The museum was very pleased to include a display to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Ash Afternoon Women’s Institute in our first exhibition in May 2003. This organisation has now closed, but some of the members joined the Pirbright Women’s Institute in 2004. Before closure the Ash Afternoon Women’s Institute kindly decided to give Ash Museum two scrapbooks containing news cuttings, leaflets and photographs relating to activities and members over the last 20 years. These can now be seen in the History Room (ref 300/1-2).
The scrapbooks contain two articles entitled “Memories of Ash Afternoon”, from which we have compiled this short history of the organisation.
Ash Green Women’s Institute was formed on Thursday 10th December 1953 at a meeting held in St Peter’s Hall. The first committee meeting was held in January 1954 at Ash Green Stores, and the first monthly meeting took place at St Peter’s Hall on 28th January. There were 25 members and a block booking for the hall for a year cost £3 12s.
In December 1959 St Peter’s Hall was burnt down. The Ash Green Women’s Institute was very grateful to be able to continue to meet in the Catholic Hall, where there was a dilapidated grand piano and the stove was difficult to light and belched smoke when a north wind blew. They returned to St Peter’s Hall when it was rebuilt.
1965 saw the 50th Anniversary of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. To celebrate this event the Queen invited one member from each institute to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace. The names of all the members were put in a hat and Mrs Hilma Hocking was the lucky winner. Her invitation read: “THE LORD CHAMBERLAIN is commanded by Her Majesty to invite Mrs Hilma Hocking to an Afternoon Party in the Garden of Buckingham Palace to mark the Golden Jubilee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, on Monday the 31st May 1965 from 4 to 6 o’clock pm. Afternoon Dress with Hat (Weather Permitting).”
On 23rd January 1975 the whole group blew out 21 candles in one go, and made a secret wish.
In 1980 Mrs Todhunter, an ex opera singer and ex ATS troubleshooter, who had rescued British families and servicemen from Palestine, presented “The Todhunter Cup” for the produce show.
The group changed its name to Ash Afternoon Women’s Institute in 1988.
In September 1990 a cake topped with a miniature tea-set was made to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the NFWI; and Mrs France was presented with a gift to thank her for playing the piano since 1954.
One of the group’s oldest active members, Mrs Lillie Button was 102 years old on 27th February 1992. Born in Ash, and educated in India, Mrs Button had been a member of the WI for 69 years. She joined Ash WI in 1923, and transferred to Ash Afternoon WI in 1979. Also in 1992, Mrs Mercia Griffiths embroidered a picture of St Peter’s Church. This was Ash’s contribution to a wall hanging representing all 130 WIs in the Surrey Federation of WIs, which was about to celebrate its 75th Anniversary.
The group’s motto was:
Keeping together is progress
Working together is success”