aid, and met 'Resuscitating Annie' for the first time. Members also received lessons on canning, helped by County Office. Two ladies from County toured the villages instructing members in the art of canning, using a machine donated to the W.I. in 1942 by the Americans. Members were able to order their cans from County Office and then obtain locally plums, tomatoes and other fruits. These were then canned with a machine Badsey W.I. were able to buy. Canning was usually done at Harrington House, the old school, or wherever a portable boiler was available. Surplus canned foods were sent to County to help with the food preservation scheme.
After the battle of Dunkirk 600 soldiers arrived in Badsey, many of them possessing only the clothes they wore. The school hall, various lofts and barns were commandeered for their billeting, and many W.I. members and fellow villagers opened up their homes to the troops, caring for them and generally adopting them.
Badsey W.I. members have practiced various crafts from the beginning, attending classes in various homes, local schools, and halls in Evesham and Worcester. In the 1950's more crafts than ever were practiced, including patchwork, smocking, quilting, glovemaking, embroidery, dressmaking, and many others. Badsey W.I. belonged to the County Handicraft Guild and to the Produce Guild. Annual competitions were held at the Guild Hall, Worcester. Badsey won many prizes, and in 1963 Mrs. Gwen Hughes achieved a Gold Star for a pewter firescreen, obtaining a perfect 100 out of 100 points. The competitions were invariably group efforts as entries for each class usually had to consist of three different items.
At one County meeting attended by Mrs. Sheila Knight a gentleman demonstrating floral arrangements was using a very new product called "Oasis". In a future floral arranging competition Mrs. Knight entered her arrangement using the new 'green oasis'. With tips picked up from the demonstrator and the new oasis Sheila won first prize. However, fellow competitors were more interested in the 'green stuff she had used than in her prize-winning arrangement.
Over the years Badsey W.I. members have won many prizes with their handicrafts, and have had their work exhibited at various fairs. A single bed quilt containing Suffolk Puff quilting was recently exhibited at Olympia in London.
For many years after the formation of Badsey W.I. committee meetings were held at Stone House, home of Miss Ella Jones who was the first Secretary. These meetings were held in the little chapel in the house, and committee members would sit on cushions in a circle, and used to take their small children along with them. The meetings were held on a Tuesday afternoon, as were the meetings proper. Now Committee Meetings are held at the home of the President on the first Wednesday evening of the month. The W.I.meeting is held one week later at the Village Hall. Mrs. D. Carter of Wickhamford was the longest serving President Badsey W.I. has had, serving in office for twenty-one years and succeeding her mother-in-law, Mrs. E. Carter. A very popular and much respected person, Mrs. Carter died in March 1974.
Mrs. K. Taylor of Badsey was Secretary of Badsey W.I. for twenty-five years. She was a most efficient and popular Secretary who is still remembered with great affection, and died in 1972.
Many of our present-day members have long Committee service records, and we still have a founder member—Mrs. Gertie Cowley—active in our W.I.
Mrs. Eva Reed served on the Committee for 55 years, including five years as President and twenty years as Vice-President. Mrs. Sheila Knight served as a Committee member for twenty-five years. Mrs. Hilda Stewart, Mrs. Daphne Bell, Mrs. Doris Sparrow and Mrs. Win Smith all served as Committee members for over twenty years, Mrs. Smith being President for four of those years.
In the early years to become a W.I. member you had to be proposed and seconded by a member, but in later years this was dropped and anyone can come along and join.
Badsey W.I. has always supported and taken part in all village and local events through the years, providing teas at Flower Shows and B.B.C. recordings, and having stalls at Church Fetes, School Fetes and various other functions. For many years we have supported Evesham Carnival, and in 1985 won our first ribbon for Second place with our French style float entitled 'Viva La W.I.'. Our choirs, drama /groups and dance groups have entertained throughout our early years, and we are pleased to still be playing our part in village and local activities today.
We have been providing teas at the village Flower Show for forty years now, and have seen many changes. Before the war the show was always held on a Wednesday, complete with a large steam fair. For many years now the show has been held on the last Saturday in July. The refreshments we serve have changed somewhat. Now we serve tea and home-made cakes at an approximate cost of 55p. for a cup of tea and a cake. In the first years of serving teas for the Flower Show we supplied two sandwiches, a sausage roll, a cake and a cup of tea for one shilling and sixpence (7½p).
At one time Badsey were able to boast a 'skiffle group'. Seven or eight members formed the group, their instruments consisting of the piano, washboard and thimble, saucepan lids, a string bass made from a tea chest and a piece of wood and string, and a comb and paper. The group became quite well known, and performed at their own social times, parties, and other W.I's.
BADSEY W.I. - NOW AND THEN
In the earlier years of Badsey W.I. more events were organised by County than is the case now. Most competitions, meetings and events were held at Worcester, which was more easily accessible than today as there were frequent trains from Badsey Station (now a railway crossing) to Worcester, and there was also a regular private bus service from Badsey.
County held annual Handicraft and Produce competitions and shows. There was a County Bulb Show and a County Quiz which was started in the early 1970's. Badsey always entered, and one year lost the annual quiz by only half a point.
More craft lessons were held locally than is the case now, and these were always very well attended. Most classes are now held at Worcester and are not so easy to attend unless members have their own transport.
Meetings have not changed at all, the main attraction being the variety of speakers and demonstrators.
The W.I. has always shown great interest in village happenings and events as well an the more countryside issues. It is interesting to note that this large voice of women is still urging the Government to take issue on the same topics as were being raised even in 1935.
Some of the Resolutions put forward in that year urged the Government to provide
- better education facilities especially in rural areas, and to allow boys and girls to have equal opportunities.
- better accommodation for the aged and infirm.
- better care of young children, both morally and physically.
- better health services in both maternity and district nursing.
- better education on diet and foods so as to improve the health of the nation, pointing out that unhealthy eating wasn't confined to people in poverty, but to all classes through ignorance of foods and their value.
- a tightening up of law's governing night-clubs and gambling establishments.
Today, fifty-two years later, these same issues are being fought over.
Throughout the vast and many changes that have occurred during the past sixty years Badsey W.I. maintains its principles and ideals as steadfastly now as in the beginning, providing fun, worthwhile education, enjoyment, companionship and friendship to all who wish to belong to this noble body.
Updated 18 August 2002.