Hampshire Federation of Women’s Institutes was established, when there were about fifteen WIs formed and ‘consolidated’ at a meeting held in the Council Chamber of the Castle, with Lady Northbrook in the chair, and Lady Denman attending as a visitor, on 14 May 1918.
Office space was rented in Winchester, for some time in Southgate Street, then High Street, and from 1936 at 66a High Street – where the accommodation consisted of two offices on the first floor and a committee room on the second floor.
As WI activities increased, it was plain that more space and better facilities were needed. Resolutions were brought to Council Meetings in Spring 1964 and again in l967 by Oakley & Deane WI asking that a fund should be started to buy premises and the money used for that purpose when a suitable property had been found. A Premises Committee was formed and first met on 16 July 1968 and set to work, although much preliminary work had been done already. The members were: Chairman Mrs M.E. Gordon (Whitchurch WI), Vice-Chairman Mrs (later Lady) Osmond (Itchen Abbas & Avington WI), Treasurer Mrs M.A. Blatch (Boldre WI), Secretary Mrs D.S. Wharmby (The Worthys WI) – Federation Secretary, and Mrs M.M. Bowen (Twyford WI), Lady Edwards (Greatham & Empshott WI), Mrs E.E. George (The Worthys WI) Lady Jaffray (Hawkley WI), and Mrs J. Wier (Bramshaw WI).
Funds were raised by:- 1) Setting aside a proportion of the profit from the Golden Jubilee Fete (a National Federation celebration); 2) Proceeds from a special Win-a-Car Draw; 3) the penny-a-week Fund (ld. per member per week for a period of three years); 4) Special efforts; 5)Sale of books of green and pink Trading Stamps; 6) Gifts and loans; 7) The sale of the residue of our Lease on 66a High Street. At the end of the financial year 30 November 1971 the premises fund had raised £14,659.
In October 1968 the Premises Committee began negotiations to purchase the Leasehold of a semi-detached residence then known as Ivanhoe, at 56 Hyde Abbey Road, Winchester. Solicitors acting for HFWI were Messrs. Godwin, Bremridge & Clifton; surveyors Messrs. Weller Eggar & Co. of Alton surveyed the premises and, following further negotiations, the keys were handed over to the Premises.
Committee on 30 June 1969, for the purchase price of £5,500. In July 1969 the Leasehold was purchased for £112. thus ensuring the property would be Freehold in perpetuity. Change of use was granted by Winchester City Council. Hugh K. Harwood ARIBA of Ropley, the appointed architect, prepared a scheme for the conversion and extension of the house and when this had been agreed, prepared plans for submission to the authorities. The final plans were approved by the City Council on 8 August 1969.
Builders Six firms were invited to tender, and the contract was awarded to Messrs. C.H.V.Goodyear Ltd. of Compton, Winchester. Work started in November 1969 and was completed in July 1970.
Trustees were appointed at the Autumn Council Meeting on 28 October l969 and were Mrs M.E. Gordon, Mrs.M.A. Blatch, Lady Osmond and Mrs J. Wier. The premises were registered with the Charity Commission and vested in the Official Custodian.
Cost As at 30 November 1971 the inclusive cost in round figures, including initial purchase, legal and architect fees, purchase of leasehold, insurance, surveyor’s fees and builders’ charges amounted to £15,895. A further total of £1,091 was spent on furnishings and equipment up to the same date.
Furnishing and Equipment Whilst builders were busy with their job, members helped in many ways in furnishing the House. A list of basic needs was drawn up and circulated to all WIs. Contributions poured in from WIs and individual members, and items were purchased, as sufficient funds became available. Over two hundred yards of curtaining were made up into curtains by members, other members decorated the attic rooms, cleared the front outside area, and did many ‘fixing’ jobs aided by some hard-working husbands, who lent a hand with carpentry and other tasks. A wonderful spirit of co-operation permeated through the House during the months of preparation.
Moving-in Day sunny and bright, was 7 May 1970.
Opening The House was renamed WI House and was formally opened by the then Chairman of NFWI Miss Sylvia Gray, MBE in July 1970.
Accommodation It provided a centre for the regular meetings of Executive and sub-committees of the HCFWI and was used additionally for classes, courses, demonstrations, meetings, entertainments, social events and exhibitions. Starting in 1997, with completion in 1999, WIs contributed to a fund to build a teaching and publications room in the space below the large Committee Room. Publications no longer have to be carried up and downstairs and the teaching room linking to the kitchen for demonstrations is a welcome addition to the facilities. A small committee room on the second floor extends these provisions, and the attic spaces are used for storage of sub-committee equipment, staging for Shows, publicity boards and other equipment, sub-committee libraries, and records of former WIs.
In 2015 WI House in Winchester was sold.
On 10 November 2015 HCFWI moved to 22-24 Station Hill, Eastleigh, Hants, SO50 9XB. A newer two storey building with an underground car park, close to rail and bus links.
The house was officially opened by the Lord-Leiutenant of Hampshire, Mr Nigel Atkinson and named WI House on 15 June 2016.