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Tea & Co at Addenbrooke’s

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 take hold.

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.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 09 October 2017.

Labels: Tea and Co, Royal Voluntary Service, WRVS, WVS, Cambridge, Addenbrooke's