Denton a village in South Norfolk, England

Denton WI - History

The Denton Branch of the Women’s Institute traces its roots back to 1920.
The initial meeting was held in the Vestry at the Chapel on December 10th 1920 and the first Committee was appointed.
The first Committee Meeting took place on December 22nd 1920 at Beck House.
The first General Meeting was held on January 18th 1921 in the Vestry at the Chapel where 19 members joined.

The correct date to celebrate the Branch's Centenary was thus open to debate. It was decided to go ahead in 2021 but, due to the Coronavirus emergency, it was posponed until 2022.
Eventually more than 60 members and former members gathered at the Village Hall to celebrate the milestone on June 7th.

The following information was included in the evening's brochure.

A Brief History of The WI


In 1915, the first WI meeting in Britain is held in Anglesey (Wales). Only two years later, the National Federation of WIs, a democratic, non-party political and voluntary organisation, is formed and mainly led by women who were involved in the suffrage movement. WI members pass the first resolution in 1918, urging local authorities to take advantage of the government scheme for state-aided housing. By then 137 WIs have opened.


1924 marks the year WI members sing "Jerusalem" for the very first time. It was specially composed for the WI and adopted because of its links with the suffrage movement. Little did the WI members know that their "performance" at the Annual Meeting in London would start a tradition that continues to this day. Denton WI is formed at The Chapel later moving meeting to the village hall.


In 1938, the British Government asks the Women's Institutes to help with preparations for the potential evacuation of children to the countryside in the event of war. Additionally, the WI, now a force of over 290.000 women, sets up a Produce Guild to encourage members to produce more home-grown food and preserve fruit and vegetables.


During World War II, the WI plays a vital role in growing and preserving food and looking after evacuees. To highlight just one achievement: in 1940, the NFWI manages to obtain £ 1,400 worth of sugar that is distributed to Fruit Preservation Centres and prevents more than 1600 tons of produce from rotting.
It is also during the 1940s that a WI resolution demands equal pay for men and women.
After the war, in 1948, Denman College, the WI's centre for learning, first opens its doors to students.


After passing a resolution to start a national anti-litter campaign, the WI and 25 other UK organisations form the Keep Britain Tidy group.


Looking back at the past 50 years, the WI has more than enough reason for a great celebration of its Golden Jubilee in 1965. As President of a WI herself, Queen Elizabeth II invites her fellow members to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. During this memorable decade, WIs also greatly support the Freedom From Hunger Campaign in raising awareness of the problem of worldwide hunger and male nutrition. Together, the existing 8.500 WIs manage to raise over £ 180.000 for FFHC.


Still mainly supporting rural life, the WI also challenges issues of a more political nature, such as requesting a policy for recycling of waste, raising concerns about increased marine pollution and urging that more rented accommodation should be made available to alleviate homelessness.
During the Great Jam Debate, the NFWI successfully lobbies for members to be exempt from having to register with the local authority to sell jam to the public.


After voting for more information to be made available to the public around HIV and AIDS at the Annual General Meeting in 1986, WI members campaign to raise awareness on the immunodeficiency virus.


Now a charitable company, the 1990s opens with the celebration of the WIs 75th anniversary.
Shortly after, in 1993, the NFWI becomes a founding member of the Fair Trade Foundation and, throughout the decade, continues to establish partnerships with other organisations, such as Carers UK, to further develop and strengthen its campaigning efforts. Furthermore, Denman College is expanded by several cottages and various exhibitions as well as festivals, such as “Focus on Europe”, and conferences are held.


Tony Blair, British Prime Minister at that time, sends the WI off into the new millennium with a buzz-generating speech at the 2000 Triennial General Meeting. As some of the 6,000 WI members present feel Blair is using the occasion to make a party political statement, they show their disapproval with a slow hand-clap. It is only three years later that the WI once again attracts the attention of the media when the movie “Calendar Girls”, starring Dame Helen Mirren, is released. The "Care not Custody" campaign demands alternatives for prisoners with severe mental health problems and resolutions urging reduced packaging to minimise waste and to further research the plight of bees are put forward. In 2007, the new membership magazine WI Life launches and becomes part of every member’s subscription. Only two years later, the WI Cookery School opens at Denman College.


After breaking the world record for the most people knitting simultaneously at the AGM in 2012, WI members have even more reason to celebrate in 2015 as the Women's Institute marks its centenary.
A year of festivities begins, including the WI Centennial Fair and Her Majesty The Queen addressing members at the Annual General Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2012, the first WI inside a women’s prison is formed. Since then, other prisons in the UK have followed the example, hoping to improve their inmates’ mental health.
During this decade, key campaigns focus on environmental and social issues such as domestic violence against women, mental health, climate change and microplastic pollution.
Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the NFWI offices temporarily close and WI members once again show their resilience and collective strength by keeping their communities connected and supporting those in need. From sewing for the NHS, supporting food banks and delivering prescriptions, the WI Community Champions go above and beyond to help others.
To celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride, the WI logo temporarily shines in the colours of the Pride flag.

Another Commemoration

In 2023 it was decided to mark the Centenary in a permanent fashion but to link it with the sad end of Queen Elizabeth's reign in 2022.
The result was the planting of an Oak tree to record both events in the grounds of the Chapel. When it has grown to a reasonable size a suitable notice will be placed upon it.

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