In March 16th 1933 Roecliffe WI was inaugurated by Lady Lawson-Tancred. Miss Tankard of Whixley outlined the object and aims of The Women’s Institute. The first bank account was in the Penny Bank and the first social evening was held in December with optional fancy dress. The first President was Mrs Greene, Secretary Lady Lawson-Tancred and Treasurer Miss Troller.
Trawling through the minute books from 1933 onwards, the most striking thing is the degree of social change between then and now. Lack of transport meant that social life revolved around the village and its inhabitants and Roecliffe WI was at the forefront of organising socials, whist drives, plays, concerts, dances, children’s parties, etc. They had a captive audience as there was no competition from television, foreign holidays, trips to London, visits away to look after grandchildren, etc. Money was limited and entertainment was home-made and local. Outings were arranged for members, their families and guests. Speakers spoke mainly on craft-related items or home economic topics, but the wartime minutes make for interesting reading. During the Second world war, in common with WIs throughout England and Wales, Roecliffe WI raised funds for Red Cross, WI Ambulance Fund and local causes such as the Searchlight Unit. It knitted copiously for the troops and provided gifts for all the local boys who were called up. It began First Aid classes for those at home.
Throughout its time Roecliffe WI has been the champion, and often the instigator, of many local initiatives. These include bringing electric lights to the village, starting a bus service, creating safe footpaths, supporting the first Parish Council, filling in the unsafe pond on the village green, campaigning for more council houses, planting trees on the green, providing and maintaining seats in the village and proposing that Roecliffe become a conservation Area.
In more recent times, Roecliffe continues to be a reservoir of a multitude of skills and hobbies, demonstrated in our successful entries of craft, baking and flower arranging classes in the Great Yorkshire Show, and in our very successful and enjoyable Murder Mystery evening.
Like WIs throughout the world, Roecliffe WI has been a powerful voice both locally and nationally. Their hard work, fund-raising and lobbying have changed the face of society as well as educating and inspiring women for more than 100 years. The organisation is now enjoying a resurgence and renaissance and proves that the original values and mission are as relevant today as in the beginning. Visitors and new members are always welcome at our monthly meetings, held on the second Friday in the month in Roecliffe School.
Contact Helen Davison 01423 325677/07879333563.