Summer Garden Tea Party

A gorgeous sunny afternoon for Knebworth WI ladies and guests to enjoy their annual afternoon tea in Rosemary’s gorgeous garden.  Cakes galore, endless pots of tea and loads of catching up with friends. Just as we like it.

Lady Constance Lytton and The Suffragette Movement

To celebrate this year’s centenary of the Suffragette Movement our talk in June was about “Lady Constance Lytton & the Suffragette Movement”.   Jill Campbell, an Archivist from Knebworth House told how this aristocratic lady, born in 1869, campaigned vigorously for women’s rights and how she suffered ill health as a result of being sent to prison on four times.

She never recovered from her ill treatment in prison, which included force feeding, and was nursed by her mother at Homewood House in Knebworth until 1923.  She died that year aged 54 and so she did live to see some women get the right to vote in 1918.  Constance was buried in the family mausoleum in the grounds of Knebworth House.

Annual Meeting

At our annual meeting we reflected on the year’s events with a slideshow which brought back many happy memories. Jean was presented with flowers after retiring from committee after 40 years! Ros, Phyl, Barbara and Val also received flowers as they have been members since our Institute started 48 years ago.

Cakes for the Hospice

Our Knebworth WI ladies generously made cakes for the Garden House Hospice in Letchworth, something they have been doing for many years, and Linda and Sheila delivered them on a lovely sunny April morning.  The cakes are a treat for the patients and visitors of the Hospice when they have afternoon tea.

The Hertfordshire Way

Liz Hamilton was our speaker in April and gave us an illustrated talk on how she walked the 194 mile Hertfordshire Way.  A circular walking trail which is divided into 16 legs, Liz walked it in as many days over the course of nearly a year and it took her 90 hours.

Her photographs showed the Hertfordshire landscape and many hidden treasures of village churches and woodlands.  Some of our members, who are keen ramblers, were inspired to give it a try. 

Liz referred us to the website of National Campaign to Protect Rural England where they highlight a “Walk of the Month” which is a short circular route within the county.

The Swinging Sixties Party

We looked ‘ab fab’ as we celebrated our birthday in March.  The theme of the party was the Swinging Sixties and so we dressed up in style; mini skirts, white boots, berets, flared trousers and bouffant hair – it was all happening!  Some dresses were the originals and one in particular had been worn by one of our members for her engagement in 1963.  It was so stylish and wouldn’t have been out of place in today’s boutiques.  How many of us keep our clothes for that long and then can still fit in them?

(There was a delicious buffet provided by the members and this was followed by entertainment from musician Paul Griggs (formerly of the 70s band Guys and Dolls} who sang us some sixties songs.  As it brought back the memories we sang along and then got up and danced around our handbags, just as we had done many years before.  Who remembers the Mecca Ballroom?

Time to Chat

Knebworth WI had their first meeting in their new location, Knebworth Village Hall, this month.  “Time to Chat” was our theme so we started the meeting with an all inclusive game that gave everyone a chance to take part.  The game was speed dating (no men involved!) – which meant we all sat at tables and talked to the person opposite for just 3 minutes, rotating round the room until we had spoken to as many people as we could.  We found out what we had in common with each other and then shared some of the stories at the end of the evening.  It was great fun and very noisy!  Cheese and wine was served by the committee during the evening and as usual we had a sales table and raffle.

Preparing for Christmas

Preparing for Christmas was the theme of the December meeting and we had great fun making fresh Christmas wreaths with Catherine from Lucas May, the florist in the village.

While some of the ladies were busy with their ribbons and foliage others were grappling with strings of fairy lights and piles of fabric and made delightful strings of rag fairy lights.

Mince pies and coffee were served while we beavered away with our creations, listening to Christmas music, drawing our raffle, hearing a report on the Annual Council Meeting and catching up with the gossip. Lots of multi-tasking. We are good at that!

We also all gathered together again for a delicious Christmas lunch at The Chequers in Woolmer Green and then to see the Jack in the Beanstalk Pantomime at Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage.

Christmas was just beginning…

The History of Broadwater

At our January meeting, our speaker, Roy Falder, kept us entertained with so many interesting facts and amusing anecdotes about his family who have lived in Broadwater since the 1700’s. Broadwater was a hamlet, part of the Parish of Shephall and was at the fork of the Great North Road and Hertford Road. Shephall had the church, a pub and the school but Broadwater had the shop, post office, a pub and most importantly transport to the outside world.

Some of the fascinating buildings that were of interest included the original Broadwater Cottage (circa 1600’s – 1700’s) which was a wooden structure with an earth floor, brick chimney stack and the water supply was brought from a local spring. Another was the Smithy, (circa 1410 – 1430) which through the years had many transformations including a petrol station, and after the war a sweet shop, then the shop was converted into a bedroom annex. The garden to the south was sold and an old style cottage was built on the space. Then in 2013 disaster struck when the owners wanted to extend the building and their builder demolished the grade two listed smithie with his JCB. The irony is that the local authority planning department took them to court but they had demolished quite a few old cottages themselves, deemed as unfit for habitation.

The Roebuck Pub wasn’t originally called that but known locally as The Broadwater, and was a travellers’ rest run by monks and in the 1800’s McMullens took ownership. Broadwater Farm was owned by the Lytton Estate but when the Great Northern Railway arrived some of the land was owned by the railway and after 1949 much of it was owned by Stevenage Development Corporation. We all learnt so much about Broadwater and next time we are at Tescos we will take a closer look at the surroundings because of the many interesting facts regarding the area.

Roy has written a book on the history of Broadwater which includes many interesting stories of the life of the hamlet.