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Ask an Archivist

Last Wednesday was Ask an Archivist day so I thought I would share with you some of the questions sent to us through our enquiry service.

Q: I was wondering if you could tell me when the Clothing Store in Swindon first opened and when it closed?
A: The clothing exchange is first mentioned in 1945 but there is no exact date for when it opened. There are no records for Swindon between 1946 and 1950 (inclusive). When the records reappear in 1951 it appears that the WVS centre in Swindon had been closed at the end of the war and then re-opened in 1951, the Clothing Exchange/Store re-opened in 1953. It is difficult to say when it closed as WRVS had a restructure in 1974 along the lines of the Local Authority and Swindon came under the Thameside District, the district office was in Swindon so I imagine the clothing store was to which is still mentioned in 1992. I imagine it was closed sometime in the late 1990s when WRVS moved its focus to older people’s welfare.

Q: Is there a WVS prayer or hymn?
A:
Yes it was included in the 75th Anniversary Service at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2013

O Lord and Father of all mankind, who has put the spirit of generosity and self-giving into our hearts despite our self-centredness: let thy blessings rest in all its richness upon Royal Voluntary Service and all its volunteers, that strengthened and heartened by the memory and example of their founder they may give themselves for the good of the people of this realm. Grant them the joy which comes from meeting human need and thereby from serving thee; and may the will to give voluntary service, and to give it wisely and well, ever flourish and increase in them, to the benefit of their fellow men and women, and to the glory of thy name, God blessed for evermore. Amen.

Q: I wondered whether there were any historic RVS recipes that matched the classes above, and whether there was a Royal Voluntary Service recipe book or material that I could promote at an agricultural show next weekend?
A: There are a number of recipes in our publications collection which are currently being catalogued, there are also many Civil Defence Recipe cards if you’re thinking of cooking for more than 30 and books like the WRVS Cook Book and Rescue a Recipe which were compiled by our volunteers. You can also search the Bulletins on our Archive Online. For those who enjoy reading are recipes here is one from Rescue a Recipe, 1971.

Yorkshire Fat Rascals

• 1/2lb plain flour
• 2oz lard
• 2tsp sugar
• Little milk to mix
• (few currents or sultanas if preferred)

Rub lard into flour and sugar and mix with milk as if making pastry. Add fruit if used and roll out nearly half an inch thick. Cut into rounds and bake until risen and light brown. Split and butter.

Oven temperature: 400 Regulo 6 Time: about 10 minutes

If you have a burning desire for information about Royal Voluntary Services Archives & Heritage why not get in touch and email archive@royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk


Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 10 October 2016.

Labels: Enquiry, Archivist, WVS , WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, recipe

Take me home country cars

We often focus on the early years of Royal Voluntary Service then WVS as a time of innovation, the million women giving their time and energy as well as bring new ideas of social welfare to the people of Britain. However nearly 40 years later the WRVS was still making changes and finding new ways to improve people’s welfare in the 1970s.

From 1942 to the early 1960s WVS ran various transport schemes mostly to take people to Hospital. In the late 1960s WVS ran campaigns for transport services such as Spare-a-Mile which provided vehicles to take older people shopping.  The official Social Transport Scheme (Ceir Cefn Gwlad in Wales) was launched by WRVS in 1970. Volunteer drivers in the 1970s would provide transport for any journeys other than trips to hospital which was still covered by the Hospital Car Service. You can find out more about this in our Health and Hospitals Fact Sheet.

One of the earliest pilot schemes was started in Dyfed, Wales in 1974/75 developed by volunteer Jill Walden-Jones who only went to a meeting to see how she could help as a member of the WI and left as the WRVS Social Transport Scheme Organiser Dyfed.

"I was called to a meeting by The WRVS in which they said they thought the whole thing was going to fail because they couldn’t find anyone to run the scheme, at which I was a little bit cross and I said rather foolishly ‘I’ll run the scheme for you, if there’s nobody else willing to do it.’ So my arm was practically seized off and I was told I had to join The WRVS. It was rather a strange start."

Of course all their fears never came true and Jill ran the scheme till 1977 when she became County Organiser but by then the Scheme was spreading across Wales particularly in Dyfed it reached Llandeilo, Llandovery and Dinefwr, each district was expected to have 6 or 7 schemes by 1980.

What makes Ceir Cefn Gwlad so worthwhile and memorable is its passengers and drivers so I will leave you this week with two stories from Wales where volunteers still take people home through Transport Services.

