'Momentous' celebrations mark WI group's special centenary

Blundeston and Flixton WI group Glenis Soanes Peter Smith Gunton Woodland Project

President of the Blundeston and Flixton Women's Institute (WI) group, Glenis Soanes, with Peter Smith from Gunton Woodland Project holding the tree. - Credit: Mick Howes

It all began with a group of ladies, all wearing hats, who united in an effort to raise funds for a village meeting room.

With the Blundeston and Flixton Women's Institute (WI) group subsequently formed in 1922, a year of celebrations to mark the milestone is now under way in the north Suffolk village.

To start the celebrations, two commemorative trees have been planted - one on Millennium Green and the other on school grounds - to mark the centenary.

Members of the Blundeston and Flixton Women's Institute (WI) group at the planting of the tree.

Members of the Blundeston and Flixton Women's Institute (WI) group at the planting of the tree. - Credit: Mick Howes

Members of Blundeston and Flixton WI gathered on Millennium Green in the village to observe a Flowering Cherry tree being planted and to reminisce on some of the group’s achievements over the years.

Long serving member of the Blundeston and Flixton Women's Institute (WI) group, Iris Mayes

Long serving member of the Blundeston and Flixton Women's Institute (WI) group, Iris Mayes. - Credit: Mick Howes

Describing it's history, long serving group member Iris Mayes said: "In 1922, a group of ladies - all wearing hats of course - decided to start a WI.

"They met in the old Methodist meeting room and after a while decided that the village needed a proper meeting room.

"Fund raising was started and members purchased individual bricks at 6d a brick.

Most Read

"As the funds grew, plans were drawn up but ever careful - should the venture not be successful - the building could quite easily have been turned into two single storey dwellings.

"The WI thrived and during the Second World War an allocation of sugar was made to WI's so that any spare fruit could be made into jam.

"The jam was made at Blundeston Hall and became part of the country’s diet.

"I think this was probably the reason why W I has always been labelled Jam and Jerusalem."

Reflecting on the WI’s contributions to Blundeston village over the past 100 years, secretary Jenny Ferns said: “We are grateful to the Gunton Woodland Project for supplying the tree.

“Our WI raised funds to have the village hall built and then gave it to the parish council for use by the whole village.

"We also had the village sign made and donated that too.”

“In 2008 we were voted one of the top ten WIs in the country because of our range of activities which had included outings, lunches, craft group and a book club in addition to our usual meetings.

"We have also supported county and national WI events.”

The group has also featured in the television programme ‘Out to Lunch with Brian Turner’ when TV chef Brian Turner "visited and cooked alongside members.”

Mrs Ferns said: “We have 35 members at present and in the past, two members have been county chairmen at different times.

“Our celebrations will continue with a centenary anniversary dinner at Parkhill Hotel with 45 guests.”

Describing how entertainment has "always been part of WI life", Mrs Mayes said: "Over the years many a panto has been performed in the village hall while members always took part in drama competitions organised by Suffolk East Federation of WI - whose headquarters are in Ipswich - and indeed won the county cup many times.

"Entries have been always sent to the Suffolk Show with many successful results in the cooking, preserves, knitting and sewing classes.

"Over the years members have also attended the Royal Albert Hall for the annual meeting.

"To celebrate our Golden Jubilee the WI donated the village sign and this has recently been restored by the Parish Council to its former glory.

"Over the years our education has not been forgotten, we have visited the Eden Project in Cornwall, the Edinburgh Tattoo, the German Christmas Markets and many, many local places of interest.

"We have been fortunate over the years to be supported by WI husbands, who have been involved in so of our many projects.

"What does the next century hold, who knows? But we start with high hopes.

"To celebrate this momentous year two trees have been planted - one in the school grounds and one on the Millennium Green - and this time there was not a hat insight."