We are proud of our heritage…
The Ridwares WI celebrated its 70th birthday in February 2018 – although, to some, we’re only 5 years old…. This is because, in 2013, Hamstall Ridware WI & Mavesyn Ridware WI agreed to merge & create a new enlarged WI – the Ridwares WI. The traditions of Mavesyn Ridware, formed in February 1948, would not be lost – hence, 2018 being a milestone birthday year – nor would the longer history of Hamstall Ridware WI be forgotten. Karen Wakefield became the Ridwares WI’s first President.
This photograph shows Rachael Roobottom (the last President of Hamstall Ridware WI) & Karen Wakefield (the last President of Mavesyn Ridware WI) cutting the special cake, made by Brenda Grimley, to mark the occasion of ‘enlargement’ in 2013.
Hamstall Ridware WI
Hamstall Ridware WI was founded on 20th September 1926. Mrs Lees was elected President, Mrs Howett Vice President, Mrs Mclean Secretary & Mrs Roobottom Treasurer. Miss Duke was the Speaker at the first meeting in October & gave hints on acting. She, together with Miss Hammersley, gave a monologue entitled ‘Shattered Nerves’ in the social half hour. Further meetings & events were duly reported in ‘The Lichfield Mercury’ including:
- talks on ‘How every woman can help her WI’, ‘mission work in West Africa’ & ‘the working of the WI’.
- demonstration on stitchery, lesson in part-singing.
- whist drives & dances.
- competition for the best pair of slippers made at the least possible cost.
- the selling of cakes to recoup costs of the birthday party.
In 1947, the ladies of Hamstall Ridware WI made the momentous decision to buy their own hall in the village – the old school hall – & paid £120, the money being raised from members’ families. It really did ‘belong’ to the WI ladies! The building was already over 100 years old when they acquired it & many hours were spent discussing how to raise money for the building fund & what improvements needed to be made. Much subsequent fundraising activity took place over the years including whist drives, dances & raffles. Central heating was installed in 1953, and at the April AGM that year it was announced that the building debt had finally been paid off. However, spending on the hall did not end there – burst radiators in 1956 & a leaking kitchen roof in 1957, for example, all had to be dealt with.
WI life continued as ever – beetle drives, summer fetes, demonstrations on cake making, cooking with electricity & showing how a spin dryer worked, for example. Hamstall Ridware WI was a firm feature of village life, & although raising money for the upkeep of the hall was a never-ending task, the ladies still found time to help other village groups: for example
- arranging a social to raise money towards repairing the Church bells.
- organise a whist drive on behalf of the community council.
- having a ‘knit in’ in aid of the arthritis & rheumatism council.
- donating money towards the cost of a seat in the village.
- supporting the WRVS in entertaining a group of deprived children.
By 1983, following the closure of the village school, the WI hall was the only meeting place left in Hamstall Ridware. A strip of land adjacent to the WI hall was sold to a developer &, with the money raised, plans were afoot to begin much needed improvements to the building – new toilets, a new beam to support the roof & a kitchen extension. By 1989, however, there was a damp patch on the ceiling, a tile was missing, chairs needed repair and 2 windows needed to be replaced.
On 26th September, an extraordinary meeting of the WI was called to discuss the future of the hall. There was a virtually unanimous vote in the ensuing ballot to give up the hall. The number of members had fallen & the ladies felt that they were now too small a group to raise sufficient funds to continue running the hall on a daily basis & also to finance future repairs. WI meetings would continue in members’ houses. In October 1989 the WI celebrated its 73rd birthday in the hall. After much discussion with the parish council over the sale, which did not work out, the hall was eventually sold to a local resident in 1991.
The WI continued in the village with lively meetings in members’ homes, various trips & activities, the learning of new skills & the discovery of hitherto hidden talents! By 2012 though, the ladies felt that they wished to merge with another local WI, their favoured choice being Mavesyn Ridware. Before joining the new group, they decided to spend some of the money remaining from the sale of their hall & all their hard work over the previous decades. They spent a weekend at Denman College (the NFWI’s residential training centre) & paid for a sign to be erected at the centre of the village. This depicts the church & has the words ‘Hamstall Ridware WI’ around the edge – a reminder of the days when the WI once owned its own hall.
Mavesyn Ridware WI
Mavesyn Ridware WI was founded in February 1948 – a few months after Hamstall Ridware WI had purchased their own hall. They met in the old school hall in Hill Ridware, which they rented from the Church – originally a house converted into a school with a house attached for the Head Teacher to live in. The favourite place to sit was next to the stove & not at the back of the hall! Mrs Ravenscroft was the first President.
The WI continued steadily in the village & became an established feature of village life. Unfortunately, in 1987 it looked as if it might have to be disbanded as no one was willing to stand for President. An ex-member, Carol Attack, offered to rejoin & stand, which she did. She was the first President to ask to be called by her Christian name, rather than the more formal ‘Mrs Attack’. This coincided with a new housing development which led to a surge in membership – & the formation of a Rounders team – & the building of a new village hall to meet in (much needed as the old school hall was sold & turned back into a private house).
Mavesyn Ridware WI flourished over the succeeding years. Membership rose to the mid 50s and remains fairly constant. The WI is heavily involved in many aspects of village life, especially under the Presidency of Karen Wakefield:
- organising monthly coffee mornings: ‘Take a Break Cafe’ – especially important as a meeting place for villagers since we lost the Post Office, garage & shop.
- running afternoon Teas – Welsh (in March), St George’s (in April) and the Midsummer Tea in June.
- running the annual Tinsel & Trimmings event (end November/beginning December) with the organising of a Christmas tree at the village hall & the switching on of the Christmas lights there.
- organising Ascot Race Nights, Bavarian & French evenings and 1940s Evening events.
- raising money for the village hall to improve facilities – such as the provision of new chairs & tables.
- raising money for a portable defibrillator for the village as part of the National WI’s Centennial celebrations in 2015.
- raising money for charities that benefit local people – such as the Air Ambulance, Talking Newspapers for the Blind etc.
The Ridwares WI
The Ridwares WI continues to flourish, offering numerous opportunities for its members, and maintaining its active involvement with the local community. Long may it continue!
SOURCE: Meryl MATTEY: ‘A Tale of 2 Staffordshire Women’s Institutes’ (published by The Ridwares Study Group: 2015)