The Women's Institute in Upton-by-Chester

From the WI1951 Upton history

The Upton Heath Women's Institute.

On 12th May1926, the Upton Heath Women's Institute met for the first time in the Chapel schoolroom. From then onwards monthly meetings have been held uninterruptedly, though the venue was changed in January 1929, to the newly opened Village Hall. The membership has steadily increased from 48 in 1926 to 220 in 1936. The latter was fixed as the maximum membership.

The Institute has taken part in all the various sides of Institute work and has a large variety of interests. It co-operates with the nation-wide movement through the County and National Federation. It possesses an enterprising Produce Guild and a drama group and a choir of very high standing. Exhibitions of handicrafts and produce are held from time to time. Exchanges of letters and gifts link the Institute with those in New Zealand and Canada. Social events include an annual outing, a birthday party and Christmas festivities. This year the Institute marked its quarter century by having a cloth embroidered for use at meetings. It was made from a handwoven linen sheet over one hundred years old and given by a member.

Members give help where needed, as for example at the Children's Clinic, Library and Cheshire Agricultural Shows. One of their first community efforts was to help in the raising of funds for the building of the Village Hall, these taking the form of socials and one particularly successful Gipsy Fair. Later the members undertook the designing and making of the stage curtains for the Hall. To mark the Coronation of King George VI a seat was donated to the village and placed at the junction of Heath Road and Long Lane. The Institute has joined in the scheme for planting flowering trees along Heath Road to mark the Festival of Britain.

The Choir which took part in the Chester Music Festival in 1951 won the first award for large choirs and received a silver cup.

The war activities of the Institute were very wide in scope Including A.R.P., Ambulance, W.V.S.,Evacuation Scheme, camouflage nets, fruit canning etc. Of special importance were two activities, the knitting party and the National Savings Group. The former made about 5,000 garments in six years for the Services and children from occupied countries. A penny-a-week scheme, organised to buy wool realized 213-10-0d. The latter, formed in June, 1940, collected 56,887 until its cessation in July, 1946.

In addition a market stall was opened in June 1944, and members also undertook the distribution of pies under the Ministry of Food scheme for rural areas. In six years a quarter of a million pies were sold and the total profit of 450 was partly given to charities and partly made available for village and institute needs.

Two short extracts from an article on the W.I. by Sir Stephen Tallents sum up what we feel to be true about our Institute:- First - It has provided in our villages small unadvertised parliaments, and secondly it has secured the release of gifts which would otherwise have stayed unexercised and unbreathed.

Upton Cross WI

Upton Cross WI was formed in 1953 - we celebrate birthdays in November - and at a later date Deva WI was created. In its earlier years the group was very busy, taking part in the Cheshire Show and having a thriving drama group which used to entertain us and other institutes. They held craft classes and produce shows (with 3 or 4 cups).

Currently competitions are organised annually and monthly, based on the speaker's talk. The bowls group have been operating for some 20 years and the rambling group is also long standing.

Apart from the regular monthly meetings, a coffee morning is held in July and we all enjoy an outing in August. For many years Christmas parcels have been donated to local charities and the WI always support the council initiative, by supplying jumpers and teddies which are sent abroad to those less fortunate.

Upton Cross WI committee comprises 16 members; President, Secretary, Treasurer etc. the group numbers in total are approximately 60; fewer than in the earlier years, but we feel it is a sign of the times. The main thing is, that we all enjoy our times together and over the years firm friendships have been formed.