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Hethersett Women's Institute

Newcomers are most welcome. Please come along and have a taster session. For more information ring Heather Moulton on 01603 810969.


Archive Reports

November 2008

Hethersett W.I. held its Annual General Meeting on 17th November.  Reports of the current year’s activities were given by the retiring Secretary, Mrs.Audrey Howard, and the outgoing President, Mrs. Shirley Greenwood, who thanked everyone involved in ensuring the smooth running of the group over the past year, including the successful events for celebration of the Institute’s 90th Birthday.  A new President, Mrs. Mary Youngs,  was elected for the coming year –- which will also be a somewhat ‘special year’ for the Norfolk Federation of Womens’ Institutes, as it is the 90th anniversary of its inauguration, and a programme of events has been arranged to mark this.  

Following the formal part of the meeting, Mr.Stephen Pope from the Museum of Norfolk Life at Gressenhall, spoke about the history of Norfolk Workhouses, and generally about what life was like for all those unfortunates who found themselves as inmates, and who had to endure the shame that followed on entering such institutions.

In Mediaeval times poor people had to rely on help and shelter from the occupants of the Monasteries and Castles around the country.  In 1601 the English System for the Relief of the Poor was established under the Poor Law Act – and they were supported by a Parish tax – this remained in force until 1929.

The Workhouse Act of 1723 required parishes to provide Workhouses to accommodate the poor. This led to the building of Workhouses throughout the country – in each parish, and set at roughly twenty miles apart.  This law was amended in 1834 to meet the changing needs of the times and Parish Unions were set up.    Many of these buildings still survive, and have been adapted to various suitable purposes.

This was a very informative talk, and Mr. Pope was thanked for making it so very interesting.


September 2008

Hethersett Womens’ Institute held its September meeting in the Methodist Church Hall following a summer break  during which, on a fortuitously sunny afternoon, many of the group met for a chat, by the kind invitation of Margot Markham at her home at Little Melton, at which she provided tea with sandwiches and delicious home-made cakes, and the opportunity to explore her large garden and meet the dogs and other animals. 

This, together with two other outings arranged by Outings Secretary, Jean Ramsbottom ensured members didn’t lose touch during the summer. The outings were a day trip to Southwold  which included a theatre visit, and an evening visit to the Law Courts in Norwich, both of which were well attended and very much enjoyed.  

The Autumn programme commenced with a talk by Jean Smith about British Royal Wedding Dresses, showing slides of many of the Royal brides commencing with the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the 11th February 1840.  Held at the Royal Chapel of St. James, in London, Victoria wore a dress of rich white satin, trimmed with orange blossoms, with a very full skirt – full crinolines were not yet fashionable, and on her head she wore a wreath of the same flowers.  Over her head, a veil of Honiton lace – used at the advice of Lord Melborne to help promote the English product, in preference to Brussels lace, which was considered superior in design at the time. 

Jean Smith’s talk concluded with the dress worn by Lady Diana Spencer at her marriage to Prince Charles in July 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel and costing £150,000.  It was in ivory pure silk taffeta and antique lace, which unfortunately crushed rather easily, and with a very full skirt, large puffed sleeves and a 30 feet long embroidered white train trailing behind her.   Between these two, many other amusing and interesting anecdotes accompanied the various other brides and dresses illustrated. 

Joyce Murfin thanked Jean Smith for her talk. The next meeting is on 20th October, when Dr. Stephen Ashworth from the School of Chemical Sciences at U.E.A. will speak on ‘Sensor Sensibility’. New members will be very welcome.      

July 2008

It’s been birthday celebrations all the way for members of Hethersett Women’s Institute. Following their own 90th birthday meeting last month,  26  members joined with members from the other six Norfolk institutes who are also celebrating 90th anniversaries this year, to hold a joint party, starting with lunch at the Marriott Sprowston Manor Hotel, Norwich.    

A total of 133 members attended from Aldborough and Thurgarton, Barnham Broom, Ditchingham, Hardingham, Hethersett, Hickling, and Hingham, with their guest the Federation Chairman, Mrs. Susan Warr. All were dressed in their best party finery wityh at least half of those present sporting attractive hats.        

The afternoon’s entertainment was provided by singer, comedian and magician Ollie Day who soon had his audience joining in and tapping their feet to his music.  The afternoon was rounded off with tea or coffee and a piece of excellent birthday cake. 

