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In the early 1970s WRVS were trying new ways to attract
younger volunteers within the 20-35 age bracket. A new initiative was setup,
Evening Centres, usually run in existing WRVS centres where they led monthly
meetings to help attract younger members to take on WRVS services in their
spare time after work or study. As it is St Andrew’s Day on Wednesday I thought
we would look at the work of these centres in Scotland between 1971 and 1974.
In 1971 London Headquarters established the Evening Members Department
and corresponded with the Scottish Headquarters in Edinburgh to establish
centres in the Large Burghs such as Dundee, Aberdeen and Adinburgh. Perth and
Glasgow were not included in the original correspondence; the Chairman of
Scotland presumed the exclusion of Glasgow was an ‘oversight’ but was later
informed that Glasgow had already agreed with London to start a centre. Perth
even before the centres already carried out evening work had recruited three
volunteers aged 25-35 but had to put them in the Saturday Meals on Wheels
round. They were very keen to find them evening work although there were very
few activities for them.
Once founded Evening Centres in Scotland were a success,
take Glasgow for example, in June 1972 a member of the Evening Centres
Department in London visited to help set up a centre in the city it started
with an organiser (ECO), two assistants and four members. By the end of the
year the centre had 56 members with 20-30 turning up to regular monthly
meetings and taking on services such as flower arranging, hospital visiting,
nurses libraries, good companions and emergencies. Glasgow were also looking to
the future of the evening centre wanting to expand into visiting residential
homes and taking up public speaking to recruit more members for the endless
number of house holders who needed a good companion.
In order to expand all
these services more members are required and it seems evident that the ECO will
have to take up public speaking! This may or may not be a good thing for WRVS,
however, we are willing to try, and to this end have accepted an invitation to
speak on ‘the work of the WRVS Evening Centre and the role of the volunteer
within it’ to young people interested in the Community Service Section of the
Duke of Edinburgh’s (Gold) Award, Start praying!
Glasgow Evening Centre Report 1972
There isn’t much information about the centres after 1974,
perhaps a quest for another day is for me to research some of the other regions
in Britain to find the answer. Watch this space...
The Archive & Heritage
collection was formed in 1958, the year before WVS’s 21st
Anniversary as the Archives and Central Records Department. The members of this
department’s first purpose was to search through files for important original
reports, letters, etc. to find those of historical interest and importance. I
truly sympathise with having to assess twenty years’ worth of material and
having to take key decisions which would affect future generations
understanding of the WVS.
The department started out with a
number of part-time works all with different tasks to complete and a Head of Department
to oversee them. It is funny how very little changes in 60 years, although a
little different with a full time Deputy Archivist and Archives Assistant
(working on the Hidden History of a Million Women Project), there is still an
Archivist and a team of volunteers who help out with the collection anywhere
from two hours to a whole day every week.
We don’t know very much about the
thoughts of the women first involved in bringing this invaluable collection
together, even though they knew there was ‘a real need for such a department’
in 1958, apart from what is written in the Annual Reports. However occasionally
when sorting through the collection something catches your eye; though it wasn’t
shinny and it didn’t look particularly interesting while repackaging the
collection of General Publications on Friday afternoon I came across WVS/WRVS Archives Notes for Guidance
1973 (there are also copies for 1975 and 1981).
This small booklet with a Green
front cover shows how over 15 years the thinking in the Archive was developing
and they were getting to grips with the records they held. They were there to
collate a complete library of papers concerning policy, operational works and
records of WVS/WRVS from 1938 onwards. At the end of the booklet they list all
the documents being kept in the Archive including Annual Reports,
Bulletin/Magazine, Miscellaneous Memoranda and Narrative Reports which with
many more documents, photographs, publications and objects still reside in the
collection today. What interested me most about this booklet was what it said
about Narrative Reports:
“A complete set of Narrative
Reports form all Regions is held in WRVS Headquarters Archives.
No Narrative Reports should be
destroyed without consultation, as arrangements for keeping them vary from
Region to Region”
This might explain why the number
of reports in today’s collection varies so much from region to region.
It's that time of year when a you see a lot of pumpkins in the supermarkets mostly bought and used for decoration, recently in the news I have seen appeals for people not to just throw away the pumpkin flesh they have carved out. So here are some suggestions from the WVS Bulletin using pumpkins.
