WI goes back to its roots for centenary celebration

Christine Hutchinson, president of Bamburgh WI, and Hilary Robson, chairman of the Northumberland Federation of the WI, cut the cake to celebrate the 100th anniversdary of the first meeting of the Bamburgh group at Bamburgh Castle.
Christine Hutchinson, president of Bamburgh WI, and Hilary Robson, chairman of the Northumberland Federation of the WI, cut the cake to celebrate the 100th anniversdary of the first meeting of the Bamburgh group at Bamburgh Castle.

After exactly a century of meetings, baking, inspiration, education and singing Jerusalem, the members of Bamburgh Women’s Institute went back to their roots for a proper knees-up.

The branch was formed in 1918 after an invitation to women from the village to join Lord and Lady Armstrong for tea at Bamburgh Castle to discuss the organisation.

Claire Thorburn

Claire Thorburn

Last Friday, after a similar invitation had been received from the current owner of the castle, Francis Armstrong, the women were back in the place where it all began 100 years ago to the day to enjoy a birthday celebration.

The women and their guests from the Lindisfarne group and the wider Northumberland Federation of the WI were entertained in the magnificent Kings Hall by BBC Radio Newcastle’s Sue Sweeney before a traditional buffet supper supplied by the nearby Purdy Lodge.

Christine Hutchinson, chairman of Bamburgh WI, told the gathering: “Some of you may be wondering why on earth we are here in this splendid hall.

“Well, in 1918, Lord Armstrong, Francis’ grandfather, heard about the WI movement and obviously liked the sound of it, so he invited some of the Bamburgh ladies to come up to the castle to talk about starting an institute in the village.

“So, on October 5, 1918, 100 years ago today, some ladies came up and were served tea by Lady Armstrong and they obviously thought that Lord Armstrong’s idea was a jolly good one.

“The following week, they met in the Victoria Hotel and elected officers and planned a programme. The next week, October 23, they met again in the Victoria; 33 members were enrolled and so began Bamburgh WI. After a while, the venue changed to the Pavilion, where we still meet today.”

Mr Armstrong’s fiancée, Claire Thorburn, who attended the party, said “On behalf of the Armstrong family, we are extremely proud of Bamburgh Castle’s long-standing connections with Bamburgh Women’s Institute and hope that the organisation continues to go from strength to strength for women in our community.

“It was a privilege that Bamburgh Castle was able to host such a memorable event and to meet inspirational women from all walks of life while enjoying an evening of celebration together.”