Heritage Bulletin blog

The Heritage Bulletin Blog ran from July 2012 to January 2020, covering a huge range of subjects, from a day in the archives, to extracts from the WVS bulletins, and histories of various WVS/WRVS services.

It’s 219 articles have become a valuable resource in themselves, why not search them or just browse to discover something new.

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Voices of Volunteering goes online

Since my last post in June ‘WVS/WRVS serve at Wimbledon’, I have been very busy traveling the length and breadth of Britain collecting memories and stories from current and former WVS/WRVS volunteers and employees. This has been part of our oral history project Voices of Volunteering: 75 Years of Citizenship and Service which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and aims to collect over 80 oral histories by March 2016. The memories and stories collected so far tell a very personal story of how WVS/WRVS/Royal Voluntary Service has helped society since 1938. The first 14 of those narratives have now been added to our Archive online and you can listen to them in full by using the links below. Or if you want to carry out a more advanced search of our oral history collection to look for a service or person, you can look at our Guide to searching the Archive online page.

Ena Miles and Pat Clarke discussing their time in the Bristol Royal Infirmary canteen since 1987

Caroline Naylor focusing on what it was like to be a volunteer trainer in the 1990s

Maureen Jones who was involved with Meals on Wheels for 45 years and went from delivering meals to Essex Meals on Wheels County Organiser

How Elizabeth Kay gave talks to parents of young children about drug abuse in the 1960s

Mary Howard-Jones who joined WVS in 1953 as an Ambulance Driver and went on to become an Emergency Services trainer

How Barbara Statham, as Bedforshire County Hospital Organiser (1979-1993), was responsible for the rebuilding of a hospital canteen after a fire

A member for just over 30 years, Doreen Harris who went from being a volunteer in the Norfolk County Clothing Store to a District Organiser for North and South Norfolk

Gilli Galloway one of WRVS’ first members of staff in 1993 responsible for Community Services

Angela Currie who joined in 1985 as an Emergency Services Volunteer, over the years she was involved in many emergencies including the Boscastle floods

Gladys Brown who helped WRVS to collect and distribute furniture to those who needed it in the 1950s

Christine Manby who has been involved with Emergency Services since the 1990s and has attended emergencies such as floods and bomb scares

Gillian Highley an Old People’s Welfare Organiser for Halifax from 1967 and how she ran a very successful Lunch Club for 33 years.

Joan Beck talking about delivering Meals on Wheels in Holmfirth and running the local WRVS Toy Library

Happy Listening and watch this space for more oral histories from Voices of Volunteering.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 24 November 2014.

Home from Hospital

With the launch of the Lets End Going Home Alone campaign today, l thought we would take a look at our role getting people home from hospital or just about anywhere. 

Transport for those in need is one of the longest running services the Royal Voluntary Service still provides. Transport had been at the heart of WVS work from the very beginning, initially recruiting and training drivers for heavier vehicles such as ambulances. But when the basic petrol ration was withdrawn in the summer of 1942 the Volunteer Car Pool (VCP) was formed and administered by WVS to provide cars for emergency use and for the day to day running in connection with Civil Defence, evacuation and other essential work. By 1943 they were overseeing 570 VCP schemes across Britain. At the end of the War when the VCP was closed down in July 1945, it had clocked up over 60 million miles.

The disbandment and withdrawal of the VCP would have been keenly felt, especially by hospitals for which the largest amount of work had been done, 41.5% of the total. However, Lady Reading realising this need sat down with the heads of the British Red Cross (BRC) and the St. John Ambulance Brigade and organised a service for those sitting patients who could not afford an ambulance or hire car to hospital. This service was named, rather prosaically, the ‘Hospital Car Service’ and began with a pilot in Oxfordshire on 1 August 1945 before being rolled out across the country. In the first year of its operation its cars covered 409,987 miles. It was initially thought that the service would only run until the creation of the NHS in 1948, but under the 1946 NHS act Local authorities were obliged to provide transport to hospital for those who needed it and Volunteer drivers was the only affordable way of doing it. The Hospital Car Service managed by the WVS continued until the mid-1970s when it was taken over by the Hospital Authorities.

As a result of the hospital car schemes and the experience of the VCP during the war, WVS knew the value of social transport schemes and the difference that for example respite (even for just an afternoon) for tired mothers could make. Therefore in the 1960s the WVS started the Spare a Mile Scheme by which they encouraged volunteer drivers to give lifts to the disabled, elderly or handicapped. It was not until 1970, as the number of HCS schemes declined that WRVS developed a fully fledged community transport scheme for all. In Wales this was called ‘Country Cars’ and gave anyone who needed it a lift to clinics, surgeries, dentists and opticians. In Wales they once even gave a lift to a dog!