"Well of course, there were all sorts of funny things happened. This nice young fellow who was in charge Dyfed County Council rang up and said ‘What’s going on’, he said ‘I see a dog has used our, the Country Car Service’. I said ‘Well, yes, he’s an essential user’. The fact was that this was a fat old dog that could no longer walk properly and his dear old mistress couldn’t get him to the bus stop or, or indeed on to the bus but it was essential that he was taken to the vet. It was her need really, I mean she had an essential need of a car and they, they agreed it, but we always used to laugh about the dog because it established part of what it was about, it was the person’s need for transport."

Jill Walden-Jones

"By March right on schedule, our eight Country Cars schemes were completed. The district social transport organiser has put in a tremendous amount of work going to meetings, finding scheme organisers, knocking on doors etc., there are 338 members and helpers involved in this work in the district. We were asked by Social Services to take three people from Llandyssul to the Day Centre on Newcastle Emlyn every Monday. We arranged for two drivers to do this and after some administrative hiccups with Social Services this is now running smoothly."

Ceredigion District Narrative Report October 1982-March 1983

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 03 October 2016.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Wales, Transport, Country Cars

Our Friends in the North

1st October is International Older People’s Day so to celebrate let’s take a look at one of the ways Royal Voluntary Service has forged friendships since the 1970s.

Since the 1970s Royal Voluntary Service has been running Good Companion services across the country. They may have changed their name over the years including Good Neighbours and Befriending but the premise has remained the same, to alleviate loneliness and encourage people to help others in their local community.

In Cheshire the scheme tried to get off the ground in Stockport in 1971, the County Borough Organiser has appeared to spend the first few months trying to find volunteers to take on the scheme. However she succeeded in recruiting volunteers for Meals on Wheels instead. Later on the organiser asked to be excused form the piolet as many women in the area were already being “Good Neighbours” under visiting or local council services. This was the case for many areas across the country.

Other areas of Cheshire however appeared to have more success with the scheme, Alsager reported that “At Present a list of old people in need of visits is being drawn up and many members have undertaken to visit.” By 1972 Sale WRVS were also making progress with the Good Companion Scheme and requested 30 record cards in March for members visiting older people under the scheme. By 1973 both schemes were official with another starting in Congleton, Alderly Edge appeared to have an unofficial visiting scheme for residents in a local nursing home and Ramsbottom were interested in starting a scheme for the disabled. So despite the initial hiccups Cheshire really started to embrace the scheme in the mid-1970s.

In the 1980s and 1990s these services were often referred to as Visiting throughout Cheshire including Congleton, Chester, Crew and Nantwich. In June 1980 it was reported that Nantwich had a member who visited an “old lady every evening winter and summer to fill her hot water bottle for a bit of comfort”. Once again proving no job was too big or too small for WRVS.

Over the years this service has allowed people to stay independent and continue to live in their own homes. Volunteers often escort people on outings, go shopping, collect pensions, send post, mend clothes, change lightbulbs, cook, and do other odd jobs around the home as well as taking time to talk to the person they were visiting. Today volunteers are still making friends in the North, running Good Neighbour Schemes including the Brightlife Buddy Scheme in Cheshire West.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 26 September 2016.

Labels: WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, North, Cheshire, Good Neghibour, Friend

Argh me hearties, there be treasure in those archives

In archives there is always a crew of Archivists and volunteers working below decks to bring you buried treasure. Here at the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage collection it is no different and recently we dug up some more of our archives and hoisted them on to our online catalogue for you landlubbers, why not take a look through the telescope at:

Oral Histories

The stories of volunteers from 1938-2015 in their own words, find out what it was like to be a WVS/WRVS volunteer by listening to:

Judith Kenna chat about clothing stores in Cheshire and Leicestershire

Maureen Hall discuss taking the members of a Darby and Joan Club on holiday

Ann Greeves harks back to tea bars at Royal Sussex Hospital

Kathleen Ashburner tell the story of the autumn club she ran for 45 years

Jenny Hincks reminisce about Meals-on-Wheels rounds

Alison Findlay talk about the Perth Floods of 1993

Photographs

There are now another 388 photos from our collection dating from c1990 to 2013 these include:

WRVS/HQ/PBY/MKTP/F/MOW019

Delivering a meal by helicopter to St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall. Taken on 06/10/1999
An event for National Meals on Wheels Day volunteers delivered Meals by helecopter. The phot was published in Action Magazine in 1999.

Aye the ship’s crew has more to add so keep a look out.

WRVS Association News

Take a gander copies of the WRVS Association News from 1975-2013, they reveal all the activities of the WRVS Association an organisation for retired members of WRVS formed in 1973. In November 1975 they reported that:

Members may like to know that at WRVS Headquarters in the Archives Department there are now many items of historical interest, as well as reports and letters of importance. The members of the Department would be delighted to show them to any members of the Association who would care to see them. It is possible that some Association members may hold letters or reports of their own which are of lasting interest, and WVS/WRVS Association would be very glad to have then if they can be spared.

