Celebrating 100 Years of Durham’s WIs

Women’s Institute members from across County Durham will gather for centenary celebrations at Beamish Museum this weekend.

From jam and Jerusalem to parades and crafts, Durham County Federation of Women’s Institutes will mark 100 years with a whole host of activities at the museum this Saturday and Sunday, August 19 and 20.

Hundreds of WI members, carrying banners and wearing sashes, will take part in a grand parade at 2.30pm each day from The Town to The Pit Village, accompanied by Beamish vehicles and the Off Key Big Band. The women will then join visitors for a rousing rendition of the WI anthem, Jerusalem, in The Colliery Yard.

Visitors can watch a 1917 WI meeting, hear Suffragette songs and stories, make flags to wave in the parade, have a go at flower arranging, learn about the WI through the years and see jam being made in the Edwardian WI member’s house.

Matthew Henderson, Remaking Beamish – Engagement Development Officer, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with the Durham County Federation of Women’s Institutes.

“After celebrating the national centenary of the WI in 2015, it is amazing to focus on a local story. The ladies have worked so hard to prepare fantastic crafts, flowers and displays, which we can’t wait to see and we’re hoping the parade will be one to remember with hundreds of ladies taking part, celebrating and showcasing their heritage.”

Beamish Museum even has its own WI. Alison Whelan, Beamish WI President, said: “We’re delighted to be hosting the Durham Federation centenary parade. We can’t wait to join the other WIs from all around the county and march proudly through the museum with our banner. It’s wonderful to be part of the event.

“Visitors can meet Mrs Jones, the dentist’s wife, in her parlour as she hosts the inaugural 1917 meeting of Beamish WI with her committee and ladies from The Town.”

A visitor handout will feature a commemorative design by Pam Bell, of Newton Hall WI, chosen in a competition among the federation’s members.

Sue Fox, of the Durham County Federation of WIs’ Membership Support Committee, said: “Our members are looking forward to a great weekend for the 100 year celebration.”

In 2015, Beamish hosted celebrations to mark the national centenary of the WI.

Beamish is open daily from 10am to 5pm (last admission 3pm). The WI centenary celebrations are free to Beamish Unlimited Pass holders, as with all daytime events.