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On 23 August the Tea & Co. Café at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridgeshire was officially opened. It is one of a
range of developments in the charity’s Healthier Choices retail transformation programme which also includes Shop & Co. The Café is run by a staff and volunteer team in Cambridgeshire. This week
we thought it might be interesting to look at the history of Addenbrooke’s and
Royal Voluntary Service.
The first canteen was established in 1950 in “a passage
between the out-patients' department and the hospital itself. There was room
for only two people behind the counter and a row of customers in front, with a
constant stream of stretchers, chairs and nurses passing behind”. (WVS Bulletin January 1954, page 5). It quickly expanded as a new canteen with work
space was opened; in the 1950s 80,000 people were served annually.
Canteen helpers were needed weekly to prepare food, defrost
refrigerators, keep statistics and accounts, serve customers and wash up. In
1960 Cambridge City held a meeting of WVS Hospital Helpers to celebrate their
ten years' service in the Out-Patients' Canteen at Addenbrooke's Hospital.
“This very modern and up-to-date canteen was equipped from the profits” gifts
from further profits given to the hospital in the 1960s included a television set
for the Children's Ward, 160 trays, one carrying chair, and two geriatric chairs (WVS Bulletin May 1960).
In the 1960s Addenbrooke’s opened a new hospital which meant the opening of a
new canteen for WRVS in the late 1960s.
By the 1970s WRVS ran two canteens one in the old and one in
the new hospital; they funded a house for the relatives of patients who lived a
long way from the Hospital. When the old hospital closed a second canteen was
opened to cope with increased demand. The new canteen opened in 1972, at the
time WRVS also provided trolley shops, a patient helpers’ service, reception
duties and flower arranging. The Narrative Reports which we talk about so often
recorded the story of voluntary Service until the early 1990s in Cambridge.
Reports mentioned Addenbrooke’s had canteens in Radio Therapy and Out Patients.
They also started to serve new lines including toasted sandwiches. In the early
90s the Hospital Organiser continued to provide the service to the hospital as
well as a trolley shop.
Unfortunately the archive does not hold many records of the
charity’s activities in the 1990s however we do know that volunteers from
Addenbrooke's went to London to assist Cilla Black with the launch of the “Give
us a hand campaign” in 1998. It was designed to encourage people to volunteer
with WRVS. The campaign embraced the power of celebrity, asking famous people
to pledge their support by sending in an autographed outline of their hands.
Over a hundred celebrities took part, including Imogen Stubbs, Stephen Fry, Sir
Ian McKellen, Robbie Coltrane, Sean Bean and David Suchet. The campaign also
saw ordinary people make colour paper cut-outs of their own hands at the WRVS
stand at the Ideal Health Show, then hang them on a cardboard tree. The WRVS
continued to run services at Addenbrooke’s into the 2000s when changes began to
The early 2000s saw a few changes to WRVS’ role at
Addenbroke’s. A new Coffee Shop was opened in 2003 which was rebranded after
the rebranding of Women’s Royal Voluntary Service to WRVS (Green and red to
purple and orange) in 2004. In 2013 the charity was renamed Royal Voluntary
Service and more recently plans for hospital shops, canteens and tea bars were
updated to provide healthy options in hospitals and to bring back the red and
green branding. Addenbrooke’s is now one of Royal Voluntary Service Tea & Co. cafés and the volunteers and staff will continue this
partnership steeped in history.
If you would like to learn more about Royal Voluntary
Services history with hospitals then read our fact sheet Welfare work in hospitals 1938 – 2013.
While this is a very modern collection there is still an
amazing variety of material held within the store rooms. On several occasions
in the recent past I have come across an assortment of maps from those detailing
the different regional boundaries of the WVS Regions to a hand drawn map of
Cardiff showing the locations of Lunch Clubs. This week I’d like to take you on
a journey using this iconography to explain what they tell us about Royal
Voluntary Service and how maps can be used to complement other historical
Inside the Roll of Honour is a beautifully illustrated map of the British Isles divided
into the 12 WVS Regions created for the purpose of Civil Defence. Neatly written on each region is the location
of the Regional Office including among others Edinburgh, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
Nottingham, Reading, Bristol and Cardiff. However it doesn’t tell us the individual
centres, we must rely on the Narrative Reports and the Statistic Books
1943-1945 to give us this information. The map allows us to visualise their
location within the organisational structure of WVS during the War. It also
tells us that at some point after the War there was a change to the organisational
structure, Region 5 (London) became Region 12 (Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex
and Surrey) because although on the Map London is Region 5 in the Narrative Report Series it comes under Region 12. Unfortunately we don’t know when this
happened and there are no more maps for this time period however we can show you
other changes in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1974 the WRVS reorganised itself along Local Authority County
boundaries and setup district offices replacing some of the centres or making
them into local offices. However, a few years earlier Cardiff WRVS decided to
have its own reorganisation as demonstrated in the hand drawn map accompanying this
article. In 1969 the city was divided into six areas where WRVS volunteers
would work with other local organisations to run services for older people. The
map shows that there is an all-day centre in each division providing a base for
the area organisers. It also shows where Social Clubs, Lunch Clubs and Old People’s Homes were based within the different divisions. It also gives us an
idea of the area run by Cardiff WRVS and where the volunteers were working. Although
we might have to compare it with an official map or the rest of the Regional
office papers it lives with to find the names of the places and services but
what it does show is how much effort volunteers put into their services and the
different ways they visualised their organisation.
In 2012 another map made its way into are collection all be
it on an unusual canvas; a hand painted china plate by Muriel Humphrey. It was
presented to Lady Elizabeth Toulson on her visit to Cambridge in 1994. It
depicts the different services including: toy libraries; hospital trolley shops; clothing and Meals on Wheels. In the centre is a map of Cambridgeshire in the Home
Counties Division which was created in 1980 to align with changes to Local Authorities.
Other maps in the collection show these new divisions and areas for the whole
of Britain. These new divisions replaced the regions mentioned above moving
from twelve to nine: North West, North East, Midlands, Home Counties, South East,
South West, London, Scotland and Wales. Using both maps and the Narrative
Reports helped me to work out the plate which in its small map outlines five
districts within Cambridgeshire part of Area 1 in the Home Counties. The
districts are Peterborough, Fenland, East Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire
and Huntingdonshire. The city of Cambridge is also included and slightly
Sadly our journey, traversing the maps of the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection is over. I trust that I have
shed light on how important these alternative drawings of our nation are in telling
the story of an organisation in a very visual sense. Hopefully you will
continue your journey to learn more about the history of Royal Voluntary
Service by regularly visiting this blog until next week adjure.