Local Office Material

Over the last few years our crew have been busy cataloguing records from local offices in different areas of Great Britain. Now you can search the material we hold on Ipswich WVS/WRVS on our online catalogue including theEmergency Services Suitcase from the 1980s pictured here which would have contained paperwork, tabards and many other things ready for any emergency in the area.

Next time we reveal more of our gold we hope to make our local office material for the North East of England available to search.

You can search our treasure trove at catalogue.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/calmview

 

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 10:00 Monday, 19 September 2016.

Labels: Pirate, WVS, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Treasure, Catalogue

The WVS of Wimbledon are we – Part II

It’s the second and final week of Wimbledon and our story of how the WVS, WRVS and Royal Voluntary Service served Wimbledon continues.

After the war WVS was still going strong but had moved away from its role in supporting a nation at war to sustaining a nation in peace time, proving welfare for older people, taking children on holidays, providing clothing, serving in hospital canteens and helping out in an emergency and Wimbledon volunteers were no different.

In the 1950s Wimbledon WVS were involved in clothing trolley shops, Civil Defence, Meals on Wheels, National Savings and Hospital Services to name a few. As well as the usual activities volunteers were engaged in occupational training clinics, canning fruit and in august 1950 190 tins were completed. Most of our knowledge of their activities comes from the Narrative Reports in March 1950 it was reported that the WVS Exhibition had received a visit from Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and the Centre Organiser was honoured to be part of her guard. The first coach trips for older people were organised in the mid to late 1950s, mostly residents from the residential homes where the WVS ran trolley shops.

The 1960s and 1970s saw an administrative change for WVS/WRVS Wimbledon as they became part of the London Borough of Merton but they were still as energetic as ever. By this time volunteers were running a Tufty Club, helping with the Sir Winston Churchill Collection Fund, finding a volunteer to take a man with disseminated scoliosis  to the cinema twice a week and arranging for volunteers age 17 to help the housebound with library books and shopping.

Towards the end of the twentieth century WRVS Wimbledon was still doing everything and anything it could to help the people of Merton Borough and further afield. This included helping their fellow volunteers from across the country providing members running the information desks at the Wimbledon tennis championship and those taking part in the WRVS Tennis Competition with accommodation. An unusual request came in 1988 (along with distributing Butter from the EEC) when volunteers were asked to sew badges on to 150 anoraks for the Great British Olympic Team going to Calgary, Canada.

Today Royal Voluntary Service provides services for older people in Wimbledon and all over London including Social Clubs, Good Neighbours and Home Library Services.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 04 July 2016.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Wimbledon, Tennis, Post-war

Enquiries, catalogues and heroes

First I think I should apologise for not posting anything in January. It has though been rather a busy month for us, with the inevitable last minute preparations for the launch of the Archive online and the opening of the enquiry service on the 14 January. We have had a minor flood of enquiries come in on subjects ranging from the classic “My grandmother was in the WVS, what can you tell me about her?” to a rather more difficult request from a postgraduate student on very specific aspects of WVS post war Civil Defence work. This has given the volunteers and myself a whole new purpose and we are really enjoying the varied nature of the research and the opportunity to learn more about the many aspects of WRVS’ history.

So over the next couple of months we will be concentrating on continuing to answer enquiries (do please keep them coming) and helping people prepare for the 75th anniversary celebrations which kick off in May.

I thought I would finish off with a little bit about one of five WVS members who received the George medal for Bravery during WWII, something I came across while doing an enquiry the other day. Some of you may already know Grace Rattenbury’s story, but others may not.

Grace was a member of Bermondsey WVS and with little regard for her own safety assisted in the evacuation of women and children from the Surrey commercial docks in Rotherhithe at the beginning of the London Blitz in September 1940. The docks were alight and the fire threatened to cut people off from the mainland. There was only one singles span bridge left, and the road was extremely dangerous because of the growing fire, bomb damage and delayed action bombs. In spite of all this Grace using a WVS van maintained a shuttle service between the docks and the first line Rest and feeding centres, until every woman and child had been evacuated. She not only managed to rescue fleeing families, but also firemen who had been injured fighting the flames. The van on her return was full of steel helmets, blood-soaked bandages and a fireman’s axe, and other marks of a very heavy nights work.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00 Tuesday, 19 February 2013.

Labels: Royal Voluntary Service, archive, heritage, blog, wvs, civil defence, WWII