Burpham Afternoon Women’s Institute (WI)

Moira MacQuaide’s history of Burpham

The WI came to Britain in 1915 from Canada, and in 1931 the women of Burpham opened their own branch as an afternoon meeting.

At the time most married women stayed at home as wives and mothers, so it was a great opportunity to get out of the house and mix with others of like mind. The founder members included the Hon. Mrs Hopewell, Mrs Bidwell, Mrs Berry, Mrs Marshall and Mrs Grover, as well as Mrs Gatley, Mrs Andrews, Mrs Binsted, Mrs Sturgess and Mrs Sheppard.

The WI has a long history of fund-raising, education for women and lifelong friendships. In 1936 the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that “Burpham Surrey Women’s Institute decided, after a debate, that married women have a better time than single women”. In 1939 the Surrey Advertiser reported that “the choir gave a very spirited performance of old songs”; also that Mrs Braybrooke won the potato competition with one of 26lbs. They ran jumble sales and outings, as well as organising Christmas parties for the village.

The ladies were kept busy during the war, making swabs for the local hospital, or marmalade. There were collections of baby clothes and prams for the evacuated mothers staying at Gosden House, and toys for the evacuated children.

“Burpham Surrey Women’s Institute decided, after a debate, that married women have a better time than single women”.
Yorkshire Evening Post, 1936

Social activities continued, but were often interrupted due to air raids. In the days before the NHS the WI members would collect eggs, vegetables and potatoes for local hospitals. After the war, life returned to normality and records show that WI meetings would begin with everyone singing Jerusalem, the WI song, and minutes reported the Chairlady saying “and so ended another interesting and happy meeting”.

In 1952 there was a minute’s silence in memory of the late King George VI, followed by singing the National Anthem. In 1953 members went on a coach trip to London, to see the Coronation illuminations. They were asked to make flowers for the Civic Restaurant, and were invited to the Coronation celebrations at Sutton Green. In 1954 the WI was asked to help provide for a playing field in Burpham, so they raised money at social events and ran a stall as part of the fete for the Grand Opening in 1956.

The WI had a drama group, which put on plays in the village hall. In 1964, as part of the 33rd birthday celebrations for the branch, money was raised for Burpham Homes and the Betatron Appeal for St Luke’s Hospital. In 1965 the National Federation celebrated the Golden Jubilee and Mrs Joan Petry was invited to represent Burpham at a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

The current Burpham Evening WI started in 1989, to reflect the changes of modern life, with more women out at work during the day. By 1991 the Afternoon WI closed down, when they were unable to enlist a new Treasurer, having been an important part of the village for 60 years. However, the Evening WI continues to thrive in the Burpham community.


If you are willing to share your memories and/or photos to tell us more about Burpham then please contact Moira MacQuaide, either by e-mail (moira.macquaide@gmail.com) or by phone or text (07963 756543). My two books (‘The History of Burpham Primary School’ and ‘Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford’) are still available from me for £10 (free delivery locally) or on Amazon.