Women’s Institute displays labour of love to celebrate village life

A carefully crafted book detailing the role of women of past and present is on display courtesy of villagers from a long-standing Women’s Institute (WI). 

The Ainderby Steeple WI has joined forces with Northallerton Library to showcase a book holding a collection of archive images, maps and in-depth snippets from the lives of those who live there. 

Along with the book, members are displaying other cherished items such as cups they have won at country shows and an embroidered tablecloth made for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953.

Northallerton WI

The exhibition will be on display throughout May to coincide with the Local and Community History Month, an annual campaign aimed at increasing awareness of local history. 

The secretary of Ainderby Steeple WI, Hazel Cantle, said: “We have 25 members who went above and beyond to create the book, dedicating countless hours to pull it together. We also had the input of villagers, their family members, and local businesses. 

“Ainderby Steeple WI created a book in 1965 to mark the national organisation’s 50th anniversary, which is cherished by everyone in the group. 

“A few years ago, we came up with the idea of making another, focusing on the same themes which include fashion, cooking, crafting and the changing nature of landmarks in the village. 

“The display at the library will showcase the history of not just Ainderby Steeple WI, but the whole organisation, and how culture has changed since it was formed. 

“It is an opportunity to raise awareness of the WI and encourage people to join and ensure the organisation continues for generations to come.” 

The WI display at Northallerton Library

The WI was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. It is now the largest voluntary women's organisation in the UK. 

A WI membership offers the opportunity to meet local women, to make friends and make a difference in the community. 

Executive member for libraries, Cllr Simon Myers, said: “The hard work of Ainderby Steeple WI in creating such a detailed book deserves to be recognised. It will undoubtedly be treasured by its members and the community, just as the original has been. 

“We are proud to display it at Northallerton Library along with other cherished memorabilia to celebrate Local and Community History Month, which will see all our libraries hold events and activities during May. 

“We hope library visitors will enjoy the display, get a sense of what the WI represents and even be inspired to become a member.

“We would like to thank the work of the WI in local communities. Projects such as this demonstrates that the organisation is still as relevant today as it was in 1915.” 

To find out more about what is happening during Local and Community History Month, visit your local library branch or its individual Facebook page.