WI News for April 2014



Our speaker on Tuesday 8th April was Russell Lewis, who being a resident of Edington was well known to some of our members. Russell came along to tell us about the history of the Melksham Almshouses. They were built in 1862 by an amazing lady called Rachel Fowler to provide homes at that time for the poor women of the town, and after her death were left to benefit the parish. Miss Fowler set up several charities in the town, her great concern being the welfare of local people especially unmarried women like herself. She founded the Melksham Almshouses (then named after her) which still survive at the back of The City. She also founded the New Hall for use as a lecture and reading room. She was a member of the Society of Friends and appears to have been an outstanding person and very much an individualist with a lively interest in the welfare of Melksham and its people, especially those that had fallen on hard times.

Now after a series of charitable grants the almshouses are once again providing shelter to people in need. The original concerns of housing the poor women of the area have now changed and at the moment the residents consist of one lady and four men.  These five 19th century almshouse are a key part of Melkshams’s heritage and starting last April have been completely restored, brought up to date ready to help a new generation of needy people. Russell is the secretary of the Melksham Almshouses Charity and helped oversee the refurbishment, a job which he so obviously enjoys. He told us that this has been a complete modernisation where the five houses were literally gutted, so that they now have modern interiors but still keeping the same historic exterior. The gardens have also been modernised and there’s a communal garden for the five residents. The bulk of the work was funded by the charity which maintains the houses with several other grants including a large sum from the national Almshouses Association, which is dedicated to keeping these historic buildings all over the country.

There was a discussion on the Wiltshire Federation giving support to the flood victims in Somerset. Somerset Federation also suggested that it would be helpful to get tourism going again and urge people to visit on days out and holidays. We then came onto raising funds for our WI this year and as the £5 given to each member last year worked well with member’s talents increasing that amount, we shall probably do that again. Our skittle captain gave a report on matches last season and although we didn’t come anywhere near winning we have all had good evenings out. Bratton Ladies British Legion asked us to a friendly skittles match on 11th May (which since the meeting we have been to and had a very sociable and enjoyable time – we won that one!!) One of us had been to a talk by Rosie Thomas the author which sounded like another successful WI outing. Bratton WI has asked us to join them on a walk around their village on 1st May with proceeds going to ACWW. Various village matters were then discussed including the Fayre.  Seasonal recipes are needed for our website. Our next meeting on 13th May will be a Resolution Meeting where Organ donation will be one of the subjects under discussion.  Do come along and join us as you can always be sure of a friendly and warm welcome.