The Women’s Institute

The Women’s Institute in Witham.
Including their support for Miss Charlotte Pattisson as a Council candidate in 1922

Just oddments. Nothing after 1945.


Essex County Chronicle, 11 April 1919
Women’s Institute
On Monday evening a social meeting in connection with the local Women’s Institute was held at the Y.M.C.A. hut, Mrs Brandt, the president, in the chair. Arrangements were completed for carrying on the work of the branch. During the evening songs were rendered by Miss H Bradhurst and Miss Pearce.

Essex County Chronicle, 2 April 1920
page 5 ‘Signs of the Times. The Elections. Greater interest was shown in the Urban Council elections this year than has been the case for many years. … new franchise, the activity of the Labour Party, and the influence of Women’s Institutes. Both Labour and the Institutes have run candidates, but strange to say Labour had not been so successful as it was supposed it would be. Indeed at Braintree and Halstead al the Labour candidates were defeated, which is more than passing strange, seeing that both the town named are essentially Labour towns …

Essex County Chronicle, 2 April 1920
page 5, see xerox. “The Women’s Vote. That the women’s vote has to be reckoned with, the elections have generally shown, as in the case of Epping, where Mrs Alec Allen, the nominee of the local Women’s Institute, headed the poll with 831 votes against 263 polled by that old local Parliamentary hand, Mr M Edmunds”.

Essex Chronicle, 7 April 1922
‘The Ladies. Witham is the first town in the Braintree and Maldon areas to elect a lady member to its Urban Council. Miss Charlotte Alice Pattisson, who at the first venture rose to within one vote of the top of the poll, is a daughter of the late Mr William Pattisson, of Writtle, where she was born. Her grandfather practised as a solicitor in Witham many years ago, and the late Admiral Sir William Luard was her great-uncle. She takes an active part in nearly everything going on in the township, her offices ranging from that of quartermaster in the Witham Boy Scouts to a leading part in the Women’s Institute.

Another noteworthy victory, at the top of the poll, was that of Mrs Trotter, at Epping, who stood as the nominee of the Women’s Institute, which also supported Miss Pattisson. Ladies likewise had some signal successes for the Boards of Guardians, whereon they are almost indispensable, with their kind hearts and their anxious care for the women and children’.

‘Lady Voters Preponderate.
Witham is one of the very few towns in England where lady voters actually preponderate. They are in a majority of [??] on the electoral strength. Miss Pattisson, after her election, told a representative of the Essex Chronicle an interesting story of how she became selected as the first woman candidate for the Council. The subject was discussed at the Women’s Institute, and she agreed to “break the ice”. “As to my position on the Urban Council”, proceeded Miss Pattisson, “I shall be quite willing to learn all about the town affairs, and see what can be done. We cannot spend much money, because we have not got it, and the rates must be watched, but there are many ways in which I hope to assist”. There can be no doubt that the choice of the women of Witham will be fully justified’.

‘Some Results :- …A notable feature is the growing strength of the Women’s Institute movement, which put forward candidates with success in every instance. The Essex Chronicle has already called attention to this new factor in public affairs. The Institutes, all honour to them, discuss and agree how women can best use their votes, and if the men do not mind, and do not take more care generally about this matter, they will be finding themselves out-voted as well as outnumbered by the opposite sex. Not that any harm would be done, but women are naturally more interested in women, although theirs are the concerns of man and children also, if “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”’

Results. Witham.
Elected: J Ernest Smith, Miss C A Pattisson, R Little, Lab.
Not elected: R W Wakelin, F Hayward.
Mr A M Garrett did not seek re-election.
Mr Little gains a seat for Labour.
[can’t read numbers].

Essex Weekly News, 28? April 1922
Witham UDC meeting
First Lady Member. Mr Pelly formally welcomed Miss Pattisson, the first lady member of the Council. Ladies, he said, were taking a tremendous part in national matters, and he was sure she would be of great assistance in their work. The Chairman said knowing what Miss Pattisson had done for the town he was sure she would be an acquisition to the Council. 

