Sutton Women's Institute
Sutton WI meets every second Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in Sutton Village Hall. Doors open at 7pm.
New members are always welcome.
Sutton WI Committee
- Janet Potter (01767262118)
- Catherine Brown
- Pat Thwaites (01767261016)
- Cynthia Brewerton
- Jackie Ryan
- Ann Fowler
- Ellie Daniels
WI Programme 2024
12th January - Annual dinner booked at O'Saracino, Potton at 7pm.
13th February - Ian Stimson talk. Amazing things can happen: the story of building a school in Kenya.
12th March - Peta Frost from Saxon Flowers.
9th April - AGM and Social Evening.
14th May - Jo Hollington Demonstration and activity. Making Hanging Baskets. Bring your own basket or planter. This meeting is to be held at The Old Rectory.
11th June - Meeting on Wheels afternoon visit to Wimpole Hall. Includes house, farm and walled garden with afternoon tea (still to be confirmed).
Past events 2022-2023
Tuesday 14th November 2023
Social / craft evening
On Tuesday 14th November Jackie Ryan, one of our committee members, organised and ran a craft meeting for us. There was a lot of gathering of resources that had to be done: nail varnish, buckets, water, aprons, disposable gloves and tablecloths, and little rolls of lights on thin wires. But central to it all were the clear wine bottles (empty of course!) It all looked most intriguing!
Jackie demonstrated what we had to do and after donning all of the protective clothing we put a variety of colours of nail varnish on the surface of the water and then plunged the wine bottles into the water, gently moving the nail varnish around as we did so. The nail varnish adhered to the bottles and a pretty marbling effect was transferred to the outside of them. They all looked lovely!
After letting the bottles dry we were able to unravel the thin wire of lights and push them into the bottles. Once there, we were able to turn on the lights and hey presto we each had a colourful table decoration to take home!
It was a lovely evening of creativity and chatter and it was very much enjoyed, so many thanks to Jackie.
Tuesday 12th September 2023
On Tuesday 12th September Vanessa Osborne came to talk to us about Wimpole Hall. We were especially grateful to her as she was able to come to us at such short notice. Our booked speaker had had to cancel. Vanessa began volunteering at Wimpole 5 years ago; she has done various roles from house guide to the welcome team.
Unlike many other grand houses, Wimpole has had a series of owners. In 1640 Thomas Chiudley, a Cavalier, bought it. He spent a lot of money on it but then sold it. The next owner bought it for £50,000 and built on a library but got into debt and the house and contents had to be sold by his wife. Several others owned the house and made alterations.
The Gothic Tower was built; locally we know it as the Folly but it is not in fact a folly. In 1843 Queen Victoria visited with Prince Albert and described it as ‘a pretty little place’. In its chequered history it was even bought as a property to let.
Rudyard Kipling’s daughter Elsie Bainbridge bought it after initially renting it. On her death she bequeathed it to the National Trust who have since been involved in restoring and conserving it for future generations.
Vanessa was very knowledgeable and spoke with obvious enthusiasm. We learned a lot!
Tuesday 13th June 2023
On Tuesday 13th June Sutton WI embarked on their annual Meeting On Wheels expedition. This year the venue was Wrest Park, the visit prompted by a fascinating talk we received earlier in the year. We had a glorious summer day and we were guided by Richard Luscombe who had previously given us the talk. He was full.of interesting information about the house itself and about the paintings and renovation that had taken place.
The house in its lifetime has had various owners and uses over the years. It was used as a military hospital at one time and the upstairs rooms still house offices. One of the owners, the Duke of Kent, gave up his title and became a Marquis so that his grandaughter could inherit it as Marchioness. This was a most unusual step to take at the time, a woman taking precedence as beneficiary. JM Barrie, the writer of Peter Pan, staged plays there.
Following our visit to the house, members admired the beautifully kept grounds and had a cream tea outside in the shade where there was a breeze. All in all it was a great success and very much enjoyed.
Tuesday 9th May 2023
For our May meeting, we held a Coronation Lunch from 12.30 to 3pm in the Village Hall which had been decorated with red, white and blue bunting.
The Committee made and served the members with Coronation chicken, roasted baby potatoes, coleslaw and salad, followed by Celebration trifle and Pavlova. We toasted the new King with a glass of prosecco and finished the meal with celebration cupcakes and pots of tea.
We all attempted a very interesting quiz about the Royal Family and agreed it was a lovely way to celebrate the Coronation.
