top of page

Sutton WI - past events and meetings

2021 News

9th November: story-telling


We were happy to receive the speaker for the evening, Mark Steinhart who was a story teller. He belongs to a group of story tellers who tell old stories and try to make them work for new audiences. His first story was entitled Felix, the Shoemaker. It was rather a sad story as Felix’s wife died from TB and he was haunted by her. Eventually, however he found a new love and happiness.

The second story was about a young sailor who had rescued a peregrine falcon who returned later in the story as a witch. In the interim he got into bad company and murdered a Russian sailor.

The stories were not that well received by members who found their content in some cases distressing. However, thanks must be given to him for coming.

Cynthia Brewerton

Story Book

National Garden Scheme


On Tuesday 11th February, Sutton WI welcomed Kate Gardner who gave a talk entitled ‘Beyond the Garden Gate’. She represented the National Garden Scheme which has been operating for some 93 years. The organisation now supports numerous charities and has raised £58 million. Visitors pay an entry fee to gardens all over the country, large and small. There are 3,500 of them!


The scheme began in Liverpool with William Rathbone. He employed a nurse, Mary Robinson, to care for his wife and on her death continued to employ her. She cared for local people who could not afford to pay for care themselves. William Rathbone knew Florence Nightingale and between them they decided to set up a scheme to train nurses who would go out into the community as ‘district nurses’.

In time, the Queen's Nursing Institute was set up and one of its members, Elsie Wragg, had the idea of charging people 1 shilling to visit the gardens of the rich to fund the training of nurses. Gradually more and more gardens were opened up and the profile of the organisation grew.


In 1984 the organisation became independent and it was then able to choose which charities to donate to, some all the time and some on a rotational basis. Macmillan Cancer Care, Parkinson’s UK and MIND are some of those that benefit.

In 2002 the Prince of Wales became Patron and in 2016, Mary Berry, who opens her own garden, became President. 

The nature of the gardens has changed over the years. There are now hospice gardens, allotments, community gardens, contemporary gardens and estates to name but some. Some gardens have a ticketed entry and some offer group visits. Of every pound made, 80 pence goes to charity.

The organisation now also provides bursaries for training gardeners and undertakes large projects in its own right. One of the most notable must be the new cancer treatment centre at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Wales.

Kate gave us a most enjoyable talk which was very informative and engaging. Booklets which show the gardens opening this year in Bedfordshire can be found in libraries and other public places.


The next meeting of Sutton WI will be held in the village hall on Tuesday 10th March at 7.30pm when Ellie Seymour will give a talk entitled 'The Sales Girls 1940s to 1960s', her experiences in a ladies department store in Cambridge. Please come along, everyone is welcome!

Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

New age kurling


Sutton WI met on December 10th for their Christmas event. Alison Ross came along to instruct us in the sport of new age kurling. By doing this, she and her partner are raising money and awareness for Canine Companions. This is an organisation that trains dogs to help disabled people.


We all had a try at putting the stones down the length the village hall and that done we were divided into teams to compete against each other. At the far end of the hall there was a mat which had a circular score sheet on it. The aim is to land on the highest scoring ring and also to push off other stones from the opposing team. Members became quite competitive,  it was great fun and very much enjoyed by everyone


Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

Bedfordshire churches: the weird, the wonderful and the curious

Add some more info about this item...


On Tuesday 12th November David Longman gave a talk entitled Bedfordshire churches: the weird, the wonderful and the curious. It proved to be a very enjoyable insight into the social history revealed by some of our local churches. David explored the interior of the churches and looked specifically at brasses, monuments and stained glass. In addition, outside gravestones told many stories.


He began with Harlington Church which was the site of the first Grand National Steeplechase race. The race began at the steeple of the church and ended at the obelisk at Wrest Park, a distance of four and a quarter miles. The Grand National today is of course run at Aintree, but the distance remains the same.


David went on to talk about Southill Church and John Byng who is buried there. He was a soldier court-martialled for failing to do his best and he was sentenced to death. Despite clemency being suggested, he was executed by being shot. The Byng family still dispute his guilt and on 14th March each year the church bell is tolled 52 times, one for each year of his life.  


Next was Willington Parish Church, where the patron saint is St Lawrence, a lesser known saint who in Roman times was martyred by being lowered over burning coals. He is said to have said during this process, ‘Turn me over, I’m done on this side’. Hence he is now known as the patron saint of chefs and cooks!


Cockayne Hatley Church has several beautiful intact brasses. Robert Louis Stevenson and JM Barrie visited the estate and church there. Long John Silver was modelled on William Earnest Henley, a Victorian poet who lived there and Wendy in Peter Pan was modelled on his daughter who is buried in the churchyard.


