Bedfordshire County Federation of Women’s Institutes was formed on 27 September 1919. The WI movement had come to the county in 1917 with the formation of Dunstable WI (unfortunately this disbanded and reformed many years later and is no longer the oldest in the county). By 1918 eight institutes had been formed, of which six are still running. The first County Chairman was Mrs M Whitbread of Southill, a member of the famous brewing family.
By the end of 1920, 21 institutes had been formed in Bedfordshire and by 1930 there were 49 WIs with a total membership of 2,655.
In 1940 members enthusiastically answered the Ministry of Food’s call to start a preservation scheme for the war effort. In 1940 alone Bedfordshire Federation made 44,800 pounds of preserves, using 9 tonnes of sugar. Bedfordshire’s preserves must have been exceptional as it supplied Harrods!
At the time of Bedfordshire’s golden jubilee in 1969, there were 5,400 members. By 1973 the federation was able to buy its own headquarters in Adelaide Square, with the help of then County Chairman Margaret Polhill. In 2023 Bedfordshire has opened a new WI, bringing the current total within the county to 70 and with a membership of around 2,300. The federation has had to move with the times, especially in this technological world of email and social media – giving Bedfordshire more platforms to keep in touch with members and share events, passions and knowledge. In 2019 the federation celebrated its Centenary year where we had our very own rose launched at Hampton Court Palace called the 'Bedfordshire Beauty', a wonderful afternoon tea at The Sculpture Gallery in Woburn and a Thanksgiving service at the Priory Church in Dunstable to name but a few of the special events within the year.
BCFWI Board of Trustees 2022 - 2024
Elizabeth Cochrane - Federation Chairman - Bedford WI
Sally Ball - Clapham Belles WI
Rosemary Mitchell - Kempston Central WI
Elizabeth Potter - Wilstead WI
Diane Sanbrook - Federation Treasurer - Ampthill WI
Hazel Wade - Wyminton & Podington WI
Dot Wigg - Caldecote WI
Rita Hutchinson - Wymington & Podington WI
Federation Secretary Catherine Bentley
WI House is based in the northern corner of Adelaide Square in Bedford, it is usually open to Members
Monday to Thursday 10:00am to 12:30 pm and 1:30pm - 3pm. Each year the house is home to some special events including exhibitions, workshops and training. If you are planning to visit the house we are a 10 minute walk from the main Bedford bus station or parking is available at Queen Street car park. Parking in Adelaide Square is pay and display (card payment only) and is limited to one hour.