Monthly Archives: May 2016

Workshop May 2016

A very enjoyable time was had by the members who attended the workshop on Saturday 21st May, at St.Lawrence’s Church Hall. Several made the “disappearing 9 patchwork” cushion covers and a few members attempted the beach hut scene. Everyone went away very happy with what they had achieved. We hope to hold another workshop in the autumn, so if you have anything you would like to try, please let us know

Hot Topics May 2016

HOT TOPICS – Meeting 16th May 2016
Fiona, our president, opened the meeting and before introducing Eunice who later created some beautiful flower arrangements, she welcomed 79 members and 3 guests.

Fiona spoke about our many successful clubs and who members should speak to if they wanted to join any. As the wine club was full, she asked if people would be interested in setting up another one. If so Katharine had kindly offered to give advice on activities etc. Please contact a member of the committee if you are interested.

Morden Hall Park
Fiona also mentioned the Open Air Theatre at Morden Hall Park where they are showing “Much Ado About Nothing” on Friday, 12th August, at 7.30pm. For more details visit their website.

Plant Sale and Flower Arranging
Monday night’s plant sale raised £96 and the wonderful flower arrangements created by Eunice were raffled off making another £25.50 for our charity of the year, Home-Start, Merton. Thank you to everyone who brought in plants and seeds.

Eileen reminded people about the patchwork and collage workshop we will be holding at St. Lawrence Church Hall, Morden, on Saturday, 21st May between 10.00 and 2.00. We still have places so if you decide you would like to come, please contact Dulcie by email
Julia showed some of the lovely little “fish and chip jumpers and hats” which she will be taking out to Kenya in October and encouraged members to have a go as the patterns are very simple and easy to follow. Here is the link to the “fish and chip” baby jumper pattern as shown on Monday

Liz is offering to lead any willing participants on a walk which starts at New Malden station and finishes at Putney Bridge. Link to Beverly Brook PDF
The total walk is 8 miles but there are several drop out points along the way. These include Wimbledon Common leading up to the village.
There is a cafe at Roehampton Gate – so we could have a break en route!

The dates she has in mind are Friday 10th June or Friday 1st July (favourite date so far after Monday’s meeting) starting at 10.00am from New Malden station. If anyone is interested in coming, please let her know by email or at the next meeting. She looks forward to seeing you.

Wimbledon Fair
Veronica mentioned the Wimbledon Village Fair on Saturday, 18th June as this is the last meeting before the event. She asked for members to sign up for supplying produce and/or for helping on the day. A recent email was sent out with all the information needed for the day but if you have any queries please contact Veronica.

Our next meeting is on Monday, 20th June when we will have a talk and demonstration from Tasha Marks on “Conceptual Confectionery and Edible Art”. So we look forward to seeing you either at the Fair on the 18th or on the Monday.
The Committee

Hot Topics April 2016

Before introducing, Tim Mann, the speaker for the evening, Fiona, our president, opened the meeting by welcoming 66 members and 2 new members. She then went on to say how guests are welcome and we are always pleased to see them. She reminded us that guests can attend free for their first visit and then twice more at £4 per visit and then they are expected to join.

Lys, our secretary, gave us some information about the two resolutions we were about to vote on, the result of which would go forward to the final vote at the Annual Meeting in Brighton on 11th June. The outcome of the votes is:
Avoid food waste, address food poverty
‘The WI calls on all supermarkets to sign up to a voluntary agreement to avoid food waste, thereby passing surplus food on to charities thus helping to address the issue of increasing food poverty in the UK.’ – 39 votes

Appropriate care in hospitals for people with dementia
‘We call upon HM Government and the NHS to provide facilities to enable carers to stay with people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that have been admitted into hospital.’ – 29 votes

March and May Meetings
Fiona mentioned that the Quiz in March was a great evening and we had made £653 for our chosen charity, Home Start Merton. She congratulated everybody who had helped to make it a success. Fiona reminded us that next month will be a Plant Sale and everyone is invited to bring seedlings, cuttings, plants, shrubs to sell to raise money for our chosen charity.

Wimbledon Fair
Veronica gave a short talk on Wimbledon Fair and asked people to sign up for both making produce to sell and for helping on the day. She went on to say Wimbledon Fair is our main fundraiser paying for the hire of the hall, speakers, Denman bursaries etc. She also reminded us that we can’t sell produce with cream or meat in, or anything that may deteriorate in the heat.

