80th Anniversary History 


A souvenir history  to celebrate the 80th Anniversary, was produced in January 2015 as a memento for members. This booklet is available via the link at the bottom of the page.




History of Smisby Women’s Institute


A formation meeting of the Smisby Women’s Institute was held in the Church Room at 6.30 pm on 17th December 1934 where it was proposed and seconded “that a Women’s Institute should be formed in the village of Smisby, to be known as the ‘Smisby Women’s Institute’”; this was unanimously agreed to.   It was further agreed that only 10 members should be elected on to the Committee and that the Institute meetings should be held on the third Thursday of each month at 6.30 pm.   The Officers elected were Miss Hewitt as President, Mrs Hackett as Vice President, Miss I C Hewitt as Treasurer and Mrs Hodson as Secretary.


The first meeting of the Smisby Women’s Institute was held in the Church Room on 17th January 1935 and 24 members were present.   The County Secretary attended the meeting giving an interesting, instructive address and suggesting competitions she thought might prove very useful to the Institute, including gardening and poultry keeping.   She exhibited the County Handicraft Collection she had brought along with her which included some fine specimens in Rugs, Basketry, Embroidery, Leather work, etc.   A letter from the Church Council was read out giving the charge for the room as 4/- per meeting and 1/- for use of crockery and 2d each card table.   On a very limited WI income these prices seemed excessive!   Orders were given for 12 Home & Country magazines and a decision was made to have a lecture on Milk Cookery.   Refreshments were handed round and a very enjoyable time was spent during the social half-hour playing the game “Do you like your neighbour”!


During the war, the Institute made 228cwt of jam, as well as producing hundreds of cans of fruit and vegetables on an American canning machine; the items were sold in aid of the war effort under a Government rationing scheme.   Pennies were collected by the WI Members for the Red Cross, of which the President was a Leader.


On Tuesday, 18th October 1949 a bus carrying Smisby WI members to a WI Group Meeting at Netherseal was in collision with a brewery lorry at Overseal crossroads.    Sadly, two were fatally injured and 20 were hurt, some seriously, in this horrendous accident.  Offers of help and hundreds of letters from all over the country poured in.  It was six months before the Institute held another meeting.


Much happier times followed when members began learning new skills.   Dressmaking and lampshade classes were held and competitions organised; members knitted and crocheted and tried their hand at wickerwork; they made stools, cushion covers, hats and toys.   Their excellent skills were exhibited at the Ashby Show and in 1966 Smisby WI became the proud winner of the Shield for the first time.    They went on to triumphantly win the Shield eight times in twelve years before they celebrated their half century!


The Smisby Women’s Institute Golden Jubilee was celebrated with a Dinner and Sherry Reception in December 1984, when all the past Presidents were invited.   As there were only two, it was a very short roll-call!   Miss Madge Hewitt, the founder president, held the position for 48 years, followed by Miss Marian Bailey.  Mrs Cynthia Massey was president at the time of the Golden Jubilee.


Ten years later the Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in June 1995 with a Strawberry Tea at the home of a former President, Mrs Cynthia Massey and in September 2004, the 70th Anniversary was celebrated with a Dinner and Pimms Reception at the Bay Tree Restaurant in Melbourne.


Smisby WI celebrated the Millennium with a most enjoyable dinner and evening at a member’s home; designed and stitched a fabric brick representing Smisby village and the WI to form part of the Harpur-Crewe Group Wall of Friendship panel; and also visited the excellent NFWI Craft Spectacular held at Tatton Park, Cheshire.



There are still many opportunities to enter various shows and competitions and one of our present members has been very successful over the past decade with her photographic skills. The DFWI (Derbyshire Federation) calendars have featured a number of her photographs.  Another member has won a number of trophies in sporting events organised by the Derbyshire Federation.


Over the years Smisby WI members have enjoyed attending National and County Federation meetings as well as the more local Harpur Crewe Group meetings, Carol Services and social events.


The membership of Smisby WI during the 73 years has fluctuated a little but in general has remained in the low twenties.  Whilst today we still have and enjoy talks and demonstrations about cookery, gardening and handicrafts, we also look forward to hearing about the lady who won the “Women in Transport Award in 2003” driving a 44 ton lorry through England, Scotland and Wales, and having a belly dancing evening!  Both subjects were unheard of 50 years ago!


Smisby WI is one small Institute who still today offer opportunities for all women to enjoy friendship; to learn to widen their horizons and together influence local, national and international affairs.    We still meet every third Thursday of the month, at 7.30 pm in the Village Hall and visitors and new members are always very welcome.



Sue Hickson

February 2008


History of Smisby WI Book 2015