The War Years


The following notice was sent to members on Monday, September 4th 1939, the day after the commencement of war:  ‘Owing to the Institute being no longer available, all meetings are cancelled till further notice.’ David Jewsbury, Hon.Sec. An Extra-ordinary General Meeting was then held at the Women’s Institute on 30 September to discuss the question of the Society’s continuation during the war. It was decided to carry on but the Women’s Institute could not be used for evening meetings because it was not ‘blacked out’. Alternative accommodation was found at the Congregational School Room, Union Road for meetings on Wednesday evenings. The first of these took place on October 4th.


By March 1940 the Women’s Institute had been ‘blacked out’ for evening use and the Society returned there in May. Despite the war the Society went on with its usual business.  The membership grew from 45 in 1939 to 55 in 1940 and the Fourth Annual Exhibition took place. It was held at Alex J Smith’s Restaurant, Warwick Road from April 15 to 20, 1940 and 144 prints were hung. But as 1940 went on, the situation deteriorated. The meeting on 23 October was held in the President’s Studio because the Women’s Institute was occupied by evacuees from bombed areas of London. On 20 November only two members came to the meeting, ‘owing to the severe air raid of the previous night’.


In his Secretary’s Report for 1940-41, Mr Jewsbury wrote, ‘To sum up, it has been a year during which wartime handicaps have become more and more acute as time has gone on, until the present state of affairs scarcely seems to justify, from the point of view of the organisers, the continuation of regular activities. The difficulties have been due to three main causes: viz. the preoccupation of members with all kinds of defence duties which allow no spare time either for competition work or the attending of meetings, the ever growing shortage of photographic materials and the natural reluctance of lecturers to give their services for such small numbers as the Secretary nowadays can only half-promise them.’

At the AGM on 22 March 1942 it was resolved to suspend regular meetings but to continue to hold AGMs at which the situation would be reviewed.


An Extra-ordinary General Meeting was held on August 26, 1942 at which it was agreed to hold four meetings during the 1942-43 season. By this time the shortage of photographic materials had made competitions almost impossible.


The AGM was held on 31 March. The question of future policy was discussed and it was decided to hold monthly meetings at the Women’s Institute on Tuesday evenings at 7.45 pm. During the summer months a number of social events were held, including evening rambles and a visit to Warwick.


1943 had seen ‘a remarkable revival in the Society’s fortunes’. The AGM confirmed that monthly meetings and some social outings would continue for the following year.


At the AGM in March it was decided that an Open Exhibition should be held at the earliest date that could be arranged.

Memorandum on May 7th.
The meeting due to take place on May 8th, when Mr JH Payton was to have given his lecture, ‘Colour is so simple’, was cancelled owing to that day’s being declared VE-day.
The committee meeting on 30th May decided that the Open Exhibition would be an International one and held in the Assembly Rooms of the local council between May 25th and June 1st, 1946.