Tuesday 14th March 2023
Angela Tarbox: organise your life
On Tuesday 14th March Angela Tarbox came to talk about organising and decluttering your home, work and life. Angela has worked as a professional organiser but now works for an organisation called "Your Space Freed". She is able to help and guide people through challenging times that they may be going through by helping them to organise their lives.
Divorce and bereavement present challenges for people where possessions may have to be reassessed and redistributed. She gave us advice on how to begin decluttering our homes. She advised us not to look at the whole picture but to break down what we have to do into small chunks. She said we should ask ourselves what we would like to achieve and to set ourselves a realistic timeline to achieve our objectives. She advised too on places to take unwanted items: many items to charity shops and animal shelters; unwanted medication to the chemist; hats and gloves to homeless shelters. Some local authorities will take unwanted electrical items, food banks will accept tinned food, etc., and books can be recycled.
In her experience she has found taking before and after photos useful in motivating people. Amongst us there are those who do not have a problem with throwing things away and those who hang on to things out of sentiment or because they feel overwhelmed by the sheer task of organising their possessions. There is some evidence that decluttering can aid mental well being.
We must thank Angela for her talk and for inspiring and motivating some members to begin the Herculean task of sorting out many years of gathering possessions around them.
Tuesday 14th Feb 2023
Geoff Clark: Bedford Hospital Radio
The meeting began with a minutes silence to remember Mary
Stonebridge who died recently. Next was a celebration to mark Pat Thwaites being a member of Sutton WI for 50 years. She was presented with a card and gift and thanked for her hard work and dedication to the WI.
Geoff Clark then gave a very interesting talk on the history of
hospital radio. The first in the UK was in 1925 at York County
Hospital when headphones and loud speakers were used. Records and cassettes were used in the 1950s by some well known broadcasters like Ken Bruce who began on Glasgow Hospital Radio. Bedford Hospital Radio (HRB) was started in 1975 with fund-raising efforts and opened by Gilbert Hitchcock from the local health authority. It is run by volunteers operating from a portacabin and on air 24/7 on 365 days a year with live or recorded programmes. A request show began in the 1980s with people going round the wards to get names of patients to play music for. In those days vacuum-tube earphones were used which were very uncomfortable but could be sterilised between patients. Two studios were acquired under the X-ray department and over the years, technology has developed considerably with Wi-Fi, the Internet and Alexa!
In 2020 it became Bedfordshire Health Radio, a legal body not a
charitable one, but then Covid 19 changed everything! Volunteers were banned from the hospital and began broadcasting from their own homes which has continued to this day in some cases. The station does outside broadcasts now with pop-up studios at events in Bedford.
The Hospital Radio is still relevant today, helping to reduce
boredom and anxiety, and helping patients maintain links with their families and the outside world, as well as providing public service announcements. It costs £3000 a year to run, using volunteers and paid-for electricity and heating, but the licences and insurances are very expensive, so fund raising is needed to keep the station operating.
See www.hospitalradiobedford.org.uk for schedules and other information.
Tuesday 8th Nov 2022
RNLI community lifesaving
On Tuesday 8th November 2022 we welcomed Paul Gillins, the Water Safety Officer from the RNLI. His talk was both entertaining and informative. He gave us facts and figures alongside film clips and personal anecdotes. There are 230 boats, 420 rescue craft and 4 hovercrafts in service. 53,665 people have been helped and there are 5,500 crew in total and 1,500 life guards who are paid for by the beaches that employ them.
The organisation began in 1824 and was founded by William Hilary. He experienced seeing a fisherman drown just 10 metres from the shore in the Isle of Man and decided that people must be trained to help in these situations. He stated that the
organisation should be staffed by volunteers and funded by public donations, which it still is. Over the years the craft used have been improved and lifejackets came into use in the 1850s. 1.2 million people still die by drowning each year which is more than those who die from malaria.
Paul described how personnel are trained at the RNLI College in Poole, Dorset, where there is a pool where rough sea conditions can be simulated and where casualty care is
also taught. We saw several clips of actual rescues. ‘The sea is out to get you’ is something that he urged us to remember while we watched films of children swept out to sea on a small inflatable craft and a person cut off by the tide whilst out walking. Vehicles have been rescued along with animals in cases where humans may be in life threatening situations. The aim of the RNLI is to ‘give someone the rest of their lives’ and they have certainly done that in many, many situations!
