Memories of Ivinghoe

My father's family, the Seabrooks, were living in Ivinghoe in 1559 and we are the first names in the Church Register. I was born in 1893.
Mrs Henry Mann Roberts of The Brewery House was in charge of the Land Army in our district in 1917 with Headquarters at Town Farm where the girls were lodged.
One day Mrs Roberts called a meeting in the Town Hall, Ivinghoe, and brought with her to the meeting a Mrs Alfred Watt from Canada. Mrs Watt told us all about the Women's Institutes in Canada and explained how necessary it was for country and village women to help each other and make the best of the things they grew. After the meeting, Mrs Watt asked me if I would try and get the women of Ivinghoe, Pitstone and Ivinghoe Aston to form a Women's Institute at Ivinghoe. This was done in 1917 with great enthusiasm and I became the first Secretary. Unfortunately the minute books were lost and the present first minute book was written from memory by Mrs Roberts of Ivinghoe Manor who in 1919 became President, and remained so for about seventeen years.

We made rugs and carpets from wool called thrums, gloves, childrens clothes, knitted socks, and jams and pickles. Mrs Henry Mann Roberts also started a rug making class in the Town Hall, and her workers made a carpet for Queen Mary.

Straw plaiting was quite a big thing in Ivinghoe at that time, the women and even some men plaiting the straws or 'splints' into yards of material with which to make straw hats. When a score of plait was done, it was taken down to Sair Jane's cottage (Miss Sarah Jane Cook) who used to get it all ready for the hat manufacturers who came each week from Luton to buy the work. In the early days the women used to give their babies paregoric in water so that they would sleep for a long time and not disturb the plaiters.
Many of the men worked at Roberts & Wilson's Brewery next door to the church. The brewery was bought in 1927 by Benskins of Watford and closed and pulled down. The Brewery House is now a Youth Hostel with over eight thousand hostelers staying there each year.
Other Ivinghoe men worked on farms, some of them having to walk right up to Ashridge to Lord Brownlow's lovely home. Houses were half-a-crown a week and wages from fifteen shillings a week upwards.

Our beautiful church had a set of very old hand bells and the Church Council lent them to the WI. Miss Marjorie Hartop taught us how to ring them and we had great fun ringing at Christmas parties for the WI and the Church. We had a lovely peal of bells ringing every Sunday. Now the tower is not safe so the bells can only be rung at the festivals.
Sir Bernard Miles
 often spoke of Ivinghoe in his King of the Chilterns series on TV as he once lived at Ivinghoo Aason as it was then called.
The old vicarage at Ivinghoe was once a coaching house.

Madge Dollimore (Aged 82), Ivinghoe & Pitstone

Extracted from 'A Pattern Hundreds' (1975) and reproduced with the kind permission of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes

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