Several of the churches David mentioned are depopulated and abandoned. Shillington Church has an exquisite medieval prayer book and Cardington Church has connections with the airship R101 which blew up in 1929. 


Finally, David was pressed to tell us about the Reverend Drax Free who lived a scandalous life as vicar in Sutton Parish during the 1800s. It is alleged that he stole the lead off his own church roof and allowed his pigs and sheep to desecrate the church. He was often drunk and led a debauched life, so much so that he was defrocked! A colourful character indeed!


It was all most interesting. Many thanks must go to David for his talk.


Our next meeting is on 10th December at 7.30pm in Sutton Village Hall when Alison Ross will engage us in the sport of new age kurling. Visitors are always welcome so please feel free to come and join us.


Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

Miss Savidge moves house


Firstly the ladies of the seven WIs present at the Sandhills Group meeting paid tribute to Sutton’s past president and long term member, Marion Irons, with a one minute silence when they met for their yearly meeting hosted by Sutton WI last week, on 29th October.


The meeting was very well attended with over seventy members present. It began with a fascinating talk given by Christine Adams and entitled ‘Miss Savidge moves house’. Christine is the aunt of Miss Savidge, an eccentric lady who literally moved her old house beam by beam and nail by nail from Ware in Hertfordshire to Wells-next-the-Sea when the County Council threatened to compulsorily purchase it. The original house was built in 1450 and was apparently owned by a wealthy monk.  Despite much badgering and lobbying Miss Savidge lost her battle with the authorities and so set about the enormous task of moving her house. She was said to have said, ‘I might as well…..I’ve got nothing to do all day’. Miss Savidge was an inveterate hoarder and kept every transaction and communication she ever received or sent, all neatly filed in old copies of the Radio Times, some written on the backs of Kit Kat wrappers! She was determined that her home would be rebuilt and was seen scaling scaffolding into her late seventies, sometimes helped by local fishermen.  She died in 1970 and left the house to her nephew but it was his wife Christine who undertook to finish it.  She was able to sell some of the memorabilia her aunt left to help finance the task. Christine has written a best-selling book about this extraordinary story and a film may also be made.


The meeting continued with all seven presidents giving reports on the year’s events and then sharing the delicious refreshments that were made by members of Sutton WI. It was a marvellously successful evening which was very much enjoyed by everyone.

Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

Samaritan's Purse


On October 8th at 7.30pm, Sutton WI met as usual at Sutton Village Hall. The speaker at the meeting was Gordon McCann who gave an interesting talk about the Samaritan’s Purse organisation. This is an international body that offers physical and emotional support where natural disasters may have occurred or in war-torn areas where there is need. It has twin charities in Canada, the USA and Australia.


Gordon showed us slides of some of the places where he has been able to work, sometimes for months at a time. Previously having been a police officer, he is well qualified to be able to adapt to the many different circumstances he has found himself in.


Whilst in Iraq he worked in a camp for over 20,000 people providing tents, clothing, generators and desalination units. In Lesbos he was involved with refugees who were fleeing perilous situations in their homelands. He described how upsetting this could be, seeing them arrive in barely seaworthy vessels, unprepared for the journey they had undertaken.


Where possible, the charity aims to employ local people to help, thus giving them some possibility of a degree of independence.


Gordon was most informative and we valued the insight he was able to give us into the work of Samaritan’s Purse.


The next meeting of Sutton WI is to be held on Tuesday 29th October where local WI groups are invited to attend at Sutton Village Hall at 7.30pm. The speaker is Christine Adams who will give a talk entitled “Miss Savage moves house”.


Our next regular meeting is on Tuesday November 8th at 7.30pm when David Longman will speak about churches in Bedfordshire - the weird, the wonderful and the curious. Everyone is welcome to attend so we look forward to seeing you there!


Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

Sutton WI bell-ringing in the dark!


On Friday 27th September at 7pm members of Sutton WI met in the church in the village to ring the bells for 15 minutes. This has not happened before and the occasion was a commemorative one. The bells were being rung to mark the 100th birthday of the WI in Bedfordshire.

All the towns and villages across the county where there is a WI were asked to do this to make it a truly memorable and special event.  The church was looking lovely with its harvest display and the ladies drank a toast to the WI before taking it in turns to ring the bells. The bells are not conventional in that the four bells are housed in a wooden case which is reached by a narrow wooden staircase. Once there, it was quite dark and torches had to be used to light up the instructions on the wall. The bells are rung in a sequence which changes after all four bells have been rung once.

The occasion was very much enjoyed and a fitting tribute to 100 years of the WI in Bedfordshire.


Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

Talk on Braille


On Tuesday 13th August,  Gaynor Tinsdale gave a talk at Sutton WI entitled ‘Working with Children Using Braille’. It was a fascinating talk and members and guests learned a lot. She explained how as sighted people we absorb a lot about life automatically and how children with visual impairment cannot. There is a wide range of visual difficulties with differing levels of severity amongst visually impaired children. Adults recently losing their sight are rarely taught to use Braille for a number of reasons but children benefit from it. Invented by the Frenchman Louis Braille, it provides children with the independence which is crucial for them if they are to function successfully in the sighted world.


Braille is based around six dots set out as a grid and initially children need to recognise top, middle and bottom and left and right. Letters are recognised by where they are on the grid.  A Brailler, invented in 1936 is used and the paper is soft so that the dots can be made. Members were given the opportunity to try to decipher some short sentences. Each word has to be read in Braille whereas when sighted people read they miss out words and are able get the meaning. Reading Braille is therefore much more laborious.  In addition, sighted people see the whole word whereas visually impaired people cannot do that. As in sighted reading, prediction plays an essential role


Many thanks to Gaynor for such an informative, interactive talk. It was very much enjoyed.


The next meeting of Sutton WI will be on Tuesday, September 10th at 7.30pm in Sutton Village Hall. Everyone is welcome so please come along. The speaker will be Beverly Bond who will be giving a talk entitled ‘A History of the English Garden’.


Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

Sutton WI celebrates its 80th birthday


​On Tuesday 9th July 2019 Sutton WI celebrated its 80th birthday. We welcomed several guests to this occasion, some old friends and some new. The venue was the village hall in Sutton where the garden there was used and where we ate pizza cooked in the pizza oven by Jackie Ryan, one of our members.


To begin the proceedings, we raised a glass of prosecco in honour of the birthday and then began as WI members would have done all those years ago, with 10 minutes of Keep Fit!  Everyone really enjoyed it and thanks must go to Pat Thwaites for organising it and for providing Connor, the personal trainer!


Thus energised, the pizzas, salad, strawberries and cream and, of course, the cake were eaten. Thanks must go to Ann Fowler for making the birthday cake so expertly.


The evening finished with a showing of a short film which remembered Sutton’s entry into a quilt-making competition in 1995. Some members were most amused to see themselves on the film which was taken nearly 20 years ago! The quilt still has pride of place in the village hall.


The next meeting of Sutton WI will take place on Tuesday 13th August at 7.30 pm in Sutton Village Hall. The speaker will be Gaynor Tinsdale and her topic will be about children who use braille. We would be very happy to welcome people to join us so please come along!

Do take a look at the Gallery to see more photos of this celebration.

Letters from the trenches


Mark Steiner joined us to recount the letters that Walter Croft sent back from the front during the First World War. Being a natural story teller he was able to bring conviction and realism to his task and everyone really enjoyed hearing his rendition of these tragic events as seen through these private letters.


The letters themselves were given to the Tower of London by Walter’s sisters. They were often written in pencil on scraps of paper and they offer a very small insight into what it was like in the trenches for this one young man.


Prior to the war Walter lived in Derby with his family who were modestly well off. He joined the war initially as a private in the 20th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He was offered a commission but he declined it, He trained to become a signalman and in his letters to his family gives vivid descriptions of the conditions under which he and other soldiers served. He talked of dreadful weather, the mostly poor food, the tents and other accommodation they slept in and the mud!  After 3 months at the front he said he felt like a veteran and that many others there wanted to give up. He talked too though of the humour the soldiers shared and of the ways in which they entertained each other.  He wrote and received letters and parcels frequently- at least the postal service was very efficient!


As the war went on he was demoted to private for a while owing to a mistake he made and he was wounded and sent home to recover. On his return to France he became an NCO, a corporal, second in command of the Signallers. When he went back to France he was at the Somme where there had been heavy losses. He must have been in a weakened state when at Etaples he received a mortal wound.  He died from it on 7th November 1916 just 23 years old and was buried in France along of course with many others.


Our thanks must go to Mark for a very interesting talk. The next meeting of Sutton WI is our Christmas one on December 11th at 7.30pm in Sutton Village Hall where we will be making Christmas crafts.


Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

Easter baking demonstration


This month our speaker was Carol Jones who gave us a demonstration of how to make hot cross buns. In addition she showed us some other ideas for Easter cookery. She had been a Design Technology teacher for 42 years and so had some handy hints to pass on to us. For instance if you add vitamin C powder to your yeast mixture it cuts down the time that the dough needs to prove. Carol provided us all with a recipe sheet so I expect we will all be trying our hand at making hot cross buns in the coming weeks.