Hethersett WI’s July meeting turned out to be a good evening with reports from the various groups – craft, walking and outings – and the speaker was Mrs. Ellen Howe, from Mulbarton, on the origins and history of corn dolly making. She brought along a selection of some of the different types and designs produced in other English counties, and then demonstrated a  basic-four stalk dolly, which everyone then ‘had a go’ at making.  

There is no formal meeting in August and the next will be on Monday, September 15th and will be an illustrated talk by Jean Smith on Royal Wedding dresses.   Any ladies considering joining the evening will be very welcome.

June 2008 Meeting - 90 Years Young

Hethersett Women’s Institute is 90 years young. 

Hethersett WI was one of the first institutes to be formed in Norfolk in 1918 – a year before the Federation of Norfolk Institutes which celebrates its own birthday next year. 

The WI movement began in 1897 in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada and the first in the United Kingdom was at LlanfairPG in Wales in 1915. That year saw the active promotion of the movement to encourage countrywomen to grow and preserve their own fruit and vegetables to help increase the supply of food during the First World War. 

A number of independently-minded and modern-thinking women in Hethersett were sufficiently motivated to band together to form a group to identify with the principles of the movement, the main ones of which were to further the education of women and promote friendship. By the end of 1918 there were 199 Institutes throughout the country and by the end of 1919 this had risen to 1,405. 

Hethersett celebrated its landmark birthday with a special meeting in the Methodist Church Hall where guests included the county chairman Susan Warr and county secretary Cindy Brooks. There were also visitors from Bowthorpe and Wymondham Afternoon WIs. 

Business was kept to a minimum and food and refreshments were provided by the members including a fruit punch made by the president’s husband – the recipe remaining a closely-guarded secret. 

Entertainment was provided by Gerry Morris with his Irish humour and music in a very enjoyable and landmark evening. 


January 2008 Meeting

It will be a very special year for Hethersett Women’s Institute as it celebrates its 90th birthday in June. 

Hethersett is one of only seven WIs in Norfolk founded in 1918 and still in being. Hethersett will be combining with the other six for a special joint celebration lunch in July which comes just a year ahead of the 90th birthday of the foundation of the Norfolk Federation of Women’s Institutes. 

The group’s January meeting was held in Hethersett Methodist Hall and was well attended with a number of new members present. Tansy Miller from the Norwich Citizen’s Advice Bureau gave an interesting and enlightening talk on the work and functions of CABs and the way they help people to resolve legal, financial and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice.  Every CAB is a registered charity, reliant on trained volunteers and funds to provide these vital services for the local community.  Members were amazed to hear of the amount of free information and advice available.

November 2007 - Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of Hethersett Women’s Institute was held at The Methodist Church Hall, and was very well attended, with seven prospective new members present. 

A full committee of ten was nominated for the forthcoming year and the President, Mrs. Shirley Greenwood, was re-elected to serve for a third year. Mrs. Pat Bond, one the longest serving members of the Institute and a past-County Chairman of the Norfolk Federation, had chosen not to stand again for the committee; she will be much missed, but hopefully, will remain on hand to impart her knowledge and advice on W.I. procedures and affairs, as and when required. 

The Secretary gave a report of the activities of the Institute during the past year, with many interesting speakers, a number of special outings and social events, with the craft group and walking group organising additional interest.  The Institute submitted an entry for the Cator Cup again, at the Spring Show of the Norfolk & Norwich Horticultural Society, and their entry, entitled “Tea for Two”, was placed joint third with Great & Little Snoring W.I..  This was their highest placing so far. 

The Treasurer outlined the financial statement, and the President thanked everyone who had helped to make the past year enjoyable – this also included a number of members, who, though not on the committee, fulfilled the tasks delegated to them - thus contributing to the successful running of the Institute. 

The Speaker, Mrs. Barbara Miller, then gave a very interesting and informative talk on The Jews of Medieval Norwich, explaining that there were no  

Jews in England before 1066. They followed in the wake of the Norman Conquest, settling only in county towns where a Sheriff held office – this being the Shire’s Reeve or monarch’s representative. During the following years, they became a very potent force in the land.     

The next meeting will be held on Monday 17th December at 7.30 p.m, when Sheila Finlay will demonstrate Christmas Flower Arranging.

October 2007

Instead of hurrying home to polish their tiaras after hearing advice about taking care of jewellery, members of Hethersett Women’s Institute removed shoes from shoe boxes, covered them (the boxes that is) with colourful wrapping and began collecting gifts to put in them. 

