Grant to the Hampshire Record Office - WI records – Progress report

For more than a century the WI in Hampshire , as elsewhere, has accumulated a valuable source of information for social historians. Its correspondence, photographs, village books, scrap books, and the like document the changing lives of women from a time when they did not have the vote, or much of a say in society, to the important role they played in wartime and their present position in society.

Aided by a grant from Hampshire Archives Trust, Hampshire Record Office has recently catalogued the records of 103 institutes that have closed or are suspended (ref. 96M96).  To search the HRO online catalogue for any place, open Advanced Search, insert the name of the place in the Any Text line, and in the Finding No. insert ‘96M96’. Archivist Sarah Farley, who catalogued the new material, has written a blog on the project .

The catalogue includes page by page listing of the albums, enabling all photographs to be searchable, including a rare photograph of Ewshot Camp in the early 20th century.

The records cover much of the county, rural and urban, from Blackwater and Fleet in the North East, Highclere in the North West, Southwick and Leigh Park in the South East, Beaulieu and New Milton in the South West as well as Winchester and many others in central Hampshire. They encompass 100 years of Hampshire’s history, dating from 1917 to 2016 and include some very remarkable items.

Particularly interesting are the scrapbooks. Often beautifully compiled, they offer a goldmine for local and family historians. For example, in the Worting WI material is a scrapbook compiled in 1951, but with photographs dating back to 1911. It includes information and photographs on all aspects of village life, including the rifle club, church choir, cottages, cricket and football teams, Boys Brigade and Mums and babies at the Baby Show in 1950.

The material reveals that the first president of a WI was often a notable local woman, such as the Duchess of Wellington for Mattingley, the Countess of Portsmouth for Hurstbourne Priors, and in Emery Down and Bank, Alice Hargreaves of Cuffnells Park, who was the original ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

An intriguing find from 1936 are letters that reveal that the Mattingley WI was involved in a gambling scandal involving a whist drive.  The matter was taken so seriously that local dignitary Lord Wolmer (later Earl of Selborne) sought advice from the Home Office, which ruled that such activity “would not usually come within the mischiefs aimed at by the law”. 

A ‘War Diary’ for Hurstbourne Priors,  contains a  detailed record of what the members of the WI did during the Second World War, listing which members were involved in various war activities, ranging from the Invasion Committee to a War Savings group. It includes a report for each year for the Fruit Preservation Centre, opened in Aug 1940, the ‘Year of the great plum glut’, when 1,561 lb of jam and 32lb of chutney were made. 

Excellent examples of WI scrapbooks include five entered in a competition about 1952 (Amport, Ewshot, Liss, Sutton Scotney and Worting).

There are five ‘Golden Jubilee’ scrapbooks from 1965 (Bedhampton, Broughton, Lyndhurst, Ropley and Worting). The Lyndhurst volume covers a town rather than a village, with a detailed history of the town, house prices, weather reports for the year, examples of 1960s fashion and food prices, and much more.

  • Amport, 1980, 96M96/123/7/2
  • Bedhampton, 1965,  6M96/130/7/1
  • Broughton, 1965, 96M96/138/7/2
  • Ewshot, 1952, 96m96/146/7/1; 1956, 96m96/146/7/2; 1930-1980, 96M96/146/7/3
  • Liss, 1951, 96M96/222/7/1
  • Lyndhurst, 1965, 96M96/120/7/1
  • Ropley, 1965, 96M96/196/7/1; 1983, 96M96/196/7/2
  • Sutton Scotney and Wonston, 1952,  96M96/223/7/1; c.1940-1996,  96M96/223/7/2; c.1960-1970, 96M96/223/7/3
  • Worting, 1951, 96M96/219/7/1; 1965,  96M96/219/7/2