In addition she showed us some other ideas for Easter cookery including ways to decorate cup cakes and making Easter biscuits. She also touched on making chocolate lollies and chocolate eggs.

Delicious refreshments were provided and the meeting closed at 9.30pm.


Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 13th March when our speaker will be giving a talk entitled ‘Jewellery by Design ‘ which focuses on remodelling sentimental gold pieces. Anyone interested is more than welcome to attend, so please come along and join us!

Cynthia Brewerton, Press Secretary

Please reload


January: Annual dinner - location and date tbc.

Feb 11th: Kate Gardener - The National Garden Scheme reference to Beds Gardens.

Mar 10th: Ellee Seymour - The sales girl - 1940s to 1960s in a ladies' department store in Cambridge.



May 14th: Simon Michael - "My life in crime". Tales from the Criminal Bar.

Jun 11th: Meeting on wheels. Henlow dog racing.


Jul  9th: Garden meeting - our 80th birthday party.

Aug 13th: Gaynor Tinsdale - anecdotes and stories about working with children who use braille.

Sep 10th: Beverley Bond - history of the English garden.

Oct   8th: Gordon McCann - Samaritan's Purse.

Oct 29th: Sutton hosts the group meeting - Christine Adams, "Miss Savidge moves her house".

Nov  8th: Soups and sweets evening - Catherine's house, 7pm start.

Nov 12th: David Longman - Churches of Bedfordshire. The weird, the wonderful and the curious.

Dec 10th: Alison Ross - New Age Kurling


Jan: Annual dinner.


Feb 13th: Easter cookery delights - Carol Jones.

Mar 13th: Jewellery by design - Wendy and Andy Schneider.

Apr 10th:  AGM + bring & share supper.

May  8th:  Behind closed doors: the life of a prison officer - Pauline Martingale.

Jun  12th: Meeting on wheels, Swiss Garden. Tea and tour with guide.

Jul   10th: Garden meeting in Village Hall grounds.  Fun with mosaics.

Aug 14th: SERV emergency blood bikes.

Sep 11th: Fun oil painting and humorous talk on artist's life - Michael Peachey.

Sep 24th: Group meeting at Dunton.

Oct   9th: Harvest auction. WI members to bring own produce.

Nov 13th: Letters from the trenches - 100th Anniversary of the end of WW1.

Dec 11th: Crafty Christmas fun evening - Margaret Jameson and Pauline.



Jun 13th: Tour of Higgins Museum, Bedford.

July 11th: Garden meeting at Pippa's Raptor Foundation. Flying display and presentation.

Aug  8th: The work of East Anglia Air Ambulance.

Sep 12th: Elizabeth Fry: Pride or Prejudice. Amanda Goody.


Sep 15th: Group meeting, Biggleswade.

Oct 10th: The wonderful world of willow. Sandra Barker.

Nov 14th: Man on the spot: a reflection of fifty years with the BBC. Bill Hamilton.

Dec 12th: Biddenham handbell ringers. Jackie Bland.

12th October: silk for Sundays


Yvonne Bell visited us at Sutton WI on Tuesday 12th October. She makes and decorates ecclesiastical vestments. She is an accomplished artist who mainly works in silks. She talked animatedly about both the process and the commissions she has undertaken.  In addition she described the silk and the dyes that she uses to paint her designs. To form the outline of her designs she uses gutta percha which forms a barrier and prevents the dye going where she does not want it to. As the silk is thin the dye runs until it is stopped by the gutta percha. Once the design is complete the work is backed with interfacing to give it body and to keep the colours bright. Sometimes she appliqués on to the work. 


Yvonne told us about the colours used at different times of the year in church and showed us lots of beautiful examples of her work. In addition to her commissioned work which is mainly for churches and for priests she has some cards which have been printed from her designs. The talk was very much enjoyed by everyone and we all marvelled at her imagination and skill.

Silk painting of dove over hills with sunrise

14th September: can you turn your life around?


The September meeting welcomed Barbara Hudson, speaking about Internet Dating.

Barbara is a writer of short stories and novels, she lives in Oxford. One of the novels she has written is titled "Timed Out", which gives an enlightening personal insight into finding love as an older woman.

Barbara spoke candidly about her own experiences at Internet Dating, revealing some very interesting experiences. It was an entertaining evening with Barbara sharing many humorous details, with one or two rather scary ones thrown in!

Following her talk, she was also happy to hand out notes and guidance on information regarding writing stories and novels for beginners.

We were all very grateful for the effort Barbara put in to the evening following a lengthy wait in a traffic jam due to an incident on her journey.

We were very pleased that she was able to join us for refreshments, savouries and home-made cakes, served by the Committee & Members.

Angela Jack

Hands forming a heart shape
bottom of page