SI Chester Club

The club has 15 members and meets monthly at Mollington Banastre Hotel, 7.15pm for 7.30pm.

Club Diary:

President Carole’s Address – 2018/1019

When I first joined SI Chester I never thought that I would be President one day. But as time passed I realised that someone would need to step up and now it is my turn.

Looking back over the past 3 years, it’s clear to see how far the Club has progressed. We’ve done some very effective fundraising for such a small Club; we’ve worked on interesting projects like Toilet Twinning and the Purple Community Fund that have been successful. We’ve been constant advocates of The Purple Teardrop Campaign and ending violence against women. We have supported and will continue to support Chester Women’s Aid. We have successfully engaged with Chester University and Storyhouse; yes we’ve lost a few members but we’ve gained new members and maintained our numbers. We have established an active book group and a craft group.

It is now my role to continue and build on what our past Presidents have all worked hard to achieve.

I see us as ‘team Carole” and I feel honoured and excited to be at the helm this year.

My theme is 3-fold:

Firstly –planning realistic goals for the future – I and the Officers have already drawn up a 3 year Strategy, with clear objectives and this will  be followed up with a business plan for the coming year that we will all work on together. This will help us to visualise our goals and ease the yearly transition from one President to the next.

Secondly –growth and development. By this I mean, growing our brand, growing our membership, increasing our partnerships and also developing ourselves- our own abilities and learning in order to be better at what we do together, as a Club.

We are all aware of our own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s build on our strengths and work on our weaknesses to create an even better and more efficient team than we already are.

Sometimes we all find ourselves challenged by a new idea or a different approach. But we have to adapt to new circumstances and be flexible in our approach; we can change our mind set while our values as Soroptimists remain unequivocal.

Let’s remember what Sue Biggs our Federation President said in one of her first messages:

“We need to enable ourselves to be kind to each other and to be tolerant of each other’s differences”

“We are never too old or stuck in our ways to learn something new”

Let’s remember too the qualities that we possess as women: we are creative, intuitive, compassionate, we are sociable and supportive of each other and we are not afraid of asking for help or direction when we need it.

We have already shown that a Club of only 17 women can have a strong voice and can think outside the box.

And finally, the third part of my theme is about ‘inclusiveness’ and is connected to ‘diversity.’ Diversity is the mix.  Inclusion is making it work.

I want every one of us to feel valued and essential to the Club. I want each of us to engage in our programme action by taking on some responsibility – however small – because it’s the programme action that binds us all together and lies at the heart of everything that we do. Its success in our programme action that gives us motivation and satisfaction.

Every Club is different and our diversity lies in our work and life experiences, our perspectives, our ages and our nationalities, which I think is really exciting. This diversity is a strength. And if we can respect and value our differences, that strength becomes a power.

Let us harness that power and be- not merely an efficient team- but an inspirational team; let us plan together for the future, grow our brand and our Club, embrace diversity and inclusiveness and together take the Club forward to further successes this year.

Carole Rivers, 16th April 2018

History of SI Chester

The first Soroptimist Club in Chester was set up during the war years when a group of interested women met in February 1940 at the Grosvenor Hotel.  These women were supported by members of the North Wirral Club (known today as SI Birkenhead) and when the club was eventually chartered in November of that year the North Wirral Club was their Mother Club.  Chester was a grand-daughter of the Liverpool Club (listed 19th in the first 50 clubs in the world) and was the 13th club formed in the N. W. Divisional Union (DU), as our Regions were then known.

There were sixteen Founder Members with categories ranging from Ladies Outfitter to Pig Breeder, as well as several from the medical and teaching professions.

The Charter Luncheon was originally planned to be held at the Blossoms Hotel and the cost of the 3 course meal plus coffee was 3s 6d per head with a gratuity of 3d!  This function had to be cancelled because a number of the main guests could not attend and it was eventually held on the 2nd November 1940 in the Town Hall Council Chamber.  Over 90 people attended.  The President was a Mrs NIR Clarke, the DU President was Miss E. Glen Dobie, from the North Wirral Club, and the Federation President was Mrs HD Williams.  Guests included the Mayor and Mayoress and Bishop of Chester.