2 lb. pumpkin
1 1/2 pints " household " milk
2 oz. margarine
sugar to taste.
Peel the pumpkin, cut into dices and put into a saucepan with about 1 pint of water, add a little salt, cook until very tender.
When done, press it through a sieve, add the boiling milk, the fat, some more salt or sugar to taste (sugar preferable if possible). Boil for a few minutes, stirring all the while, and serve. (November 1943)
SAVOURY PUMPKIN PIE
2 lb. pumpkin cut in thin slices
2 lb. tomatoes
1/2 lb. bread (soaked, drained and beaten with a fork)
1/2 lb. minced meat
1 teaspoonful sweet herbs
2 tablespoonfuls melted margarin
salt, pepper and thick brown gravy.
Mix the bread, meat, herbs, salt and pepper to a smooth paste with the melted fat.
Put a layer of pumpkin slices at the bottom of a casserole, or pie-dish, add some tomato and top with pumpkin.
Pour in enough gravy to cover the last layer of pumpkin. Cover with greased paper or a lid and bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour. (November 1943)
Alternatively you could make a sweet pumpkin pie...
1 1/2 cups cooked and strained pumpkin
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon margarine
2 tablespoons molasses (treacle)
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs (reconstituted dried)
1 1/4 cups scalded milk.
Simmer pumpkin in as little water as possible for 20 minutes.
Add sugar, margarine, treacle, ginger, cinnamon and salt to pumpkin.
Add egg and milk and mix thoroughly.
Line a tin plate or sandwich tin with pastry and pour in pumpkin mixture and bake in a brisk oven. It is usual not to cover this mixture with another layer of pastry. (November 1942)
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?
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?
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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."
"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
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.
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:
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
There are now another 388 photos from our collection dating from c1990 to 2013 these include:
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
Personal letters can form a very
important part of an archival collection; often they provide an intimate look
into the life and times of the author. The 62 letters we received recently were
written by a member of WVS India Kathleen Thompson to relatives in Harrogate Yorkshire.
They tell us about Kathleen’s Journey on the SS Corfu to New Delhi and then on
to Deolali, Randu and Raiputana where she spent 18 months
looking after troops getting ready to leave India. Each letter is extremely
detailed, shows a range of emotion and are very opinionated and I think the
best way to show you this is to share a few extracts from those letters.
SS Corfu 5.2.46
“The little boats of course came around with all their goods ‘very
cheap’ ‘very dear’ etc but orders had been given and before purchases could be
made a hose pipe was turned on them. This was I think to prevent any epidemics
been brought on board. The CO troops told me that VAD’s last trip bought ice
cream and 40 were down with dysentery so it’s not to be wondered at that
measures were taken”
The other four letters carry on
in the same way detailing life on board, the food which often seemed to
Kathleen like more ‘than a week’s ration’ as well as the time she spent with
other WVS members and the troops. On the 10th February she sent her
first letter from New Delhi were she stayed till March.
WVS Headquarters New Delhi
“Oh I don’t think I told you how we all went to the Daily Sketch Club
last week. This is a hut colour washed and made very beautiful with a stage. The
floor was red tiles and very good to dance on. A Sargent attached himself to me
and we had a good talk. The men seem on the whole very tired of India, longing
to be home and very pleased to see us. When we said goodnight he shook me
warmly by the hand and thanked me very much indeed for a pleasant evening. Most
of the women went in long frocks but I wore my old white brown cotton frock as I
did not quite know what to expect. Actually
the men were all in clean khaki drills and looked very nice. They were so
pleased to see so many women and I think it is one of the things to guard
against, this feeling of being really important. I do want to remain interested
in people and not become blasé.”
Between March and August 1946
Kathleen ran a club with two other WVS members Bertha and Marjorie in Deolali.
They also had a shop there, went to dances, ran trips for the troops and helped
with the YWCA.
“I saw quite a good film on Monday. Two girls and a sailor light and
sugary but it was good entertainment. Albert Coates was in it too but there
wasn’t enough of him for my taste. I went with John Towlee the Major to Bangalore
to a conference and felt he was in need of a little feminine society – that was
the excuse anyway!!”
Kathleen spent the rest of her
time in Randu and Raiputana before returning to Deolali in July 1947. Her last
letter to relatives in Yorkshire discusses her time on leave before she was due
to return home.