Looking forward, the RNLI hope to develop more fully their work in teaching water safety and floating as a means of survival. It costs £160 million per annum to run the
organisation and they are totally dependent on legacies and donations. The talk was very much enjoyed by members and we sincerely thank Paul for coming to talk to us.
Tuesday 13th Sep 2022
On Tuesday 13th September Sutton WI began their meeting with a minutes silence in remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II who died on 8th September 2022 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was a member of the WI in Sandringham and will be greatly missed throughout the kingdom.
We then held a harvest auction. Members brought along a
splendid array of vegetables, preserves, plants and flowers and
Jackie Ryan led the bidding.
We were especially pleased on this occasion to welcome some new members and guests.
It was great fun, everything was sold and the sale made the magnificent sum of £64 for the funds.
Everyone is welcome to join us for meetings which are held on the second Tuesday of every month in Sutton Village Hall at 7.30pm
Tuesday 10th Aug 2022
Meeting with talk on "How to look after your houseplants" by Susie Hickman
On Tuesday 10th August Susie Hickman came to talk about ‘How to look after your Houseplants’. Susie loves houseplants and has a shop selling them. She said that they are now back in fashion after disappearing from peoples homes in the 90s.
People own houseplants for a variety of reasons and they can cost from a few pounds to thousands of pounds. She, and many others, find keeping them very relaxing and it can be a type of Mindfulness for some.
Susie outlined some of the factors that need to be taken into consideration when keeping house plants. Firstly, and most importantly, they need light. When positioning plants this is obviously a factor which must be taken into consideration. It is worth remembering where our houseplants originally came from. Plants coming from hot, humid places need those conditions in your home to thrive so very often kitchens and bathrooms are ideal. It is worth remembering too that the light changes with the seasons so plants may need to be moved according to the season. Plants need warmth so cold areas and draughts should be avoided.
Watering plants, how much, how and when are often concerns that people have. It is easy to over water them, however they can recover! Susie recommended taking them out of the pot and wrapping them in newspaper to dry them out. She also recommended watering from the bottom, maybe placing them on pebbles in a saucer so that water is not directly drawn up into the plant.
We must thank Susie for her talk and for bringing a variety of plants for us to see. It was interesting.
Tuesday 12th Jul 2022
Garden meeting with talk by Alan Gray MBE, a retired Wimbledon umpire, entitled: ‘You cannot be serious.’
In a really entertaining and informative talk, Alan told us about his life and how he became a Wimbledon umpire covering the years from 1988 to 2012. Wimbledon is deemed to be one of the greatest tournaments in the world and it was fitting that this year Wimbledon celebrated 100 years of centre court. Incredibly, it was the only venue to have pandemic insurance and having bought the vast area next to it, which was the golf club, now has a 10-year plan to develop the land and build a new show court. This year was the first time there was play on the middle Sunday so the tournament lasted for 14 days.
His fascinating talk gave us insights into incidents and experiences in his umpiring life including the time he had to accompany Boris Becker on a toilet break, only to witness him receiving physiotherapy.... which was strictly against the rules. He also discussed the common practice now of players ‘grunting’ and questioned the need for it. He told us about the development of bad behaviour on the court with special reference to John McEnroe and how his famous quotation led to him being disqualified and a code of conduct is now in place at Wimbledon.
Alan has known Andy Murray since he was 8 years old and has many memories of him. It is a little-known fact that Andy and his brother were at school in the next door classroom and witnessed the horrors of the day when the Dunblane massacre took place in 1996. It is also a little-known fact that Andy often donates his prize money to various excellent causes and this year it went to help with the Ukranian crisis .
Alan then showed us what the officials carry in the bags which they all carry on court with them: a stopwatch; a net adjustor; and a piece of paper with 50 naughty words listed and cross referenced in various languages, so he can recognise code of conduct violations from players during matches!
He amazed us with how the prize money had increased over the years and the way the venue has developed, notably now having a roof over centre and number 1 courts. One of his favourite memories was the time the Queen visited Wimbledon, 11 years ago. She spent an hour watching wheelchair tennis and an hour watching the juniors before having lunch and then she watched Andy Murray.
He also told us about the military training the ball boys and girls have to undergo from February to June, even teaching them to show no emotions on court and not to smile. They get £160 for the fortnight and use the experience on their CVs. They are selected for their co-ordination and fitness, but mostly for their attitude which makes them the best in the world.
The talk was very much enjoyed by everyone.