A last minute unavoidable change of speaker at the October meeting brought Shirley Adams to unfold the story and poignancy behind Operation Christmas Child. 

The boxes are filled with small gifts such as sweets, pencils, pens, notebooks, small toys, socks and other items attractive to children who are victims of war, poverty, famine and natural disasters in orphanages, pitiful hovels, gypsy camps in Romania, Serbia, Liberia. 

Members were reminded that children are the same the world over. Many have never had a toy and cannot go to school because of the lack of pencil and paper. Even the Christmas wrapping around the boxes is removed with care. Last year over 12,000 boxes were sent from Norfolk – 11 years ago it was just 46. Although gifts were taken to the meeting there will be more boxes for the volunteers to check and sort from Hethersett members, all to be safely delivered by Christmas. 

Five new members were welcomed at the meeting following the recent clubs and societies day in the village.


July 2007

Hethersett Women’s Institute’s annual coffee morning took place by kind invitation of club president Mrs Joan Greenwood and her husband in their beautiful garden, defying the awful weather. Members were able to enjoy coffee in the garden, something that has been missing so often this year. 

Perhaps “The Work of a Blacksmith” seems an unlikely interest to a group of women, but Russell Utting kept members enthralled with his easy to listen to narrative. 

Six years’ apprenticeship was followed by college training in Oxfordshire and at Easton College as well as experience as an “improver”. 

The world of horses has featured largely in Hethersett’s agenda recently after members visited Newmarket and now have heard about the job of a farrier. Stories abounded such as the legend of the fringed apron as worn by blacksmiths, the kicking horse at the Royal Norfolk Show (we were told to roll under the animal and not run away from it) and the many railings and grills still to be seen around the Queen’s Road and Chapelfield areas of Norwich. Mr Utting has had a hard life but an enjoyable one. 

The evening ended on a very happy note as the president had brought her celebratory Golden Wedding cake for members to share. So warm congratulations were extended to Mr and Mrs Greenwood.

May 2007

After watching slides of the Dogs Trust premises at Snetterton, members of Hethersett WI were left in little doubt that we are a nation of dog lovers. Recently refurbished, the “hospital” wing would put to shame many NHS facilities.


Strays are taken in along with many unwanted dogs and it was comforting to hear from Mrs Barbara Emons that no healthy dogs are destroyed. Great care is taken to match dogs with new owners and to ensure that the new home is suitable and matched to the size of the dog and exercise area available etc.


Previously called the National Canine Defence League, the Dogs Trust is the largest dog welfare charity in the UK. Mrs Emons told members that during the 1914/18 war families were helped with the cost of keeping a dog while the men folk were away fighting.


Members were invited to look at the Dog Hotel where it was very difficult to resist the “please take me home” looks of the residents.


Being the May meeting, national affairs were discussed ready for the national AGM in June. This year only one resolution is on the agenda, the grave concern about the closure of community hospitals. There will be plenty of news for the delegate to report back on as an update on past resolutions will be given.


A small party of Hethersett members, one Wymondham member and a scattering of husbands were privileged to view the treasures housed in the Jockey Club rooms in Newmarket. Paintings by Munnings and Turner, horses’ hooves set in gold or silver and bronze miniature horses were just some of the things to see. The next outing is to Mannington Hall with members sharing coach travel with Wymondham Afternoon WI.



April 2007

On the day of the April meeting many of the members of Hethersett Women’s Institute sung Jerusalem twice. 

Earlier they had said goodbye to well loved member Mrs Margaret Robinson at St Faiths’ crematorium. Hethersett members “inherited” Margaret from the Girl Guiding Association being alerted to her worth when she moved to the village about 14 years ago. Having held many senior positions with the Guides, latterly as county treasurer, she proved to be an invaluable WI member and also had a most pleasant disposition. She will be sadly missed. 

So the WI sang Jerusalem to remember Margaret and then to the evening’s speaker Mrs Meriel Acton. 

How man institutes have been asked at the beginning of the evening talk “Are there any felons in the audience or ladies of ill repute? What a start to a talk entitled “Behind the Scenes at Crown Court.” It certainly was behind the scenes with all kinds of snippets told in an hilarious fashion and complete with wig and gown as worn by a court usher, a role fulfilled by Mrs Acton for many years. She was not active in courts in Norfolk so her secrets were quite safe. The group was shown many artefacts and pictures from the judiciary, so we did see the serious side of crime as well as the light-hearted. This was a speaker to be highly recommended as long as you have a broad sense of humour. 

