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 







Hall Rep           


-   Janet Potter (01767262118)

-   Catherine Brown

-   Pat Thwaites (01767261016)

-   Cynthia Brewerton

-   Jackie Ryan

​-   Ann Fowler

-   Ellie Daniels

WI Programme 2022

Tuesday February 8th 7.30pm - Barry Watson. The agony and ecstasy of a canal hotel boater: a fun history of canals.

Tuesday March 8th 7.30pm - Richard Luscombe. Wrest Park: history of the house and family

and stories of its time as a military hospital 1914-16.

Tuesday April 12th 7.30pm - AGM and social evening.

Tuesday 10th May 7.30pm - Bob Harding -Jones. 'Laughter in the Village'.


Tuesday 14th June - Meeting on wheels: visit to Kate Gardner's garden.


Tuesday 12th July - Garden meeting. 'You cannot be serious': tales of a Wimbledon umpire 1988-2012.


Tuesday 9th August 7.30pm - Phil Lane, storyteller.


Tuesday 13th September 7.30pm - Social evening.


Tuesday 11th October 7.30pm - Angela Collins. A puppet's tale.


Tuesday 8th November 7.30pm - Paul Gillions RNLI: community lifesaving.

Tuesday 13th December 7.30pm - Alison Ross. New age curling.


2022 past events

Tuesday 8th March
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!


Cynthia Brewerton

wrest-park copyright free.jpg
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Tuesday 8th February
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.

Boats on Water
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