The coal boiler has gone. Their last cooker was sent to a museum. But Loversall WI still going strong after 100 years.
The old coal boiler may have gone. And their last cooker was sent to a museum.
But despite changing times and changing facilities, Loversall Women’s Institute is still going strong – and celebrating its centenary.
This year, members have run a string of events to mark the 100th anniversary of their organisation in the village.
In the best WI tradition, the members have celebrated with a series of events including afternoon t ea, coffee mornings, and cheese and wine evenings – and a selection of raffles. They also had a band playing hits from each of the decades through which they have been in existence, before finishing off with the hymn Jerusalem.
They have also created a display of items from the last 100 years decade by decade to educate or remind their 30 plus members of the way things were. It includes notes detailing a scheme to adopt a prisoner of war during the 1940s, as well as old telephones and vintage sewing machines
Meetings are still held in their organisations own hut. It is an ex-army hut bought and shipped from Ripon at a cost of £55 in 1921. Apart from a short period during World War Two when it was occupied by 205 th Royal Engineers, meetings have been held in the hut continuously since January 1922. Prior to that meetings had been at Loversall Hall, or a hut in its grounds. Members now say they have been raising money for improvements to the hut ever since they bought it.
The surviving minutes from the first general meeting, on June 17, 1919 reveal 54 members were present. They state: “A lecture on fruit bottling was given by Miss Vera Spillman. The committee provided the refreshments and acted as hostesses. At the end of the evening Mrs Langley and Mrs Vera Spillman sang.”
They hut has changed inside over the years, but only got an indoor toilet two years ago. From the outside, it looks the same.
Chairman Jane Hoggart said: “The items on the programme for our first year included topics such as poultry keeping, toy making, a discussion on venereal disease, bee keeping, fruit bottling, babies and their illnesses, fruit culture and pruning, and the cutting and making up of children’s clothes.
“Today the founding members would maybe not instantly recognise the inside of their old hut but they would definitely find that the WI enthusiasm for education, for opportunities to become involved with issues of national importance, for social interaction, for entertainment and fun is alive and well at Loversall WI.”
At present, there are still over 30 members. Some come from other parts of Doncaster where their local WI has closed. Others come from the village.
Among the longest serving is Fran Wright, aged 66, from Loversall. She has been coming down to the weekly meetings for 34 years.
She signed up shortly after moving to Loversall, after a neighbour arrived at the door to sell her raffle tickets.
Since then, she has seen the old hut transformed.
“We’ve had grants to do the kitchen and doors and toilet. Back when I first started coming, there was a boiler that we used that you had to put coal into. It was an outside toilet, too. The old cooker was actually taken away to Cusworth museum.
“It has always looked the same outside, but things have changed a lot inside.
“I’ve met a lot of people through coming down here. We moved up from Northamptonshire and didn’t know anyone.”
Former Bentley High Street Primary School headteacher, Jane Finn, also from Loversall, aged 69, has been coming to meetings for six years, after being introduced by a friend.
“It was something I always said I’d do when I retired, to get to know the people in the village.” she said. “I’ve lived here for 27 years since moving from Bessacarr – it’s about companionship and friendship.”
Some travel to come to meetings. Jan Threadgold, aged 73, drives in from her home at Sykehouse.
She said: “I was with the WI in Sykehouse. It closed. But I knew Teresa Robinson, who is the president at Loversall, so I came here with her.
“Sykehouse was short of members, and had an elderly membership. It was down to nine when it closed. We have a variety of ages here, from their early 50s up to their 80s.
“I love it – we get to have a bit of fun, a speaker and a demonstration, and cheese and wine events. We’ve been on trips to Castle Howard, we’re going to York in August, and we do fund raising with out bring and buy sales.”
President Teresa, aged 69, from Barnby Dun, has been a member for 10 years. Her mum Betty Hoyle, was was a member of the WI, and so was her grandmother. Her daughter, Julie, aged 42 is involved with the group, but not yet a member.
She said: “The centenary celebrations have been wonderful, and we’ve had lots of people coming to then from other WIs, as well as people who have not been members.
“I hope it will still be going in another 100 years.”