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.
Showing 1-10 results
The blog is a wee bit late this week, but for a very good reason, and we hope you will forgive us. It will also be the last of the year as I am off on my Christmas Holidays.
We have decided to give everyone an early Christmas present, one that the elves here have been working on for over 3 years.
Today sees the culmination of our Bulletin project!
We have painstakingly scanned, OCR’ed and edited all 419 editions of the Bulletin/Magazine from 1939-1974 and loaded them onto our online catalogue. You can now search the entire text, and then view and download the original documents.
All for free!
Try a search today
This is our first major foray into the world of providing access to our archive material digitally and we hope that it is a big success. There are 8,444 pages which contain stories from around the country of WVS and WRVS work covering 35 years; from tales of the evacuation, to welcoming the Ugandan Asian Refugees as well as Food Flying Squad competitions.
If you enjoy ‘Spinach and Beet’ every month, you can read every unedited edition, and indulge yourself with hundreds of recipes from ‘food news’.
Family historians will love all editions after 1961 which include the names of all recipients of the WVS Long Service Medal!
There is so much to discover, where will you begin?
It‘s all part of the continuing development of our collections, opening them up as a resource for all to enjoy and explore. This though is just the tip of a very large iceberg. The Bulletin represents only 0.05% of our collection and we are going to need your help in the future to make access to more available.
If you want to know more about the Bulletin and Magazine keep reading, as we’ve posted another blog below with a few details.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 08:02
Thursday, 10 December 2015.
WVS Bulletin ,
spinach and Beet,
From the Centres,
Long Service Medal,
Food Flying Squad,
Today Royal voluntary Service has released online its first major digitised collection of material, all 419 issues of the WVS Bulletin. To celebrate, we thought we would take a closer look at the history of the Bulletin.
The WVS/WRVS Bulletin/Magazine is a fantastic and accessible window onto the world of work undertaken by WRVS members over a 36 year period, following the fashion and trends of the periods it describes. Most importantly it is one of the best starting points for discovering more about the amazing work of the Women in Green.
The first issue of the WVS Bulletin was produced in November 1939, just two months after the outbreak of WWII when the WVS had a membership of over 300,000 and a way to communicate with them all directly was sorely needed. The Bulletin was produced every month for 35 years, from 1938-1974 over 419 issues.
The first thirteen issues of the Bulletin were a simple typescript, with the first covering just five sides of foolscap paper, and included news on subjects such as Evacuation, ARP, Transport and Hospital Supplies. It also showed the amazing ability of WVS to attract new members, with 110,000 welcomed in the month of September alone.
From December 1940, the Bulletin became a printed newsletter of eight pages, covering important information for members as well as a way of sharing tips and good ideas pioneered by one WVS centre for replication across the whole country. This reporting of goings on from centres all over Great Britain became a staple of the bulletin, with the ‘From the Centres’ latterly the ‘Reports from Everywhere’ column surviving until the very end of publication.
The first picture (a black and white cartoon from Punch magazine) appeared in February 1942, though pictures were a rare occurrence during the war, the first photograph was not printed until April 1947. While the war had been going on, there had been no need to include adverts, but as funding was reduced post war, it became a necessity.
The first advert appeared in April 1947 (perhaps to pay for the inclusion of the picture!) and was for the Listener Magazine. This was the start of a very long term relationship with the BBC which posted large adverts for its magazines and books in almost every edition of the Bulletin/Magazine after this point. Though initially the adverts were all for the BBC or Information from Government Ministries, the first commercial advert was run for ‘Milton’ (disinfectant) in November 1948. After that the number of commercial adverts increased significantly over the years as the number of pages in the Bulletin grew. By the end of its run in 1974 the WRVS Magazine was regularly 36 pages.
In April 1970 the Bulletin changed its name to the WRVS Magazine, but sadly publication ceased in December 1974. Members had always had to pay for the bulletin themselves with it initially costing one penny per issue. Sadly over time its popularity declined and by the late 1960’s were only printing about 5,000 copies. The price had risen to 50p annually by 1974 and they did not have enough subscribers to make it financially viable.
This month’s diary of a Centre Organiser comes from July 1949
Got chatting to a delightful American airman in the ’bus and found myself inviting him at his own - urgent - request to our Darby and Joan Club. He was an enormous success with the old people (having just the right touch of deference alternating with impudence!) - except, perhaps, in the case of one of our slightly deaf “Joans”. Our visitor, chewing the inevitable gum, sat down opposite her and they gazed at each other in silence for a moment or two. Then “Joan” shook her head resignedly. “It’s very good of you, young man, to try to talk to an old woman,” she told him. “ But I can’t hear a word you’re saying !”