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 17 November 2014.

Labels: Home from Hospital, Community Transport, British Red Cross, St. John Ambulance

Spinach and Beet – Part 7

This month’s extract from the diary of a Centre Organiser comes from the WVS Bulletin, August 1950:


Thought I was talking most convincingly at tea this afternoon to a newcomer to the town whom I had been asked to meet. Told her about W.V.S, activities (“ Too interesting,” she murmured), and finished up by saying that we needed help with almost all of them. These preliminaries over, I was about to embroider my theme and began : “ Even half-an-hour a week ...” when she forestalled me by opening her bag and handing me half-a-crown. “ A little donation, not a subscription, you understand,” she said with great firmness ; and moved across the room away from my importunate presence!


Ward 3 in the Old People’s Home has always been one of the most cheerful to visit on our Trolley Shop days. Gloom has, however, descended on it since the arrival of Miss Primme : a woman who has obviously been accustomed all her life to being obeyed. “ What you should do is ... ” are words which frequently fall from her Ups to the resentful ears of the other “ inmates ” in Ward 3. She seems determined to re-organise the running of the entire Home—including the Trolley Shop! Matron has had the brilliant idea of giving her a small piece of garden “ for her very own ” and W.V.S. has—optimistically—obtained some attractive looking, light-weight implements with which she can cultivate it. If Miss Primme rises to the bait and works off some of her energies outside the Ward everyone will be thankful!

Recipe – From the WVS bulletin August 1950

The Perfect Swiss Roll Sponge. NO SUGAR.

3 Eggs.
3 tablespoonsful Golden Syrup.
3 tablespoonsful Flour.
1/2 teaspoonful Baking Powder.

Separate the yolks from the whites of eggs. Beat the yolks with the lukewarm golden syrup for 10 minutes. Then fold in the stiffly beaten whites with the flour and baking powder a little at a time. Prepare baking tin very carefully by greasing well and dusting evenly with flour—no superfluous flour. Spread the cake mixture thinly over the tin and bake in a hot oven for from 4 to 5 minutes. Have a damp cloth ready on which is spread a sheet of greaseproof paper sprinkled with castor sugar. Tip the cooked sponge cake on to this and roll up immediately —get the first turn by bending the sponge cake with the edge of the greaseproof paper. Then it will roll easily. Allow the roll to cool. When wanted unroll and fill with warmed jam or cream or fruit well pureed and thickened with a little arrowroot. This can also be made into a Chocolate Swiss Roll Log. Use half the chocolate filling inside and the other half spread over the outside and fork the outside to make log-markings. Decorate with crystallised flowers or nuts.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 09:00 Monday, 10 November 2014.

To the Manor Born

Over the years I have found myself becoming attuned to spotting a WVS/WRVS uniform, poster, or object in pictures or on the TV; even the briefest of glimpses sparks instant recognition.

I had one such moment on Wednesday night last week while swapping channels, with the briefest glimpse of Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton (Penelope Keith) at the end of an episode of To the Manor Born wearing the spinach and beet uniform of a member of the WRVS.

The episode in question was the third episode from the third series entitled Horses vs Cars which aired in November 1981. Audrey is in trouble as her Rolls Royce has broken down (she can’t afford to fix it) and she can’t deliver her Meals on Wheels or take the old people on their summer outing.

Sadly I could find no mention of the BBC writing to us to help them with this episode in the archive, and rather intriguingly, no mention of the WRVS is made throughout the whole episode (I have now watched it, purely in the vein of research, on YouTube). Also (I know this is rather geeky, but it’s my job) the uniform Audrey is wearing is 20 years out of date by 1981, with the wrong badges too, and she is wearing black shoes! Shame on her, they should be brown! This would all tend to suggest that they didn’t ask for our help.

Anyway, I think it is a testament to the WRVS that they managed to get used in what at the time was one of the most watched programmes on British television.

If you want to see Audrey in her WRVS uniform yourself you can watch it by following these links to the YouTube videos.

See Audrey in her WRVS uniform in the first 3mins 48 seconds of this clip.

Clip 1

See Audrey in her WRVS uniform from 8:48 to the end in this clip.
Clip 2

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 09:00 Monday, 03 November 2014.

Labels: To the Manor Born