Rosey shared her concern about the future of Denman and mentioned the fundraising appeal to save Denman in the March edition of WI Life. The appeal is that if all WI members give £10 over the next 2 years it would make a huge difference. The money would be added to the budget for ongoing maintenance of the buildings and grounds and help to keep Denman afloat. Rosey will be sending the money she collected from members on Monday to the “Saving Denman Appeal”. Denman is a wonderful facility and enjoyed by so many and if members wish to donate to this worthy cause or need more information, please contact Rosey.

Eileen thanked members for all the wonderful knitted and sewn items that were recently taken to Kenya. She then went on to mention the sign-up sheet for the patchwork and collage workshop we will be holding at St. Lawrence Church Hall, Morden, on Saturday, 21st May between 10.00 and 2.00. We still have places so if you decide you would like to come, please contact Dulcie by email.

Merton Voluntary Police Cadets
Tim Mann from Merton Voluntary Police Cadets started off his talk by thanking the WI for their generous Christmas Gifts and to say that these were really appreciated when they were distributed across the borough.

Tim then went on to give us a very uplifting talk about the Merton Voluntary Police Cadets. He said it is a voluntary, uniformed, youth organisation run by the Metropolitan Police Service for young, local people aged from 13 upwards and recently they have started a junior section for 10+. There are over 95 units across the 32 boroughs with 4000 cadets and these cadets come from various backgrounds. He said 45% are from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups; 35% from vulnerable backgrounds and that there is a 50/50 male/female ratio.

Tim introduced us to some of his cadets who told us their name, age and what they liked about being a cadet. Not only do they do a lot of work with schools and in the community, they have also been involved in many key events such as the Olympics, Golden Jubilee, Marathon, Notting Hill Carnival, Remembrance Sunday, Trooping the Colour, and various other Royal events. They also take part in “test purchasing operations” and various crime scenarios where their opinions and suggestions are listened to and taken seriously.

A lot of the new recruits come with low self-esteem and little confidence and Tim said it was great to see them make new friends, gain in confidence and develop personally within such a short time of joining the cadets. He is obviously very proud of his cadets and deservedly so as they are a credit to the youth of today, who often get such bad press, and they make great ambassadors.

Visit to Parham House April 2016

Wimbledon WI Visit to Parham House, Sussex,
On Friday 22 April 2016

Twenty five of us left by coach from outside the Ursuline School promptly at 9.30 on Friday morning for our visit to the historic Parham House in Sussex. We had a fascinating tour of the house led by our knowledgeable guide, Philippa.

Parham House nestles in the South Downs and was, prior to the English Reformation, part of the extensive property portfolio of the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey. When Henry VIII appropriated the Abbey’s wealth at the Dissolution of the Monastery in January 1540 he sold the old manor house at Parham to Robert Palmer, a London Mercer, for £1255. Palmer was clearly a member of the inner circle of the Court – his son married a god-daughter of Elizabeth I. Since 1540 only three families have owned house which has been continually occupied as a family home for 448 years.

In 1577 Robert Palmer demolished the old house and began the construction of the fine stone Elizabethan manor house that has remained essentially the same to the present day. Robert’s son, Thomas, sold the house to Sir Thomas Bysshopp in 1601 and the house and estate remained the Bysshopp family’s principal residence until it was sold to the Hon. Clive Pearson (2nd son of the 1st Viscount Cowdray) and his wife, Alicia, for £200,000 in 1922.

We began our tour in the Great Hall – a magnificent space with oak-panelled walls, flagstone flooring and a vast open fireplace. This had been the servants’ hall and it has an enclosed gallery at one end (which was the steward’s quarters) and a stairs leading up to the family’s living quarters at the other end. From there we progressed to the family rooms which are laid out in the style popular with wealthy Elizabethan merchants. Every room, including the servants’ quarters, has an uninterrupted view of the South Downs. No other building is visible from any of the many large windows of the house. Of particular note is the long gallery. Now furnished with artefacts connected with the various owners of the manor, including a charming collection of Victorian and Edwardian toys from the nursery, the original purpose of the gallery was to provide a space for indoor exercise during inclement weather. As such, the only furniture would have been one or two benches along the walls for the use of those playing indoor bowls, possibly tennis, and certainly walking up and down. One lord of the manor is said to have exercised his local militia there. Another room of note is the splendid Tudor kitchen which now serves as a restaurant and is where we had lunch.