“The rain seems to have arrived in real earnest this morning and is
coming down in good old plops. When it breaks just a little I shall put on the
cape and walk to the post. Afraid it is impossible to stay in all the time. I
am really lucky to have had so many fine days as the records say that Abu
should have had 10” of rain by now”
Kathleen left Deolali at the end
of her contract with the organisation in August 1947. References from the WVS India
Administrator it was written that “[Kathleen]
has carried out her duties conscientiously and efficiently, and I have every
confidence in recommending her as a thoroughly capable and reliable individual”.
There is no record of what Kathleen did next, but included with all the letters
was a WRVS membership card dated 1970, so perhaps she re-joined as a volunteer for
her local area. I’m sure that Yorkshire isn’t as hot as India or expecting 10”
of rain but these days you never know.
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” so goes the eponymous quote popularised by Mark Twain.
Every once in a while we all have to admit we have been wrong and so that is what todays blog is in part about. It is the wonderful thing about archives, especially large ones like ours, that we are always finding new things and new evidence, refining and re-writing history and making ‘new’ discoveries.
Here in the archive we have the most fabulous set of statistics for the period 1938-1945. The WVS were compelled by the Government to keep them for the purposes of assisting with Civil Defence. Early on this data tracks WVS volunteer recruitment and numbers monthly, and from 1943 quarterly, but in much more detail. But when the war ended, so did the statistics; the need was no longer there.
We know for certain that in November 1941 the WVS reached its zenith in terms of the number of women who it could call upon, with 1,043,423 members; the largest volunteer organisation in British history. But what happened at the end of the war and afterwards has always been rather sketchy.
We knew that there were very significant resignations at the end of the war, with speeches given by women at the closing of WVS centres about having done their bit and wanting to look after their homes, families and returning husbands, but no figures survived. In fact it would appear no figures were gathered from the end of 1945 until 1949, a period of rapid and dramatic transformation of the WVS from one centred around Civil Defence to one at the forefront of post-war social welfare development.
In 1949 however, with the re-establishment of the Civil Defence Corps after the Russian’s successful Nuclear test in August, the WVS formed the Welfare Section of the CD corps and the statistics started again. Unfortunately we only had a few glimpses of these through a few returns which had been kept by some local offices, which had found their way to the archive. The Headquarters summary books were missing. By comparing these few centre examples against the data from 1945 we made best guesses about the change in national volunteering numbers over the late 1940s.
We also applied that to the period up to 1982 (which were the first post war national statistics we had) and took into account significant events and the start and finish of major branches of work.
Our best guess was that after the war the WVS lost about half its membership to about 500,000, with an increase in 1949 with the formation of the CD corps and then a steady decline with some larger drops at the closure of the corps in 1968 and the death of Lady Reading in 1971.
We have recently been undertaking a whole collections review. I spent five weeks looking in every box in our collection, and managed to find many things I had ‘lost’ and some things which I had never seen before. One of these was the missing 1949-1970 membership statistical returns.
How wrong I turned out to be! After ten years of telling one story, I now have to tell another, but at least it is now more accurate. It just goes to show you what unintentional lies can be wrought from making assumptions based on limited data.
The graph below shows just how dramatic that end of war exodus of members was with the membership between 1945 and 1949 dropping by 88% from 968,242 to 118,960. The majority of that probably occurring in the immediate period after VJ day.
Membership, rose slightly with the onset of the Cold War in 1949, until fatigue set in in the md 1950s, with a flat membership until Lady Reading’s death in 1971 and then a very slow decline until the early 1990s.
The more pronounced decline in the early 1990s through to 2010, should perhaps be seen in the context of the professionalisation of the charity sector and wider social change. This included dramatic changes in the role of women in society and ideas and enthusiasm about volunteering. That said the 1990s and early 2000s were a particular turbulent time for Royal Voluntary Service as its role fundamentally changed from doing just about everything to focusing only on older people and its Government grant was withdrawn incrementally from 1997 - 2008 when it stopped completely.
I think Mark Twain had it just about right, but I’m glad I can put the record straight; at least for the time being.
It’s the second and final week of
Wimbledon and our story of how the WVS, WRVS and Royal Voluntary Service served
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
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,
Today Royal Voluntary Service
provides services for older people in Wimbledon and all over London including
Social Clubs, Good Neighbours and Home Library Services.