Could it have been, I wonder, because news of our interest in the prevention of Juvenile Delinquency is becoming known that a woman brought her small son to the office and treated us to a history of his “crimes”? “And yesterday evening, what did he do?” she finished. “Ate the whole of our week’s rations of butter and margarine, a whole fruit cake - and half pound of biscuits (on points, mind you) as well !” “Did you spank him ?” Miss Blank asked her over the top of her typewriter. The woman flushed indignantly. “I don’t believe in corporal punishment,” she declared. “No. I sent him to bed without any supper.”
Called to see Mrs Matron, mother of four small children, on my way to the office - to explain about a new “Sitter-in” we had found for her. She was hanging out her washing and in addition to clothes, coloured streamers and flags danced gaily on the line in the breeze. “Somebody’s birthday?” I suggested brightly. Mrs Matron laughed and shook her head. “It’s the first time for eight years that there aren’t any nappies on the line,” she said. “I had to celebrate it somehow !” And talking of “ Sitters-in,” Mrs Truefit brought us the following story which she picked up in the uniform department at Tothill Street: - Small boy: “Daddy, when Mummy dies, please will you marry the Sitter-in ?”
FRUIT SOUFFLE (Cold)
Cover any fresh soft fruit with sugar and leave to draw the juice. Drain off juice and pass fruit through a wire sieve. Make some custard with a large cup of milk, 1 dessertspoon cornflour, 1 tablespoon sugar and yolk of one egg. Dissolve 3/4 oz. powdered gelatine in a little of the fruit juice. Mix sieved fruit, custard and gelatine together. Beat up the whites of two eggs until stiff and then fold into the fruit mixture very gently. Tie a piece of greased paper round the souffle dish making the paper a few inches higher than the dish. Pour in the souffle mixture and place in the refrigerator until quite firm. Take off paper and decorate with mock cream and glace cherries.
CHOCOLATE FUDGE. (Uncooked).
3 tablespoons cocoa or chocolate powder
1 tin household milk powder
4 tablespoons water
2 oz. margarine
8 oz. sugar
Dissolve the sugar in water in a strong pan over a low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the margarine. When melted add a small teaspoon of flavouring, together with milk powder and cocoa, previously sieved. Beat until smooth and thick. Pour into a greased tin to get firm. Cut into squares when cold and quite set.
I said that we would return to the British Welcome Clubs, and here we are with the continuing story of the WVS’s entertainment of our American cousins in Leamington Spa.
After the slightly disastrous opening night of the welcome club, the situation did not seem to get much better; in fact the club lurched from one disappointment to the next.
The biggest issue at the beginning seems to have been the very poor attendance at the club by the American forces, which inevitably left the local girls who had turned up rather disappointed! The club was open two nights per week, and had a varied programme of games, dancing and other entertainments. It soon became clear that the preferred entertainment was dancing and much of the programme came to reflect this, but obtaining a suitable Master of Ceremonies (MC) was a continual issue.
Engaging bands to play was also a challenge and on many occasions, a gramophone had to be hired in. The majority of the records seem to have been loaned from the private collections of the committee members, but there seems to have been a preponderance of classical music discs, and so funds had to be spent on procuring new dance records. When a band was engaged the fee was usually three Guineas!
After about six months things started to get better, attendance was up and they had to start refusing new members (a subscription was payable), though inevitably there were some members who were late with their subscriptions and were being chased for payment.
As with all clubs involving young soldiers some trouble was inevitable. The club hall was next to the NAAFI Bar and there were problems later in the evenings with some men being a little worse for wear trying to get into the club. The military Police were asked to ‘give the club a once over’ each evening.
By far the biggest problem seems to have been finding committee members to take on responsibility. Inevitably it was left to a few individuals to carry the majority of the burden, which at one point led to mass resignations and the disbandment and reforming of the managing committee, and the regular WVS being asked to fill the gaps in helping to organise club nights.
This is not the end of the story. We shall return for the end of the war and the winding up of the club another week.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 23 November 2015.
The other day we got an enquiry about the types of food which were served by WVS canteens during World War Two, a question which proved somewhat more difficult to answer than you might think.
While we have in the collection many booklets on food and feeding published by the WVS they are mainly about emergency feeding for large numbers of people in rest centres or in the field, and of these, many seem to concentrate on the practical arrangements such as the erection of field cooking equipment rather than the food itself.