In 1947 the club acquired a badge.  This was designed by one of the Founder Members, a Miss Iva Williams, who was an artist.  It was made of silver and enamel and hallmarked by the Chester Assay Office, which closed in 1962.  The badge has, as part of its design, 3 wheatsheafs (being the ancient symbol of Cheshire) on a shield.  Above the shield is the emblem of Soroptimist International (SI).  The shield is supported by a garland of oak leaves joined at the base by 2 acorns and a stag (these representing the nearby Forest of Delemere).  The original badge was on a ribbon and the names of the club members were engraved on small plates and attached to the ribbon.  In the early 1990s the ribbon was replaced by a beautiful silver chain and after that the names of the Club Presidents were engraved on the links of the chain. A wooden box was made by the husband of a member and the small name plates from the ribbon were placed in this box and kept with the club memorabilia.  When the club closed in 2000 the chain and badge were deposited with the Grosvenor Museum in Chester.  We were delighted when, after a lengthy search, these items were found and given back to the club with the original block and gavel which was presented by the North Wirral Club and used at the first Charter Luncheon.  We also have the original Visitor’s Book and other memorabilia which will be on display at the Charter Ceremony of the new club on 21st February 2015.

The Chester Club flourished and meetings were held initially at the Blossoms Hotel.  The club later moved to Stanley Palace in Watergate Street, then back to the Blossoms Hotel and latterly met at the Plantation Hotel, Liverpool Road.

In 1948 Chester was successful in helping to set up a new club in Bangor.  They presented their daughter club with a gavel and block and on the occasion of their 21st Birthday gave them a silver salver at their celebration luncheon.

During the years links were formed with 3 sister clubs overseas – what today would be called Friendship Link Clubs.  They were in Banning (California), Chester (Pennsylvania) and Upsala in Sweden.

The club supported charities and causes too numerous to describe here.  One topic which should however receive mention was that of housing for single women and for the elderly, a topic high on their agenda. In the 1950s the club raised funds, their aim being to buy a house to provide living accommodation for retired persons and also a room for club meetings.  Eventually the Chester Club joined forces with the Abbeyfield Society and purchased a site for a house to accommodate 8 people.  This house, on Christleton Road, is still in use today and the new club have recently continued the relationship with the Abbeyfield Society and made a small donation to them.

The club enjoyed social occasions too and celebrated the Silver Jubilee of the Soroptimist movement with a dinner at the Queen Hotel in 1948.  A number of club dinners were held to celebrate the anniversary of the Club Charter, at least one such dinner having been held at Rowton Hall Hotel in 1984. (There may have been others, but we do have the programme/menu for this particular one).

In May 1971, as part of the Soroptimist Golden Jubilee Celebrations, the club provided afternoon tea for members of the DU attending a service in Chester Cathedral.  During that year a member of the Chester Club, Miss Joan Hunt, was DU President.  (Altogether 4 members of the Chester Club held this office).

On 22nd April 1990, as part of its Golden Jubilee year, the club held a Church Service and Insignia Luncheon at the Chester College Complex (this event being attended by one member of the new Chester Club!) and on 24th November 1990 a Golden Jubilee Dinner was held at the International Hotel. This was attended by the Federation President, Mrs Jane Barrie.

Sadly, in 2000, during its 60th year, the Soroptimist Club of Chester was dissolved.  However 12 years later, thanks to the vision of some of the Cheshire, North Wales & Wirral Regional Officers, and the enthusiasm of two Soroptimists living in Chester, a group of enthusiastic and vivacious women have seen the Chester club re-open.

The Founder Members

The Founder Members

The President’s Chain

Saturday 21st February 2015 was a red – letter day for members of SI Chester.  The Club finally received its Charter at a glittering ceremony held at Rowton Hall Hotel just outside Chester. The revival of the Chester Club had begun two years previously with a small membership of a few determined and highly motivated women. The number of members grew and by September 2014  the quorum had been reached and the 17 Founder members of the club, along with their President Victoria Pritchard, awaited the Charter ceremony with anticipation and excitement.

Over 120 guests attended the event including Federation President Jenny Vince, Federation IPP Margaret Oldroyd, Federation Directors, Regional Officers, Club Presidents and members and the Sheriff of Chester Councillor Herbert Manley and his Lady. It was a particularly proud moment for the founder members and new President Victoria, wearing for the first time the beautiful silver chain and original badge that belonged to the former Chester Club, as she received the Charter from President Jenny.  The new club members were then warmly received into the Federation with much clapping and cheering. After dinner and speeches a skilled magician provided an unexpected twist to the entertainment and later guests danced the night away to a disco.

The evening also provided an opportunity for the Club to launch one of its first programme action projects for the coming year – making Chester a Toilet-Twinned City – to fund the building of proper latrines and improve hygiene for thousands in developing countries. New President Victoria duly presented the Sheriff of Chester with a plaque of a toilet twinned with his own to hang in a suitable place!

Club Officers – Oct 2018 – 2019

Deborah Hagan
President Elect
Jane Pickering
Vacant Post
Victoria Pritchard
Wendy Thompson
Programme Action
Susan Haywood
Jane Pickering & Penny Danczak
Geraldine Garrs & Jodie Gibson
 Development Officer
Carole Rivers 
Regional Representative
Anne MacDonald
Second Regional Rep.
Wendy Thompson