Essex Chronicle, 1 April 1925
Urban District Council elections:
Miss C A Pattisson, J Ernest Smith, Layton Church
Not elected
R Little (Lab), A G Bright (Lab)

Miss Pattisson, the only Lady Member, had the active support of the Women’s Institute. Mr R Little, a former Labour member, lost his seat.

[note: at Great Easton the Countess of Warwick failed to get elected to the Dunmow Rural District Council. Elected was Frank Stock, 123[?]. not elected The Countess of Warwick, 93[?]

Essex Chronicle, 3 June 1927
WI Conference. Opinions from Essex
[Just got first few lines]
“There were a large number of Essex delegates among the three thousand women attending the annual conference of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, which opened at the Queen’s Hall, London, on Tuesday. Mrs Widdrington (Easton) said Essex wanted to bring forward the question of sanitation in the rural districts of England.”

Photo M505, 1929
Carnival procession. It is passing the shops between Guithavon Street and the area that is now the Newlands precinct. The main vehicle shown is the Women’s Institute entry showing ‘Witham, historical scene’, which won first prize in the ‘tableaux on lorries’. The Essex Chronicle reported that it was ‘in character of the period, depicting the presentation by Queen Matilda of the right of the Manor of Witham to the Knights Templars of Cressing, 1135. The characters were taken by: Queen Matilda, Mrs Crook; King Stephen, Miss West; monk, Mrs Hawkes; Knights Templars, Mrs Smout, Mrs Stapler; prior, Mrs Turner’. 

Essex Chronicle, 6 September 1929
Carnival. One report as above re WI float. Another of Mrs Spencer Dier, President of the Witham WI, who had no official position in the Carnival, but “took a leading hand in its management and worked with a will, and succeeding in getting things going nicely”. 

Braintree and Witham Times, 29 November 1929
Women’s Institute Annual meeting at ‘the Hut’. Committee elected. Mrs Hancock rendered solos.

Essex Chronicle, 28 March 1930, page 12
Women’s Institute.
“Miss Edith Luard presided, and announced that the Hon Sec, Miss West, had been obliged to return home owing to family illness, and had consequently resigned her post. Miss Hill had kindly undertaken the secretaryship, with Miss Peecock as assistant. Miss Florence Petty gave a cooking demonstration. Two plays were rendered by the Faulkbourne performers.”

Essex Chronicle, 26 December 1930
Women’s Institute
“A Christmas Party was held at the Church House. Competitions, games, etc, were arranged by Mrs Mens. The Misses C Brown and B Page judged a costume competition.. Mrs John Tabor and Mrs Appleby caused much merriment as Antipos[?], and this secured first prize. Other winners were: Mrs Stabler, Christmas cracker; Mrs Hardcastle, eating[?] dates; Mrs King, soap; Mrs Percy Evitt, sardines. Mrs Frank Moore distributed the prizes. A bouquet was presented to Miss E Luard, president, and a bowl of flowers to Miss Hills, Hon Sec. Mrs Spencer Dier and Miss Corley won a basket of fruit. Musical themes[?] were contributed by the Institute band conducted by Mrs Dier. The hon.sec. reported a membership of about 140. 

Essex Chronicle, 26 December 1930
Bouquet presented to Miss E Luard, president of Women’s Institute, at its Christmas party.

ERO D/UWi 1 2 5. UDC Committee minutes 1930-1932
Finance Committee, 18 February 1931, page 145. The Women’s Institute and the local Branch of Toc H have written about a library. Resolved to recommend applying to County Council for branch of County Library.

