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On the map

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 evidence.

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 elevated.

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.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 10:00 Monday, 30 January 2017.

Labels: Map, Wales, Cambridge, WVS, Royal Voluntary Service, WRVS