The following day three members attended two important debates – the closure of community hospitals appearing on the national agm agenda in the Albert Hall and the great milk debate featuring the serious plight of dairy farmers with the unrealistic payments they receive for the milk. This is the more serious part of WI life, but it does illustrate that the movement can and do make a difference.

March 2007 

It was a cold, wet and miserable evening with flurries of hail and sleet – no, not the opening lines of a mystery novel but the setting for the meeting of Hethersett WI. Once inside the Methodist Church Hall it was quite different for there was a feats of colour spread before members. 

Mrs Georgette Vale, wearing a colourfully decorated dress, showed how she made her 3D fabric flowers and told how she began. She is self-taught and also makes earrings, pictures and decorations for a host of other things. Beautiful quilts were displayed and she explained the patience needed for such intricate work. Even the non stitchers were impressed by the colourful display – very inspiring but needing considerable patience. 

Craftswomen have been busy in Hethersett as preparations have been going on for some time for the WI Spring competition for the Cator Cup which is part of the Spring Flower Show at the Norfolk Showground. 

Hethersett members, heeding advice about WIs “sharing” are joining Wymondham Afternoon WI and possibly Attleborough to share a coach to visit Mannington Hall to savour “The Magic of Mannington” and also to enjoy the roses and tea. It should be warmer in June.

February 2007

Let’s Talk it said on the programme for the February meeting of Hethersett Women’s Institute and talk was just what Neil Haverson did! In the same relaxed amusing manner of his newspaper columns, he guided members through the histories of both the Eastern Daily Press and the Evening News. A full house enjoyed a happy evening. 

He helped members to browse the early news featured in newspapers over 100 years ago and realise what small print was used in those days. He continued up to the present time with more manageable sized pages and larger print. 

There were many questions connected with his columns such as How was the cat and had be brought the recipe for Mrs H’s aubergine bake? Readers of his column will understand these references. 

Amongst his interesting snippets was to hear that the first woman reporter was appointed in 1938. The WI’s own reporter, the late Mrs Helen Castley, who was a professional journalist and wrote a weekly column, must have been one of the earliest female reporters. 

Members then turned out on a miserably wet evening to attend the second WI meeting in a week. This was a “special” for members to hear something of the history of the WI movement and some of the quirks that have remained over the years. An informal meeting began with fruit punch and ended with the committee’s refreshments. 

There was an opportunity to ask questions and to have explained those “Big Brother” rules such as the tax commissioner’s and the charity giving restrictions – not WI rulings but those of the taxation authorities. The evening was planned particularly with new members in mind but many long standing members came as well to prove that you cannot have enough of a good thing!

January 2007

What have you found buried in your garden or what interesting objects have you found on your country rambles? These were the questions posed by Alan Womack at the latest meeting of Hethersett Women’s Institute. 

He told members about the objects he had found “in the ground.” A number of peculiar shapes were passed round to be handled by puzzled members. The ancient coins and pottery pieces were of course recognisable, but as for some of the others …? Obviously Mr Womack’s hobby has become a passion and, with retirement from the Fire Service, he now has time for his collection which was expertly displayed. 

Once again it showed the variety of speakers to be heard at the monthly meetings. Members were reminded of the forthcoming meeting at Yaxham in April when a debate about Farmgate milk prices will take place with the possibility of a milkman joining the farmer and retailer to explain the facts. 

The on-going campaign against the closure of community hospitals was strongly supported by Norfolk members at the recent resolution meeting and members are waiting to see if this will appear on the national agenda at the Albert Hall, although it could be overtaken by Government legislation.


December 2006

The invitation on the Hethersett Women’s Institute programme said “Come to the Cabaret.” So the December meeting had a full house to enjoy the entertainment. Mrs Alison Walker Morecroft produced a medley of songs from Cole Porter to Andrew Lloyd Webber along with Christmas poems and prose. How our members smiled remembering the school nativity plays when she read about “Our Brian” and with her expert playing of a beautifully melodious piano piece she was indeed an artiste of some renown. Members were not surprised to learn she has travelled the world organising music and drama festivals with public speaking tutoring too for good measure. She certainly was undiscovered local talent for Hethersett WI as she lives in the village. 

As it was the Christmas meeting there was little business (we can be flexible) but time for delicious goodies provide by members with not one but two “Postman Pats” delivering cards and presents on a take one, receive one basis. The evening ended with carols and seasonal good wishes as the last meeting of 2006 concluded.