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History of the Institute

The Institute was formed in December 1917, and was a founding member of the Hampshire Federation in 1918. During 1921 members assisted in raising funds for the erection of a brick building on land donated to the village for a playground in 1919, this was to replace two huts destroyed by fire in February 1921.

In 1929 we competed in a County Drama Competition and in 1930, 26 members took part in a County pageant. During the Second World War our members were very busy as they took in evacuees from Southampton, found billets for land girls and promoted the National Savings scheme.

The Institute also purchased a canning machine which was kept in the Memorial Hall and used to can home-grown produce. Subsequently two members were awarded Certificates of Competence in Vegetable Canning. After the War, in 1946, we participated in the National Federation Arts Festival at Cripplegate Theatre in London.
Later in 1949 “Merrie England” was sung in the Village, with the majority of singers taken from the W.I. Choir. 
The records for the 1950’s illustrate that the members were very busy, they still had an active Drama Group, entered numerous craft competitions, had a varied programme and went on various outings.

To celebrate our 50th anniversary in 1967 there were two functions, a dinner for our members at the White Hart Hotel in Andover and a Cheese & Wine Party in the Village Hall which included husbands, friends and former members.

It was at this time that a tablecloth depicting the Virgin Crowns in the Church was completed. Ten years later for our 60th Anniversary there was a dinner in the Fiesta Hall, Andover and a friendship tablecloth was embroidered with members’ names. In 1974 the Institute planted a cherry tree in the grounds of the Village Hall, not only was this the first tree planted in the grounds of the hall it was also the first flowering tree to be planted in public ground in the Village itself. In 1978 organised craft classes were started, which continued for many years and during 1980/1981 the members made two patchwork quilts which were raffled raising a total of £387.50 for various Charities.

It was in 1982 that we first purchased our distinctive W.I. white and gold monogrammed china and assisted with refreshments at the Abbotts Ann Players’ first production. We also made a donation to the Village Christmas tree and lights. 1984 saw the beginning of Craft Classes in members’ homes, participation in the Andover Carnival with a float entitled “Heart of the Country” and the planting of a copse on the school playing field.

During June 1987 there was a “Church weekend” and June James organised a W.I. Exhibition with Paula Payne preparing a floral figure “70”. Lillian Pierce also did a floral arrangement. The 70th Anniversary was celebrated in December of the same year with a dinner in the Village Hall, at which once again former Presidents were present. Needles and fingers were busy yet again, as another tablecloth, also incorporating members’ names, was embroidered. To further commemorate its 70 years, in 1988 the Institute installed a seat on Church Path.

In May 1988 members helped the Hampshire Federation celebrate its own 70th Anniversary at Marwell Zoo. There was a huge cake with each Institute making a portion. Lillian Pierce came fourth in a flower arranging competition.

In 1989 the Institute attempted to recruit new members by holding a coffee morning in October and staging an Exhibition of Crafts and Hampshire activities. June James and Julia Jenkins completed an article on the village of Abbotts Ann for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes Village Book. A clock was donated to the Village Hall by the Institute in December of the same year.

Diana Connolly & Peggy Ellis reached the semi-finals of the scrabble contest in 1991 and in 1993 the members organised a promotional tent in the Village fete. Rather than taking off their clothes, our members put them on by taking to the cat walk in 1995 and acting as models for the latest fashions,

When Marks & Spencer staged a fashion show in the Village Hall. The Village Fete was held in the centre of the Village to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of World War II and the W.I. organised “Tea & Wads” in the Eagle’s skittle alley. Rather enterprisingly the Institute set up and ran very successfully a stall selling homemade cakes, jams and biscuits at the Pageant of the history of the Weyhill Fair in July 1996.
Co-inciding with our 80th Anniversary there was a St. Mary’s Church Abbotts Ann Weekend, a floral arrangement was produced for display purposes. In addition to providing the tea and cakes for the many visitors that weekend, the members also contributed to an Exhibition in the Village Hall by lending our scrapbooks, albums and posters. Our own celebrations in December 1987, took place at the Hampshire Golf Club, but this time hands were idle as there was to be no embroidering of a tablecloth. However, history does have a habit of repeating itself and to commemorate the Millennium the Institute donated two oak trees to the village and after much consultation and debate these were planted in the Church Yard and on the Sports field.

For many years the Institute hosted a Pancake Morning on Shrove Tuesday, but to raise funds in 2001 we held a walk and lunch on a lovely hot day in August and to coincide with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 we decided to organise a 1950’s style party. Although it contradicted our aim to change the public’s image of the WI, (jam Jerusalem and hats) we attempted to recreate that era including encouraging members and guests to wear hats, many home made. It was a fun afternoon as we had an exhibition of various Royal memorabilia from throughout Her Majesty’s reign, a quiz, a golden raffle and the menu recreated the decade both in presentation and content.

Members of our Institute continue to contribute to Village life in many ways, several work voluntarily in the newly opened Village Shop, another continues to upkeep the garden around the Village Hall, others act as co-ordinators in the Neighbourhood Watch scheme. The list is endless. We continue to draw on the culinary skills of our members by organising and serving refreshments at the Village Fete each year, whether this be in a marquee on the sports field, in the Eagle’s skittle alley or the luxury of the kitchen at the village hall with running water and electricity. We are undaunted and can produce our famous teas in all conditions, we have been known to share our portion of the marquee with the brass band due to an ill-timed spell of heavy rain.

Every year we have various outings and have been to stately homes, exhibitions, museums and gardens, our interests are many and varied. In recent years we have been to Bowood House, Saville Gardens, The American Museum at Bath, Sparsholt College, Burford, Oxford, the Museum of Costume at Bath and in September 2002 Kensington Palace to see an Exhibition of Wedding Dresses belonging to five Queens. We attempt to move with the times and many of us are familiar (or attempt to be) with the latest technology, indeed one of our members is on an extended journey around South America, French Polynesia, New Zealand and Australia and has been sending frequent emails describing her travels, enabling our members to share her experiences at each stage of her journey.