The 20th century history of the house is, arguably, the most interesting. Having acquired the estate in 1922 the Pearsons spent the rest of their lives hunting artefacts, art works and furniture associated with Parham. The fruits of this labour of love can be seen in all the public rooms. For example, they found at auction the fine Worcester dessert set presented to Cecil Bysshopp by his parents on his marriage to Lady Charlotte Townsend in 1805. Sadly, Lady Charlotte died childless in 1807 and Cecil, an army officer, was killed in action during the American-British Trade War of 1812-1815. The dessert set is displayed in the lovely Regency Drawing Room, so called because Cecil’s mother had the room altered and decorated in the ‘modern style’ in the early 1800’s. The room remains exactly as it was at the time of Lady Charlotte’s death.

Alicia Pearson and her mother were also avid collectors of embroidery and tapestry and their impressive collection is, where appropriate, interspersed with the Pearsons’ other collections throughout the house. The finest pieces are, probably, the pre-1590 flame-stitched four poster bed hangings and the 17th century flame-stitched silk carpet that dominate the West Room, which was Alicia’s bedroom.
In 1939 30 children from Peckham, South East London, were evacuated to Parham House. The Pearsons welcomed these city children, most of whom had never seen the countryside before. Clive built them a wooden playhouse in the grounds and, in order to encourage them to eat vegetables, divided a section of the walled garden into small plots, provided the children with tools and seeds and proceeded to teach them the art of kitchen gardening. He then introduced a competition for the best crops. This was a great success and further encouraged the children to ‘eat up their greens’.

In 1942 the military authorities requisitioned half of the house for billeting Canadian Officers and the evacuees’ idyll came to an end. The children were separated and re-housed with families in nearby Storrington while the family was moved to the other half of the house. Soldiers of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions were billeted in Nissen huts in the grounds.

After the war the Pearsons restored the house and grounds but continued to live in what had become known as the ‘private half’. In 1948 they opened the other half to the public charging 2/6 for adults and 1/6 for children. On opening day, 17th July, 61 visitors came and the house and estate has welcomed a steady stream of visitors ever since.

The Pearsons’ great-granddaughter, Lady Emma Barnard, is the present owner and she now lives in the ‘private half’ with her husband and two young sons. She has inherited her great-grandparents love of the house and estate which she maintains to a very high standard. The kitchen garden supplies the family and the restaurant with seasonal vegetable and fruit: a large section of the garden is set aside for growing cutting flowers and there is a display of home grown seasonal flowers in every room all year round. And, even on a wet, cold day, the formal gardens were a delight. Tulips were the dominant flower on Friday and one of the gardeners told me that he and his colleagues planted 18,000 tulip bulbs last autumn to supplement the unquantifiable number already in the ground.

Unfortunately, our time in the gardens was rather spoilt by heavy rain and we set off for home at 3pm, an hour earlier than expected. But despite the weather we had a wonderful time.

Thank you Wimbledon WI for another truly memorable outing.

26 April 2016.

Visit to Metropolitan Police February 2016

Wimbledon WI visit to the Metropolitan Police
Thames Division Museum on Friday 19th February 2016.

