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WVS and The Chelsea Flower Show

As the Chelsea Flower Show is here again, brightening our screens with beautiful and creative exhibits and tempting us in to the garden to have a go ourselves, we thought it would be nice if this month’s blog focused on the WVS involvement with the Chelsea Flower Show. 

The WVS exhibited between 1947-1955 seeing the show as an opportunity, not only to get creative, but to raise awareness of its Garden Gift scheme. The scheme, established in April 1946, involved collecting any surplus plants from established gardens and distributing them to those in need, such as would-be struggling gardeners living in prefabricated houses and institutions such as hospitals. As demand always exceeded the available supply WVS decided to exhibit in an attempt to raise awareness and gain support.

Each year the WVS displays would include rockeries, kitchen gardens and ‘Pre-fab’ houses. The pre-fab garden exhibits would include a replica pre-fab house concocted from felt and stucco, and the average amount of land usually allotted to a temporary or small house. The exhibits aimed to demonstrate to the crowds the best way to gain the most from the small amount of space, whilst showing how the gardens could be used as a means of self-sufficiency. The gardens would be planted with all manner of flowers such as ‘fuchsias, petunias and cherry-pie, lilacs and guelder-roses’ along with a vegetable patch which included a collections of herbs which, during the times of rationing, really drew interest and acclamations from the crowds.

Here at the archive, not only do we have the hand drawn plans of the WVS exhibits, we also have the medals they were awarded: a silver medal for 1947, a silver gilt medal for 1948 and a silver medal in 1950. Each exhibit proved to be a great success in terms of raising awareness, with WVS members attending the show to answer queries and provide information. Owners of pre-fab houses were encouraged by the exhibits and many gardeners were delighted to be informed of a scheme which could find worthy homes for their surplus seedlings. Once the show finished the entire contents of the gardens would be lifted and whirled off to those in need of plants, who, having been warned of their arrival, were waiting with their trowels at the ready.  

Below this blog you will find a video of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Mother) and Queen Mary visiting exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1950.  If you watch carefully 24 seconds in you can see Queen Mary and Lady Reading looking at the WVS display: http://ow.ly/x5Gwg

Posted by Hannah Tinkler at 00:00 Wednesday, 21 May 2014.

Spinach and Beet - Part 1

Here at the archive we are busy digitising copies of the WVS Bulletin, the organisation’s newsletter for volunteers between 1938-1974. Occasionally as the scanned pages flash before our eyes we pick up on some amusing, interesting or just charming stories which have been published in its pages over the years. In a series of blog posts over the coming months we thought we’d share some of them with you, and perhaps even some recipes! heritage bulletin

The following is an extract from the “Spinach and Beet” column, the diary of a Centre Organiser, from March 1951:

MONDAY

The Knitting Party has behaved rather mysteriously since Christmas, and I have noticed (although pretending not to) that work has been covered up hastily on my approach. This afternoon, however, I was invited to view " A Special Display " : and I advanced towards the laid-out garments with eager anticipation. For a few moments I was at a complete loss for words. Before me lay a boy's jersey which had only one arm; there were two socks made of the same coloured wool, but one was four times larger than the other; there was a " pair " of gloves, the right hand of which had only three fingers . What had the usually superefficient Knitting Party been up to? " They're for the Cripples' Home," Miss MacFee prompted me in a whisper. "Garments made to measure." "The children are thrilled at the idea," another member told me after I had congratulated the workers on their skill. "Ready-made clothes are of little use to some of them-and they are feeling so important at being measured and at having something made especially for them."

Recipe - from the WVS Bulletin April 1944

Chinese Omelette

Ingredients : 3 oz. finely chopped American luncheon meat sausage meat, 2 oz. raw carrot or parsnip, 2 reconstituted dried eggs, 1 oz. finely chopped chicory, 1 small minced onion. Salt and pepper to taste.

Method : Mix the ingredients and drop in spoonfuls into hot fat. Fry until brown on both sides. Serve with boiled rice and thick brown gravy.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Thursday, 15 May 2014.

Labels: Chinese Omelette, Bulletin, WVS, Clothing, Children,