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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

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

Celebrating St. David

This week we are travelling to Wales, to celebrate St. David’s Day. Enjoy ‘More News from Wales’ from April 1958.

The record of the past two months in day-to-day work has continued and developed in spite of every possible vagary of weather. Snow, rain, flood, fog, icy roads have been taken in the W.V.S. stride. Meals-on-wheels in the very hilly areas have continued without a break and drivers are becoming highly skilled in handling vehicles on the icy slopes. We feel that many would give an excellent account of themselves in winter car rallies.

We are very sad to record in the decision to close Tonfanau Camp, Merioneth, that the W.V.S. Centre has also closed. This job has been continued with one or two short breaks since 1949 until now and from the highly flattering remarks made by Western Command we are glad to realise that the Army has found the work valuable. The site is on the edge of the sea and even in summer high winds and driving rain are a constant feature of this part of the coast. There are no towns of any size for miles and the W.V.S. Social Centre has proved a real blessing for the boys who have passed through the Camp. W.V.S. in Wales has been delighted to have been associated with the work and we have found that for some members working there it has been splendid training- ground before going overseas.

Cardiff W.V.S. are very pleased that their Darby and Joan Club which has been formed in the Docks district recently appeared in an I.T.V. programme featuring the life among the black population of seaport towns. Some of the old men were shown playing games, and a recording was made of the women singing. This is a very happy club, and we believe unique.

Cardiff W.V.S. were recently entertained en bloc at the Mansion House by this year’s Lady Mayoress, who is a very valued member of W.V.S. As the Deputy Lady Mayoress is also a member it was a very Civic occasion indeed and a most happy party.

Neath members, whose versatility has always been of a high order, have now excelled themselves in the formation of a “ Saucy Skiffle Group.” Dressed in highly coloured costumes and wearing wide- brimmed hats, they made their first appearance in public when they gave the Darby and Joan Club a concert for St. Valentine’s Day. Their report states: “The piano and the guitar probably supplied the music, but the saucepan lids and the wash-boards, the tin of peas, the whistle, the clappers, the wooden box with the taut rope (the double bass), all supplied the rhythm and the volume.” As it was for St. Valentine’s Day, the concert repertoire consisted mainly of love songs and Darbies and Joans joined heartily in all the choruses. One of the Joans in this club has recently made well over one thousand leeks for fervid Welshmen to wear at international matches and on St. David’s Day.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 02 March 2015.

Labels: St. David's Day, Wales, RVS, WRVS, WVS, Heritage Bulletin Blog, Tonfanau Camp, Neath, Darby and Joan, Meals on Wheels , ITV, Dockers