The canny ladies who solved a fruity problem

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SUS-160303-095824001

The ladies of the Petworth Women’s Institute came up with a simple solution for preserving the area’s surplus of fruit. They canned it.

The year was 1950 and farmers all over West Sussex were calling for a canning factory to be built to ensure excess fruit did not go to waste.

This was nothing new to the ladies – they started canning things in 1940 as part of the war effort.

Not that they got to enjoy the fruits of their efforts.

A report in the Observer said: “In those days, with sugar rationed to such an extent that more than one spoonful in a cup of tea or coffee was a luxury, only Government-sponsored schemes were possible.

“Consequently, all their tinned fruit found its way on to the market or to Forces canteens through Government sources.”

Of the stalwart ladies who manned the operation during the war, seven were still around in 1950. They were: Mrs Brydone, Mrs Harvey, Mrs Alder, Miss Hollindale, Mrs Tate, Mrs Leale and Mrs Mant – who appeared to be the backbone of the whole thing, serving as secretary and treasurer.

By 1950, they had been joined by Mrs Greenfield, Mrs Ford, Mrs Jerome and Mrs Strudwick.

Working out of the Petworth Institute every Monday, the hard-working team produced an average 200 cans of fruit per day, though their busiest day saw that figure top 300 cans.

Once on the market, each can was sold for 6d which, according to the Observer, was remarkably cheap.

Do you recognise any of the ladies in this picture? Does the Petworth WI still can fruit today?

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