Parish of Dundry

A History of Dundry W.I.


In July 1922 Dundry W.I. was born. There were 42 foundation members, 5 of whom are still with us. As there was no hall in the village, meetings were held in the rather cramped quarters of the school. No charge was made for this accommodation but we had to provide our own coal and oil (for lamps). Fortunately for us - and for the whole village - our founder members were ambitious and energetic. A hall was required and should be provided, even though they had to 'go it alone' without the help of other village organisations. Members' husbands came forward willingly to form a Hall Committee and, with their help, in 1923, just one short year after formation, Dundry W.I. organised a fete and raised the first hundred pounds for the new Hall. In 1926 the hall was built; we had a meeting place and the whole village had somewhere to hold dances, concerts, Drama and to play badminton.

Our hospitable members are all proud that as far back as 1923 it was decided that no charge should be made for refreshments at meetings and each generation has willingly given, once a year, tea, sandwiches and cakes and thereby created that friendliness which is appreciated so much by us all. Before the Second World War our members undertook much work for the Voluntary Hospitals.

In 1937 two important events occurred. One of our members was voted on to the local Parish Council. She was the first woman member and through her we had a channel for pressing local authorities to bring electricity, water and sewerage to our homes. There was also a long tussle -eventually won - to provide a telephone kiosk in the centre of the village. Since then we have always had one of our members on the Council and she will bring forward any matter raised at our monthly meetings. At present a member is on the Rural District Council. The second event in 1937 was the inauguration of the Village Flower Show - now a popular annual event.

During the war we opened our homes to the evacuees - some of whom are still with us, and one London schoolmaster comes down every summer to bring his boys to camp. Our Hall was taken over as a schoolroom by day and a refuge from air-raids in nearby Bristol at night. We made hundreds of pounds of jam and chutney, knitted millions of stitches, collected for war savings and Comforts Funds, joined W.V.S. and Civil Defence, worked with the British Legion, and generally helped to do everything we could, including the endowment of a hospital bed in Stalingrad.

The Handicraft Guild has always been active, organising classes in dress-making, basketry, leather-work, string stools, glove-making, rug-making, embroidery, etc. The Produce Guild has been active for many years, holding meetings monthly. After the war and Victory celebrations we settled down to 'make do and mend' while there were still shortages, with more classes including slipper-making and mats from binder twine. Drama flourishes spasmodically. We were intensely proud to win the Somerset Federation W.I. Cup in 1944. In recent years we have undertaken to provide annually an outing, tea and entertainment for the older folk in our village.

Money is never easy to raise but we are solvent and when we need anything or are asked for our help a way has always been found. This last year alone, over £144 has been found for the Hall Fund. Recently we have, with the help of the men, provided and laid a new floor, installed electric heating, built a new kitchen, added flush lavatories and repainted the interior of the hall. Our latest gift has been rich green velvet curtains for the stage.

One of our members is a Voluntary County Organiser (VCO), a member of the Somerset Federation Committee and has this year been co-opted to the National Handicrafts Sub-Committee. Altogether our W.I. is healthy, happy and, we hope, wise. It is a voice in the village which is never stilled when it should be heard, always ready to help. Together we go forward - for "Home and Country".

(Written, it is thought, in 1962 - author unknown)