Wealden WI scrapbooks from 60s give insight into village life

A COLLECTION of handmade, embroidered scrapbooks made by WI members in 1965 provide a unique glimpse of village life nearly half a century ago.

The WI scrapbooks - which include snippets of information from villages such as Burwash, Dallington and Waldron - were added to the 6,000-plus WI related items - the largest collection in the UK.

They show that village industries such as bee-keeping, rose farms, charcoal burning and hop-picking predominated. Leisure pursuits included stoolball, dog and pony-breeding, bell-ringing, cricket and the pub darts team. Householders took daily deliveries from grocers, bakers, butchers, fishmongers and laundries, and in some villages there was a doctor’s surgery twice a week.

While many families enjoyed new electric and gas cookers, some had no bathrooms or WCs, and depended on water from a nearby well. Sprung mattresses were a new luxury but some still preferred ‘the old feather bed, so cosy in winter’.

Favourite family recipes were passed such as Bacon Pudding passed through generations and old Sussex words such as ‘anywhen’ (anytime) and ‘dick’ (ditch) were still in use. They celebrated local celebrities; Mr Douch the church clockwinder retiring after 48 years, Mr Jarvis the butcher whose father and grandfather had been butchers before him and Mr Oakley who drove a 1907 Cadillac which sometimes ‘reached a speed of 30 miles an hour.’

Some lucky WI members braved rain in May to attend a Buckingham Palace garden party but found themselves buying last-minute winter underwear in London as temperatures plummeted.