History of Kingston Bagpuize with Southmoor Women's Institute.
A potted history of our W.I's formation
You probably already know about the formation of the Women's Institute in Great Britain, but here we shall try to give an outline of the history of Kingston Bagpuize with Southmoor Women's Institute.
If you think the WI is a typically English organisation - think again. It started in Canada in 1897. The first W.I. in Britain was formed in 1915 in Anglesey, North Wales in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllandysiliogogogoch, ['Llanfair pg' or 'Llanfairpwll' for short] and shortly many villages throughout Great Britain were forming an Institute and within fifteen years as in other places, the initiative was taken to start a group in Kingston Bagpuize in the 1930s. Sadly, although we have researched this as thoroughly as possible, we do not know who was behind this formation or where our early minute and record books are.
On Tuesday 10th February 1931, an inaugural meeting of the Kingston Bagpuize Women's Institute was held in the Kingston Bagpuize Village Hall. Prior to our modern village hall where we now meet, the W.I. met in an older village hall in Kingston Bagpuize which was situated close to the old School, now used by the Scouts.
In those days the two villages of Southmoor and Kingston Bagpuize were not officially linked and although there was street lighting in Southmoor, there was none in the village of Kingston Bagpuize and older and wiser members carried torches for the winter trek to WI Meetings in the old Village Hall. Other members who didn't own a torch walked behind a member who did and followed the glow of the torch in a crocodile formation, as the pavement then was rather narrow.
The old village hall was built of corrugated iron and attached to this was a brick building which was used as the village Reading room. The W.I., and similarly the Sunday School and the Drama Group held their meetings in the corrugated iron room.
During the day, this room was used by the School Reception Class, and was the School Canteen at dinner time.
There were few modern amenities, with the toilet being situated at the back of the small stage, which was not at all appreciated by those in the Dressing room, when the Drama group held a production. The hall was cold too as, to be able to hear the speakers, it was necessary to switch off the heating system because it was so noisy.
During the Second World War, there were no official Institute meetings, and the W.I. was in fact suspended on 3rd July 1942. This is noteworthy as this suspension seems to have been caused because the Village Hall had been taken away from them and there was nowhere else to meet and as members were in a different way actually still meeting, as they had a large project in hand!
The Village Hall where the WI met had been commandeered by the War Dept., as a canteen for the forces, who were now based at Draycott Moor and across the road from the Village Hall where Rimes Close now stands. A Forces cinema was built on land in the now Rimes Close and members of the Institute were on duty to serve refreshments when the canteen opened at 6pm until 10pm every evening of the week, during the War. Quite a W.I. project and undertaking!
Our W.I. was reformed and reopened on Friday 14 March 1947.
This small village housed both British and American personnel. At its peak there were 3000 American troops who left overnight in 1944, after D-day.
From the W.I. Scrapbook and 'Kingston Bagpuize with Southmoor - a sense of place' - available from Longworth History Society.