Essex Chronicle, 29 July 1932, page 10
Women’s Institute
The monthly meeting was held in the Church House, the president, Miss E Luard, presiding. About 70 were present. Miss Watson was congratulated on being the only successful competitor in Essex to win a prize for ‘a complete outfit for a new-born baby’; she was presented with a certificate and one guinea, on behalf of the ‘National Baby Week Council’’. Mrs Bayliss of Brentwood gave a demonstration on glove making. A delightful entertainment, arranged by Miss G Luard, took the form of a sketch entitled ‘The Ministering Angel’ performed by Mrs A and B Stoneham and Master Michael Lewis. The Rev A J T Lewis rendered humorous anecdotes. There were five entries for a Limerick Competition on the Women’s Institute, and the judge, the Rev A J T Lewis, curate of Witham, reserved his decision as to the winner.

Essex Chronicle, 26 May 1933, page 8
Women’s Institute
“The monthly meeting was held at the Scouts Hut, the president, Miss E Luard, in the chair. A lecture on household hints was given by Mrs Warren of Rayleigh. An entertainment of songs and recitations was given by Mrs Richardson, Mrs Skingsley and Mrs Claydon, with Mrs S Rice at the piano. The competition for bread and butter cutting resulted; 1 Mrs J Taber, 2. Mrs Appleby. Pound day, organised by the WI for Chelmsford Hospital, realised £3 6 10, 130[?] lb of goods, and 50 eggs.”

Essex Weekly News, 12 June 1936, page 15



Essex Weekly News, 11 June 1937, page 15
Women’s Institute Outing
Fifty-two members of the Women’s Institute visited Windsor and Kings Langley on Wednesday for their annual outing. They had a hurried glance at the Castle before going on to the beverage factory, where they had tea. The journey was made by coach, and the arrangements were made by Miss Murrell, secretary, in whose absence Mrs Joiner, assistant secretary, was in charge.

Essex Weekly News, 18 June 1937, page 15
Women’s Institute
Annual garden party. President Miss E Luard presented the prizes. In the garden of Langleys, Collingwood Road. Incl. folk and maypole dancing by children of Maldon Road school under Mrs Care. Lots prizes, incl cakes, flowers, marmalade etc. Details in newspaper.

Essex Weekly News, 31 December 1937, page 11
Women’s Institute.

Miss Edith Luard was re-elected president. At Church House.”Tea was served and carols were sung. Rev J W Thomas told amusing anecdotes”.

Witham Senior School Managers minutes, 21 May 1941 (ERO E/MM 397/1)
Mrs McQueen of Women’s Institute had asked about using premises for Fruit Preservation Scheme. OK if separate gas meter, and fruit and sugar kept elsewhere.

E.R.O. D/Uwi 1/2/10, Witham UDC Committee minutes 1942-1946
British Restaurant Committee, 22 March 1943 [page 164]
August Week. Show on Bank Holiday Monday. Agree High Street restaurant should open on that day and serve teas, and open for teas all the week. Also serve teas on Recreation Ground on August Monday, Women’s Institute to assist.

Essex Weekly News, 19 October 1945, page 14
‘W I. … Much regret was occasioned by the resignation of Miss Edith luard, who had been a member since the Institute was formed, and who had filled the office of president …’

Essex Weekly News, 21 December 1945
‘By the death of Miss Edith Jane Luard, fourth daughter of the late Admiral Sir William Luard, KCB, at her home Ivy Chimneys, Witham lost one of its most devout, and at one the most active, church worker. Except for the occasions when the family resided with Admiral Luard at Malta and other naval stations, Miss Luard, who was in her 80th year, lived most of her life in Witham. She was organiser for the Church Mothers’ Meeting for many years, and took an active interest in the Women’s Institute, particularly the dramatic side.’ At funeral, vicar Rev Payne officiated. Lesson read by Canon E P Luard, rector of Birch, Mrs L’s brother. Hymns etc. Mourners Miss Alice Luard, Miss Gertrude Luard, Miss Maud Luard, Miss Lily Luard, and Mrs [Amy] Bond, sisters, Mrs Howard and Miss Bond, nieces. Commander W Luard RN and Lieut Commander A Luard RN, nephews. Miss Luard, Wickham Bishops, Miss Luard, Birch Rectory, and Misses Fowler, Wickham Bishops, cousins. All the local organisations with which she was associated were represented.