None of the emergency feeding booklets contain recipes, but some contain sample menus, for example the 1960 Emergency Feeding Civil Defence Handbook offers a three day plan.
Main courses were:
Meat and Vegetable Stew
Boiled Fruit Pudding
Prunes and Custard
This didn’t help though with our wartime question.
Delving a little deeper we found two information sheets from a 1940 canteen workers’ training scheme that show illustrative menus and give an idea of the kind of meals the members were trained to cook and serve in the mobile and station units.
Main courses were:
Steak and kidney pudding or pie
Toad in the Hole
Roast Shoulder of Mutton
Liver and Bacon
Stewed prunes and custard
Steamed Fig Pudding
Jam Roly Poly
Fruit tart and custard
Milk jelly with fruit
Baked bread pudding
However, in practice it seems that few mobile and station canteens cooked their own food, other than preparing sandwiches and rolls; instead they were provided with food by other agencies, such as the British Restaurants, factory canteens, or large bakeries.
The canteens were very busy indeed, and a domestic kitchen could not have coped with the quantities required. Also, during food rationing, it was much easier to make bulk off-ration purchases from such wholesale suppliers, rather than serving home cooked meals.
A day book we have from the Glasgow mobile canteens as well as a balance sheet for a wartime station canteen in Newport, and a small selection of quarterly narrative reports from canteen managers, do though give a good impression of the kind of food and drinks that were actually served.
The canteens served tea, cocoa, coffee (Twinings prepared a special coffee for WVS canteens, but the Glasgow canteen only served Camp Coffee), assorted mineral drinks, a selection of hot and cold meals (mince and potatoes are specifically mentioned), sandwiches and rolls (jam and cheese), soup, pies, sausage rolls, cakes (sugar cream cakes and “tea-bread” cakes). These were supplemented by sales of Cadburys chocolates, large tins of assorted and chocolate biscuits (bought from local factories) and cigarettes.
The canteen food was not free, and as the soldiers and workers paid for it; inevitably some items were more popular than others! Chocolates, pies and sausage rolls usually sold well; soup and sandwiches did not. Sandwiches particularly went out of favour when the weather was cold and the bread went hard!
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Archvisit and Sheridan Parsons, volunteer at 00:00
Monday, 16 November 2015.
Emergency Feeding ,
Jam Roly poly,
Steak and Kidney Pudding,
Liver and Bacon,
This month’s reports from everywhere are all on the topic of Darby and Joan clubs.
Copy of a letter from a Darby and Joan Club member: “Dear W.V.S., Thank you very much for my birthday card received September 3rd from the No. 1 Darby and Joan Club. It is very nice to think you are not forgotten. I have not been able to come to the Club for over twelve months. I have been very ill, but I am very pleased to say I am much better, but am not allowed by the Doctor to go into any crowded places, so I don’t go anywhere on my own these days. I miss my Friday meetings very much. All you folks made me feel so much at home with you all. You made me feel you really wanted us all there, not just putting up with us. Good luck to the Club and God bless all the W.V.S. that work there, also all the others that make it a success.”
The Gostrey Club was recently opened. This is a scheme upon which we have been working for over a year. The Club provides a hot lunch, chiropody and library services and tea to people over 60 years of age. The Council have been most helpful in agreeing to let the old Civic Restaurant to us at a low price, and gifts have been received from a number of sources. W.V.S. members worked hard cleaning, putting up curtains and making all the preparations. The opening was attended by 18 old people and many visitors, since which the membership has increased to 45. It was pleasant to hear an old lady saying to a friend, “Yes, I’ve just been to my Club. Oh, it’s like heaven. The chairs are so comfortable and we sit with our feet on a carpet!”
The following letter of thanks has been received from one of the old people to whom we deliver meals-on-wheels : “I am writing a few words of thanks to you and all the kind and willing helpers for their grateful service for we old people and the pleasant faces and the bit of pudding and dinner. Hoping you will not be offended at my writing but you deserve a word of praise for your kindness.”
The one hundredth Darby and Joan Club in Kent was opened on October 5th at Boughton Monchelsea. To commemorate the occasion a silver cup is being given to the Club by the Regional Old People’s Welfare Specialist.
An amusing story comes from Goring Darby and Joan Club. One of our members plays chess regularly with one of the old men. They continued their game during tea, and the Darby became so excited that his opponent suddenly saw he was trying to eat a chessman instead of his cake!