After some misadventures with trains and an encounter with two officers from the riot squad I, and two others, were half an hour late joining the group from Wimbledon WI at the Thames Division Museum on Friday, 19 February. However, the knowledgeable volunteer curator, retired PC Robert Jeffries, later filled us in on what we had missed so this summary should not be found wanting.
The visit consisted of a talk of about one and a half hours and about 45 minutes viewing the exhibits in the relatively small museum.
By the last decade of the 18th century London importers were experiencing annual losses of about £500,000 through pilfering by ‘lumpers’ – the original term for dock labourers. About half of these losses were borne by the West India merchants. Patrick Colquhoun, a London magistrate and social reformer, alarmed at ‘the nature and extent of the various moral evils’ then afflicting society came up with a scheme for policing the metropolis which he presented to a member of the government who read it with interest. The scheme included a plan to register ‘Lumpers’ of good character and the formation of a River Police which Colquhoun discussed with a committee of the West India merchants who unanimously endorsed it. Meanwhile two other magistrates, John Harriott and Mr. Staples, had also become concerned by the extent of theft from merchant vessels. Harriott wrote to the Duke of Portland, Secretary of State for the Home Department, advising His Grace of the commercial benefits to London in general and the Treasury in particular if an official River Police force were formed to reduce cargo theft. The Treasury was losing an estimated £20,000 – £30,000 annually on customs duties applicable to goods that never reached the bonded warehouses. Harriott was a difficult personality who had, over the years, offended many people including Colquhoun and, presumably, the Duke of Portland who never answered his letter. Staple took Harriott’s idea to Colquhoun who was then in the process of amending his own treatise with legal advice from Jeremy Bentham, the 18th century lawyer, philosopher and social reformer. Colquhoun was so impressed with Harriott’s ideas that he suggested they put aside their differences, amalgamate their ideas into one treatise and re-present it to the government. This they did and the Chancellor of the Exchequer promptly agreed to meet part of the expense of establishing an experimental ‘Marine Police Establishment’ for one year and the West India merchants agreed to meet the balance. Colquhoun became the ‘Superintending Magistrate’, Harriott the ‘Resident Magistrate’, and the mooted register of Master Lumpers was created. Thus in 1798 the first workers ‘closed shop’ came into being and the first official, state sponsored police force in the world was founded. The total set-up and running costs for that initial year were £4,200. The new force of 50 officers, armed with muskets, policed about 33,000 river workers of whom about 11,000 were, according to Colquhoun, known criminals.
The new force soon proved its worth: within the year £122,000 worth of cargo was saved and many people were rescued from the river. But, as can be imagined, the river workers were not happy about the significant reduction in the perks of their trade or the exclusion from the docks of those deemed to be of bad character. Before long the first protesters rioted outside the new Police Station at 98, Wapping High Street (which is still Thames Division Headquarters today). About 2,000 rioters converged outside the building intent on burning it down with Harriott and some of the officers inside. The riot was quelled but during the conflict Gabriel Franks, who as a registered Master Lumper was seen by the mob as in cahoots with the police, was shot and died later in hospital. Gabriel has the dubious distinction of being the first recorded ‘police’ death.
The success of the force was such that in 1800 Parliament passed the Marine Police Bill which established the force by law and brought it directly under Home Office control. Its strength was increased to 88 officers and watermen and their remit was extended throughout the London Metropolitan area. The Marine Police were the official London Police force until 1829 when it became Thames Division of the newly established Metropolitan Police force.
It is possible to trace the social history of London through some of the significant crimes and accidental disasters that the Division had to deal with during the 19th century. For example, on the evening of 3 September 1878 the pleasure steamer Princess Alice was within sight of North Woolwich pier on her return journey from a day trip to Sheerness when she collided with a collier, SS Bywell Castle. The steamer was spliced in two and sank within four minutes with the loss of more than 650 lives. The unusual speed with which the victims were sucked down into the river and the appalling condition of recovered bodies was attributed to the 75 million gallons of raw sewage that was then being released twice daily into the Thames from the Barking and Crossness outfalls of the recently constructed London Drainage system. The evening discharge had occurred about one hour before the accident. This stimulated research into sewage disposal which eventually led to the sophisticated sewage treatment centres in use around the world today. At the time the proposed short term solution was to take the raw sewage far out to sea by boat! The tragedy also led to the modernisation of the River Police when The Board of Trade enquiry into the accident resolved that Thames Division, which was still using rowing boats, should be equipped with steam launches to make them ‘…better able to perform rescues’.
After a fascinating talk by the curator we were free to examine the museum’s exhibits. These include uniforms and documents tracing the history of the River police from its inception to the present day, everyday police hardware from handcuffs to cutlasses, the ensign from the ill-fated Princess Alice and much else.
More information about the museum can be found at and a more comprehensive history of the River police, including details of some of the infamous crimes they have dealt with, can be found at

