"The Chronicles of a Country Parish" - A village appraisal of Sulgrave published in 1995

(Back to Chapter 3 Index)

Sulgrave Women's Institute was founded in 1920, and the first President and founder member was Mrs J.P.Brown, who lived at Sulgrave House.

For fifty years the monthly meetings were held in the village school, and for the first twenty of those years, the crockery and utensils of the Institute were stored in a trunk at Sulgrave House. It was the task of the nominated members to carry the trunk across to the school before each meeting in readiness for the break for tea and refreshments. A further duty was to provide enough coal to make up the fire in the classroom after day school.

In 1971 the Church Hall became available for socials and meetings, and the Institute have used these premises since then for almost all of their meetings and functions, the notorious trunk being consigned, without regret, to permanent storage in the Church Hall shed.

The Institute has always been in the forefront of the activities of the parish and, for many years, held a particular rapport with Sulgrave British Legion where it was recognised by both organisations that, when it came to joint promotions, the Institute provided the brains and the British Legion the brawn.

One example of this was a visit to Sulgrave by the Toc H organisation, where the Institute catered for and entertained 150 handicapped people, and the British Legion prepared the Hall, helped with the movement of wheelchairs, and assisted the most severely disabled.

For many years the Institute organised the village carol singing, which takes place in mid-December, where the singers tour the village, preceded by a decorated float lit with fairy lights, Father Christmas ringing his bell and a harmonium to provide the accompaniment. During the singing collectors call at every house as well as the hotel and the public house and the money always so generously given is donated to selected charities, both local and national.

Some years ago, one such charity was the Jimmy Saville Appeal for funds to complete the building work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and a number of Institute members and their husbands paid a visit to the hospital to hand over the money to the organiser in person and to be given a conducted tour of the work being done.

The Institute staged the first of the village flower and vegetable shows in the grounds of the house woned by Major F.A.Magnay, and this was the forerunner of the very popular shows which are staged each year by Sulgrave Gardening Society.

A gardens competition was created for the tidiest and most colourful frontage, for which Sulgrave Manor Board donated a silver cup to be awarded annually, and which is open to all residents in the village.

The cookery books have always been compiled over the years by the Institute members containing their favourite and sometimes very unusual recipes. These sold so successfully that they are now out of print.

In 1968, the members were responsible for registering with the Northamptonshire County Council the area of land around the old wooden stocks as a village green, so that, in the future, it will always be recognised as such.

In 1990 the members held a party to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of their Institute to which aoll past and present members were invited and some eighty ladies attended this memorable occasion which was later commemorted by the planting of two pyrachantha shrubs (cotoneaster) in the grounds of the Church Hall.

The membership totalled twenty-five in 1991. The charity work has continued over all these years, as has the monthly meeting where the members meet in friendship, to discuss and put forward their views on national and local issues, and, on the social side, to plan theatre and coach trips, the annual dinner and other promotional and social events.