The Women of Wedmore

“What is this I hear about Sir Samual Hoare wanting us women to help the menfolk at their ARP?”

“Funny” said the friend “I was thinking about the same thing. You know I think Sir Sam has got his head screwed on the right way. What sort of missus has he got? If this ARP business should become a serious affair, I guess we women folk will have to lend a hand if it’s ever going to be any sort of a success.”

two women from Wedmore 1938.

It’s funny that after working here for nearly five years I still discover new, interesting and exciting documents in the collection. The quote above comes from a booklet The Women of Wedmore; Wedmore is a village in Somerset but the booklet was in a file for Gloucestershire which is probably why I haven’t noticed it before and I was actually looking for information on Blood Donners. This village was part of Axbridge Rural District and the services provided by its Wedmore members included: canning jam, camouflage netting, clothing and the rural pie scheme. However the booklet describes the Housewives Service as their main focus.

The object of the Housewives Service was to equip housewives with the knowledge to deal with first aid in an emergency. In 1942 30 women joined the Housewives Service in Wedmore, many stayed the course and were presented with a blue window card; the head housewives received a red one. After their training the women of Wedmore did not just sit around waiting for an emergency they were extremely active. Activities included monthly meetings, full blown invasion exercises, lectures on Gas, high explosive bombs, fire-fighting etc, jumble sales for Wings Week, collecting books and magazines for convalescents and towards the end of the war preforming as the Housewives’ Players. Indeed the Head Housewife was so busy she had to upgrade from walking everywhere to a bicycle and then a “lordlylike progress into a bath-chair (broken leg); this progress was achieved at the cost of much muscular power on the part of many pushing people”.

The women of Wedmore continued to deliver WVS services after the war. In January 1952 the Mercury and Somersetshire Herald reported that 100 Wedmore WVS members ran a rest centre exercise taking “evacuees” from a “bombed out Bristol”. It was still a very active area in the 1960s providing refreshments at a Darby and Joan Club rally for 500 club members from all over Somerset in 1963. In the 1970s due to changes in the WRVS’s administration the village of Wedmore was absorbed into the Mendip district office. However, the district as a whole continued their important work into the 1980s with services such as Books on Wheels, hospitals, Meals on Wheels, Lunch Clubs and Clubs for Older People to name a few. They even rehomed Budgies, the district Organiser remarked that “if it had been green … I’d have asked him to sign an enrolment card. There are often a few times when I would find a pair of wings useful”.

As you can see the story of the Women of Wedmore, Axbridge Rural in Somerset is a very interesting one which was focused on helping people in the community. Today the Royal Voluntary Service in Somerset assists older people in their community with older people's welfare and hospitals.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 13 March 2017.

Labels: women, Wedmore , Somerset , Axbridge , WVS , WRVS , Royal Voluntary Service

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