24 February 2016.
My thanks to Vanessa for guiding me to the above mentioned websites.

Visit to Fan Museum January 2016

Wimbledon WI visit to the Fan Museum at Greenwich
On 20th January 2016
Fifteen of us visited this fascinating museum on 20th January 2016.
The Museum is housed in two adjoining houses, built in 1721 in the reign of George I, that have been meticulously restored to their original glory.
We were greeted in the Reception Room by Helene Alexander, the founder and current Director of the Museum Trust, who gave us a brief overview of the foundation of the Trust, the work involved in restoring the buildings and the care and maintenance of the collections. We then adjourned to the Orangery for coffee and biscuits.
Although not part of the museum as such the Orangery is worth mentioning. Looking out over a charming garden laid out in the formal style if the early 18th century, the Orangery walls are covered in Italianate murals (painted by Jane Barraclough, a theatrical designer with whom Helene has been friends since they were at art school together in the 1950s). The central light fitting is a chandelier style piece in Venetian glass acquired by Helene on a recent visit to Venice. The tables were laid with fine china, also provided by Helene, which complemented the elegant surroundings.
After coffee we returned to the Reception Room, met our very knowledgeable guide, Mary Kitson, and began our tour.
Mary explained that the museum comprises two distinct displays: one on the ground floor which is permanent and serves as an introduction to fans – their history, manufacture and variety; the other on the first floor which is thematic and changes several times a year. It was our good fortune to be the first group to visit this, the museum’s 25th anniversary, year. For this celebratory event the museum has dug deep into its collections and mounted a display of remarkably diverse fans spanning the period 1590 to 2016.
We began in the Reception Room itself which is dedicated to un-mounted and extended European fan leaves dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These are, in effect, the decorated or painted leaves of fans that have been framed as pictures after the fan has been dismantled. Mary explained that Monarchs, particularly Louis XIV of France, habitually requisitioned the precious metals and gems that decorated fans to finance their wars. As the leaves of the fans were usually works of art in themselves the owners did their best to conserve them. Among the unmounted fan leaves displayed in the Reception Room is an elaborate ‘painting’ on vellum depicting the Grand Dauphin’s twentieth birthday celebrations. This ‘window’ onto French Court life during the reign of Louis XIV is one of the museum’s many highlights.
From the Reception Room we moved to The Green Room. Largely devoted to explaining how fans are made, this room also houses two of the museum’s ‘gems’: a fan painted by Walter Sickert and a fan-shaped design by Paul Gauguin.
We then moved to the first floor where the special 25th anniversary display is mounted. This is a dazzling array of fans, once the property of Royal and other high-born European ladies, and mostly from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Interesting as it would be, it is not practical to discuss in detail all of the beautiful and historic fans that are on display so I have chosen three that, between them, give an idea of the extent and interest of the collections.
I will begin with The Elizabethan Folding Fan (c.1590-1630). This is an exquisitely embroidered silk fan with ivory sticks joined at the pivot end with cord or ribbon. This type of fan is thought to have been fashionable for only a short time and was often worn with the ‘wheel farthingale’ dresses popular at the Court of Elizabeth I. Indeed, the fan is displayed beneath a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in which she is shown wearing a very similar fan on her girdle. Thought to be the only surviving fan of this type, it was acquired for the Nation for £45,000. The acquisition was funded by the Friends of the Museum and grants from such sources as the Art Fund, National Heritage Memorial Fund and other philanthropic sources.
From this late 16th/early 17th century fan we jump to the late 19th century and ‘Stephanie’s fan’.
This beautiful fan was given to Princess Stephanie of the Belgians by her aunt and uncle, the Count and Countess of Flanders, on her ill-fated marriage to Prince Rudolph von Hapsburg (heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire) in 1881. The sticks of mother of pearl are beautifully carved with flowers and tendrils and musical instruments and there is a gold and diamond loop on either side of the rivet. There is applied gold to the guards which are further decorated with fine silverwork and 1,500 rose diamonds with a diamond crowned ‘S’ on one of them. The double vellum leaf is painted on both sides, signed Cesare Dell ‘Acqu and dated 1881.
The Museum’s newest acquisition is a very modern fan entitled ‘Swan Lake’. This was made by Sylvain Le Guen just two weeks ago. The sticks and guards are ebony. The sticks are overlaid with mother of pearl and the front guard with crystals and a ‘lacing’ of black vinyl. The leaf is white organza applied with white and black petals and bordered with pearl paint. The black petals are further applied with white ostrich feather barbs, black rooster and black swansdown.

These three fans demonstrate what has changed and what has remained constant in the art of fan-making over the centuries. Swan Lake, made in 2016, has the same basic structure as the Elizabethan Fan and Stephanie’s Fan but each of the three represents its own time in the materials used and the decorations applied to them. It was interesting to learn that fan making is still a thriving art form and an industry. I am reliably informed that Sylvain Le Guen is currently employed restoring a fan of blue jay feathers for the Duchess of Cornwall: at the other end of the scale fans are still being mass produced in China (where fans originated) for weddings, parties, theatrical productions and decorations of all descriptions.
21st January 2016.
With many thanks to Camilla Hiscock, Curatorial Assistant at the Fan Museum, for providing me with unpublished information about the three very special fans described above.

Book Club

Book Club meets once a month. To find out more please speak to Annette or Rosey at one of our meetings.


Wimbledon WI Bridge Club meets in the evening on the 3rd Wednesday of the month.

If you are interested in joining and for further details please speak to Rosey or Sue at one of the Monday meetings.

Our 2016 Local Charity

Our chosen charity of the year is Home Start Merton

Home-Start Merton has been supporting families in Merton since 1993 and offers free support, friendship and practical help to families with at least one child under eleven. Families are visited regularly in their own homes by volunteers, who have all had experience of parenting, and know how hard it can sometimes be.

Volunteers support families facing a variety of difficulties including :

  • Loneliness
  • Isolation
  • Postnatal illness
  • Disabilities
  • Ill health
  • Bereavement
  • Multiple births
  • Relationship difficulties

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