Hilton WI is part of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) which is the largest women’s organisation in the UK.(www.womens-institute.org.uk). We are self-governing within the framework of the WI constitution and rules.
WI’s are grouped into 70 county federations and
Hilton WI belongs to the Huntingdon and Peterborough Federation, which has 64 institutes altogether.
We have 61 members. Meetings are held on the second Monday of each month at Hilton Village Hall, 7.30pm. The main part of the meeting is usually a talk or demonstration, preceded by some brief WI business. There are normally eleven meetings a year, and a summer lunch which is held in August. We also arrange outings, cinema and theatre trips, informal lunches, classes and other activities for members.
Hilton WI was first formed in 1920 and has existed for a total of 78 years having had a short suspension in the 1930s and again in the 1960s. In the early years, meetings were held in members’ homes, but now take place in the Village Hall.
There is a photograph of a WI party visiting the Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924, the first of many special outings by
Hilton WI, including one to the Festival of Britain in 1951 and another to Prince Charles’s garden at Highgrove in 2004.
The WI has always played an important part in village celebrations. On the occasion of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, we provided tea for the whole village. For the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, we offered cream teas and improved the environment by cleaning roads and bridleways in the village. During the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, a children’s playground was opened and we supplied 150 cream teas for villagers and dignitaries. We also contributed to a “tactile maze” for visually impaired children.
WI minutes in October 1939 show a rather matter-of-fact attitude to the outbreak of war; “It was suggested that meetings in future be more in the form of relaxation, perhaps sewing, knitting or mending”! Members were asked to bring “one or two small cakes or biscuits to pool and be handed round as refreshments”. We adjusted to the blackout and air raids by holding meetings in the afternoon. Despite shortages, the WI held a New Year children’s party for evacuees and used money raised by a “social” to provide a party for a nearby searchlight unit. We have a letter of thanks from Clementine Churchill, written from 10 Downing Street on rough “wartime” paper, for supporting her appeal to aid the Russian Red Cross.
The WI magazine, Home and Country, in 1926, awarded
Hilton WI a handsome copper and brass tea urn. This was missing from the village for many years, but good fortune restored it to the WI in 1989 and it now takes pride of place at special occasions.
Hilton WI has always embraced practical innovation, learning about electric cookery in 1940, microwave cookery in 1985 and computers in 1999. “Surfing” the NFWI website in 2002, the President saw that the producers of the film “Calendar Girls” sought WI members to become extras. Hilton answered the call and members spent a fascinating day filming in
London. On the film’s release in September 2003, almost 100
Hilton WI members and guests filled the local cinema in Huntingdon. The screening was followed by a “bring and share” party in the Village Hall attended by villagers aged from 9 to 90.
Hilton WI members enjoy participating in and enhancing village life, gaining friendship, fun and self-improvement from our organisation.