Mrs Annie Ralling, Oral History tape 22
Q: What about the Institute ?
Mrs R: Miss Luard, did you remember Miss Luard? They lived at the Grange and Canon Luard was there as well, and she used to take the Institute choir. We used to enter competitions and we used to win cups. We used to win for sight reading at Colchester and compete – very thrilled yes.
Q: Where was the Institute then ?
Mrs R: Public Hall and we used to go to Miss Luard’s to practice every Wednesday afternoon and it was quite big – there were about twenty of us. There used to be a set of sopranos and contraltos, you see.
Q: Was that when you were grown up ?
Mrs R: Yes, Mrs Gliddon was the President then. Did you know Mrs Gliddon ? She lived down in the Mill House.
Q: Was the Institute [???] Was that the Women’s Institute
Mrs R: The Women’s Institute, Yes. (Q: Were you in that for a long time?) Quite a while. I couldn’t go until my father died about 1950 I think it was and soon after that I joined the WI. They roped me in. And I was on the committee in that at one time. Well you only had to do three years, you see, at that time. And they found out that some of us could sing so we had quite a good choir.
Q: Yes I didn’t know Miss Luard had anything to do with that. Did she do other things in the Institute as well?
Mrs R: No that was her main thing you know.
Q: And which Miss Luard was that? (Mrs R: Can’t think at the moment).

Reg Turner, oral history tape 39
It was Miss Edith Luard who really got her going [his wife Nell]. She came in one day and was speaking about the young couple, how were we getting on. I said I was getting on but wished my wife could get a little more mixed up with things and she took her in hand. Took her to the Women’s Institute and got her and Miss Luard was very keen on amateur dramatics and all this sort of thing and well both Nell and I used to go round doing little sketches, performing in Wickham Bishops and that. I wouldn’t want to do it now, I’d be too nervous. [laugh].

Mrs Coleman, oral history tape 116
And then when they had the Women’s Institute she [Edith Luard] coached the people who were keen to act you know, and they entered for the drama competitions and everything. She was very very good. So was Alice actually, she was good too, but she wasn’t at home so much. And Gertrude ran Sunday Schools and was very good with children. And they all rode bicycles, they had large baskets fore and aft, which were always loaded, we had carriers on the back of a bicycle, which were loaded with stuff, and they were always taking it to people who needed it, you see, or taking something. But you’d see them struggling up the High Street, particularly Edith, and long skirts, you know, and then, as I say, all this stuff piled up, clothing and food I suppose. It wasn’t all from them. Probably they would (Q: They’d have collected it.) … yes, they were sort of voluntary social workers really, as they made it their business you know. But they were a type, course they’re probably not needed now, they were, they were great people.

Miss Pavelin, oral history tape 135
They did the – all the things in the town were all run by [the] Miss Luards. Mothers meetings, Women’s Institute, Girls Friendly Society and everything, that was all the Luards.
Q: Again you would see them about the town?Miss P: Oh, all the time, yes. Always see them.

Miss Hancock, oral history tape 178
And she [Miss H’s sister] was always called upon to play for God Save the Queen, at the Women’s Institute. Oh the Women’s Institute was a great thing of course.

Extracts from email from the late Alan Smith, about his mother and grandmother Picton, injured by a hand grenade at the manse in WW1. His mother Gwyneth was very musical: “after the accident in 1916 , she went to the Royal Academy of Music where she won the medals for her years in piano and violin.” “Having married my father after WW1, her music as a farmer’s wife was limited, but much enjoyed, to running the Women’s Institute Choir and playing the piano at home”.

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