Tuesday 14th Jun 2022
Visit to Pulloxhill garden
On Tuesday 14th June Sutton WI visited one of the National Garden Scheme’s gardens at Pulloxhill. It is owned by Keith and Sue Miles and set in the beautiful countryside of Central Bedfordshire.
We had a wonderful sunny day to visit and were welcomed warmly by the owners. All of us were surprised by the extent of the garden and by the diversity of the plants being grown there. We first went into the flower garden which was resplendent with roses, allium, iris, salvia, really too many to mention, It was lovely.
We were then guided on to a vegetable plot and poly tunnel where there were peas, raspberries beans etc. After that we went down to a white rose tunnel, this lead in turn to a fantastic view across the countryside with Sharpenhoe Clappers in the distance.
Keith also has an interest in old Romany caravans and there was one there for us to see which he had painstakingly restored. It was beautiful.
To finish our tour we went back towards the house where we were served tea and delicious homemade cakes (one of which was filled with early raspberries from the garden). Keith and Sue were more than happy to answer our questions and were both very knowledgeable.
It was a lovely visit, one that we will remember fondly.
Tuesday 8th Mar 2022
A brief history of Wrest Park
Sutton WI welcomed Richard Luscombe to give us a talk entitled ‘A brief history of Wrest Park’. After retiring from teaching, Richard became a volunteer at Wrest Park. He is part of the Historical Research Team and keeps digital records. He told us that the De Grey family, who first owned the house, came to England at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The family became widespread in England, one of the most famous being Lady Jane Grey, queen for nine days. Wrest Park is mentioned in the Domesday Book. In Medieval times it was a huge estate having some 1700 acres, whereas today it only comprises 92 acres. Several notable buildings were built over the years, some of which still remain. In the Archer Pavilion, built in 1709, there are over 40 statues dotted around the grounds.
In the 1700s, Capability Brown was involved in redesigning the gardens. An ornamental bridge, Chinese in style, and an ornamental boathouse were built. The garden took on a romantic air at this time. The parterres were installed and are still notable features now having been restored in 2012. Every year 20,000 plants are planted with meticulous care in its flower beds.
As with many large houses, it was rented for a time, and in WW1 it was turned into a military hospital for rank and file soldiers at the request of Winston Churchill and given the quaint name of ‘Wrest in Beds!’ It suffered a fire in latter years and in 1917 it was sold for £450,000. It was emptied out and most of its treasures sold. It became offices for the Sun Life Insurance company and then the Silsoe Research Institute. When this closed in 2006 English Heritage took the house over.
It is now a thriving tourist attraction undertaking a revitalisation project. It hosts weddings, festivals and was featured on the Antiques Road Show in 2018 and most recently on Countryfile. It was also used for filming ‘The Serpent’, a recent television series. Richard accompanied his talk with slides and his obvious enthusiasm for the house shone through. It was very much enjoyed by members and has inspired a possible visit there by Sutton WI!
Tuesday 8th Feb 2022
The agony and ecstasy of running a canal hotel
Sutton WI welcomed Barry Watson to give us a talk entitled ‘The Agony and Ecstasy of running a Canal Hotel’. He began by giving us a brief history of canals. The first canals were built by the Romans but the first canal to be built in the UK in more recent times was the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. Canals were an essential part of the Industrial Revolution in transporting goods from place to place. When canals were less used because of the advent of roads and railways narrow boats were often converted into houseboats. This was done initially by Tom Rolt in 1940. In 1946 the Inland Waterways Association was created and the canal system was saved and is still used now mostly for leisure.
Barry went on to tell us about the hotel boating that became a way of life for him and his wife. He ran his business for 6 years, 31 weeks a year and it proved to be a 24-hour job. He owned 2 boats and had 4 crew members. He obviously enjoyed his job and talked both knowledgeably and warmly about it. He described the boats themselves and the pattern of the days on them. All meals were freshly prepared and home cooked and there was laundry to do and general day to day maintenance. Often there were 50 bags of shopping! Along the way there were numerous locks to negotiate; some routes had many locks, the most being the Tardebigge with 31 to be dealt with in the morning and 62 in the afternoon! He and his crew were rated by the authorities as being 5 star holiday company, praise indeed. The ecstasy in the title of his talk referred to the guests on the boats and he told stories of their kindness and sometimes their peculiarities which made the job so memorable for him. He also spoke warmly of the canal fraternity where everyone was very willing to help each other out along the way. To conclude his talk he sang a couple of songs and accompanied himself on the guitar, members joined him in singing the choruses; the talk was much enjoyed by the members and very well received.