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Village Life in the 1950s and 60s

The Women's Institute

In March 1953 Britain was obviously perceived as suffering from food shortages, as the branch received a food parcel from Belmont WI in Ontario, Canada. To thank them a book about the Coronation was sent, which cost 17/6d plus postage. The Coronation was also celebrated by a Coronation Tea Party at Queen’s College in May when three members of the branch were invited to participate at a cost of 3/6d a head. Mrs Lafford made a surprise Coronation cake in June and another for the Christmas party in December. They were very much appreciated, the secretary noting that ‘Our party would not have been complete without Mrs Lafford’s delicious cake’.

On a more serious note the Oxfordshire Federation asked the branch to support a resolution calling for steel cap helmets to be worn by cyclists, a message which has not been taken seriously by many present day cyclists.

Lady Tweedsmuir moved out of the village in 1953 so was unable to carry on being president but was regularly invited to meetings and in 1954 Mrs Taylor of Home Farm was again elected President in Lady Tweedsmuir’s place .Mrs Taylor was the wife of a Christ Church don, Frank Taylor, a New Zealander by birth. Mrs Taylor’s maiden name was Gurdon, a family who gave their name to one of the fields in Elsfield and whose ancestors had lived in Elsfield throughout the 19th century.

By 1954 whist drives were going out of fashion. In November Mrs Phipps said it was no good organising a whist drive because nobody would come but the new fashion for square dancing was popular and the dance arranged the previous month had realised £8-7-6d. A dance arranged in 1955 along with two special films lent by Mrs Lane resulted in about 50 people attending, including 14 members.

Occasionally the branch continued to bring in speakers from as far away as India, Ceylon and South Africa, they raised money for various good causes and of course they organised competitions: chocolate cake making, and best arranged wild flowers among them. The June meeting was usually held at Gunfield, the home of the Denekes and in 1956 Elsfield women met up with old friends Mrs Aste, widow of the Reverend Aste, and Mrs Hambidge, who must by this time have been living with one of her daughters, her husband having died. The secretary notes that following a talk by Lady Tweedsmuir about a family visit to America, ‘Then followed our grand tea, beautifully laid out by our kind hostesses. This is one meeting in the year we all look so forward to and thoroughly enjoy every minute. Transport is also provided for us, we owe many thanks’.

Mrs Taylor continued to be president for several years but in 18th March 1964 following her move from Elsfield, no-one else felt able to stand for president and the branch closed.

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