With thanks to Pam Clark (who wrote a history of the WI in 2007) and to Diane Scott for more recent rummaging through the archives!)


The women from East and West Farleigh formed The Farleighs WI in 1919.  Their meeting place was the Iron Room, a building in front of Court Lodge Oast Houses in Lower Road, East Farleigh. Mrs Littlewood, wife of the Vicar of East Farleigh was the first President and Miss Tapsfield from Kettle Farm was the secretary, there were 29 members.  Anna Tapsfield, probably dressed for one of their pageants.  

Miss Tapsfield lived in Kettle Farm, Kettle Lane, East Farleigh (Just!) She was the Registrar for births and Deaths. The vicar would have been registrar for marriage, as he is today.

This photo is still hanging in the lobby of the WI hall, today.


It was all very formal, but women from all classes were welcome and were treated as equals (as in deed they were).  Committee meetings were held in the afternoon and there were no monthly meetings in September, because of hop picking.  The format of the monthly meeting was as it is today, except that the speaker usually arrived on a bike having travelled miles in all sorts of weather.


The Womens’ Institute was formed for the education of country women.

In 1921 members welcomed speakers on the subjects of shoe mending, chicken rearing, bee keeping and washing and drying a new baby!

In 1922 they set up a clinic for children starting school.

In 1931 Mrs Parker of Court Lodge, West Farleigh, the then President and members from East and West Farleigh helped raise the funds to build The Farleighs WI Hall.  It was owned and maintained for the benefit of the two villages by the WI, as it is today.  The Hall is regularly used by the community as well as the WI.


The land cost £80 and the final cost was £940 6s 7p. This was a huge undertaking and a magnificent achievement by the ladies. Especially remembering the financial problems there were in the thirties.


However, the initial Trustees of the Hall were local business MEN. It wasn’t until 1971 that the management of the hall was taken over by charity Trustees under the umbrella of the WI constitution.(WI ladies)


As there was a lack of transport and opportunity the members had to make their own entertainment.  The result was an excellent Drama Group, there are photographs in the archives, taken at various venues including Linton Place and The Priory East Farleigh where they presented a pageant in magnificent Henry VIII costumes. 


A choir, craft and produce guilds were also popular. Miss Wakefield, headmistress of West Farleigh School, was choir mistress and pianist for many years. 




In April 1939 committee minutes show that members took along their respirators to be fitted.  Their war effort included making Jam, 21cwt, was ordered in April 1940.  Scrap iron, steel, paper, bottles and jars were collected for the war effort.


Social half hour was spent knitting for the troops, including those on the Russian Front.   The County wrote asking if the WI would help the national vegetable supply by growing onions as part of West Kent’s promise of 12 tons.

The Hall was used for a time as a school for evacuees.


Just like today, new house building developments in the intervening years since the war have brought in new members from East and West Farleigh and further afield all enjoying what the WI have to offer.


Members are involved in giving help in their local communities as well as raising funds towards the upkeep of the hall, a never-ending task.  Our hard-working committees ensures that it is maintained to a high standard and keeps up with the never-ending rules and regulations.

Currently, as well as the traditional skills such as craft, and Art, there is keep fit, tenpin bowling, Whist Drives, petanque, Darts, singing and dancing.  There are many outings to  places of interest.


However the WI is still supporting the community. Making and selling teas and cakes at East Farleigh Fete. Listening to reading at the local school, knitting blankets for dementia patients in hospital and all the while making new friends, who support each other.

They celebrated their centenary with a lunch at The Cornwallis Suite in Tovil.








And their centenery meeting was conducted as it would have been 100 years ago, even the Treasurers report was given in Pounds, shillings and pence! Members all wore hats, many in Edwardian costumes. Refreshments were a Cream Tea.


There was definitely a good reason to celebrate our first 100 years. There will be a role for the WI in the next 100 years.