BLAKEDOWN WI: The president welcomed all members. One member, Carrie, is celebrating her 90th birthday so flowers had been sent to her.

New data protection rules will come into effect shortly. As the names and personal details of members are shared by the Committee the President asked that any members who were not comfortable with this sharing should inform a Committee member.

We have two book clubs running but Kath is happy to set up a third if any more members are interested - let her know.

Subs are now £41 pa. This represents an increase of over 5% from last year, which is well above the average increases in national earnings and pensions. Less than £20 of this is returned to the individual WIs. The president has written to ask for an explanation, and justification for the extra increases. We await the reply with baited breath!!

Last month's speaker, Catherine Clark, had asked that her normal fee be donated to the Kemp Hospice.

Stourton WI will be hosting a group meeting on April 25, with speaker, artist Pollyanna Pickering. She is very popular so members interested in going need to get their names down quickly!

A WI bone china mug is now available for £10 each.

The speaker, Max Keen - historian, was then announced. He made a grand entrance, dressed as a Norman foot soldier, in chain mail with all the 'fashionable' accessories! He talked to us about the history of Dudley castle, from 1071 when the first castle was built, through to the present day. He explained that the very first castle was wooden, with a water-filled moat (part of which is now used by the Zoo's sea lions!) filled from a natural spring. In the Domesday Book in 1086 Dudley was spelt Dudlei and pronounced with true Black Country inflection as 'dud lye'!!

The next castle was built in stone, and then refurbished in the Tudor age in typical Tudor opulence! Through multiple ages of battles and rebellions it was then mostly demolished by order of Cromwell, then finally destroyed by fire in 1750.

Mr Keen was a very entertaining presenter, with lots of amusing anecdotes about the castle through the ages and his life as a history teacher. We all agreed that he must have been a brilliant teacher - wish we'd all learned history with him!!

The evening ended with a history quiz about the Royals.