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00
Monday, 09 November 2015.
Darby and Joan,
Today’s Diary of a Centre Organiser is from April 1950
A survey of the town has revealed a “corner” of it which is out of reach of any existing Darby and Joan Club. Mrs Ream has energetically pushed a leaflet into the letter-boxes of all houses there known to be inhabited by one or more people over sixty, inviting them to a meeting to discuss the possible formation of a Club. “I’ve been so busy doing this and that, I even forgot to get my husband’s dinner to-day,” she confessed, and added: “He says the leaflets have gone to my head and that I’ve got a one tract mind!”
It is often difficult to curb Mrs Catte’s bitter tongue, but perhaps a newcomer, Mrs Stranger will prove equal to the task. During this afternoon’s Work Party Mrs Stranger - at our invitation - was telling us a little about herself and the work she had been doing for W.V.S. in the Centre she came from. In addition she told us about her son who had won scholarship after scholarship and had just received promotion after only a few months in his first job. “Isn’t it wonderful how lucky your boy is?” Mrs Catte purred silkily, but there was a glint in her eyes. “Yes,” Mrs. Stranger retorted instantly, “isn’t it wonderful? The harder he works the luckier he gets.”
Sudden outbreak of a particularly nasty type of feverish cold amongst the helpers, coinciding with an unexpected number of requests for “Meals on Wheels” for ex-hospital patients. Everbody - myself included - rushing around madly, trying to cope with the deliveries by car, bicycle and even perambulator. Returned to the office to find amongst the letters one written in the third person : “Mrs Appleton would not mind a ‘Meal’ on a ‘Wheel,’ provided it arrives really hot and that the food is freshly cooked and not merely re-heated. She never touches liver and does not care for steamed puddings.” “Would not MIND ...!!’
from May 1950
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 egg yolks, unbeaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons milk
4 tablesp. butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For meringue top
2 whites of eggs
1/2 cup sugar.
Sift flour once, then measure, add baking powder and salt, sift together three times. Cream butter thoroughly, add sugar gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add flavouring. Put into greased baking tin. Beat egg whites until foamy throughout, add sugar, 2 tablesp. at a time, beating after each addition until sugar is thoroughly blended. Continue beating until mixture stands in peaks. Spread over the cake batter. Bake in a moderate oven for about 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes to cool, then remove carefully from cake tin.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 26 October 2015.
Meals on Wheels,
Darby and Joan Club,
Work Party ,
Spinach and beet
A new arrival at the archive yesterday has prompted this little look at British Welcome Clubs. The arrival was a very nice minute book, which a member of the public found in a junk shop, bought and donated to us via Warwickshire County Record Office. It is for the Leamington Spa British Welcome Club and dates from July 1944 until April 1946 when the club closed. ‘What is a welcome club!’ I heart you cry [not all at once please!].
The first British Welcome Club was set up by the WVS in Sunbury on Thames in 1942 as an experiment after the first American troops began to arrive on these shores. The idea was that it was a way of helping to smooth relations between local residents and the new arrivals, and give a ‘safe’ environment for local girls to meet GI’s, with ample supervision! The line ‘oversexed and over here’ was not unfounded!
WVS ended up running over 200 of these clubs, the Ministry of Information giving a grant of £30 to each one opened. Some would be opened for a short period as troops arrived and then moved on from areas, others stayed open for the remainder of the war, with most closed by 1946 as the troops returned home and the need for the clubs evaporated.
They had been trying unsuccessfully to start a Welcome Club in Leamington since February 1944, but they could not find suitable premises. It was not until 8th July 1944 that they succeeded, but their efforts were somewhat hampered by a huge influx of evacuees to the town that month which took up all their efforts. That coupled with what is described as an ‘un co-operative town committee’ and the resignation almost immediately of the Honorary Secretary of the club due to the administration load, meant an inauspicious start.
The opening night, programme started at 7:30pm, with dancing to a band from Stoneleigh from 7:30-8:45pm, followed by speeches, refreshments (which included home baked cakes ) from 9:00-9:30pm and then more dancing ‘till 10:30pm.
All though was not a total success, with the Master of Ceremonies not turning up due to his family being bombed out, the band had to leave early and the Mayor did not turn up! But all in all it had been ‘an encouraging start’.
This is just the start of the story, and hopefully we can return to Leamington in a few weeks time …
I pride myself on the fact that I have an excellent memory; and especially so when it comes to the achievements, triumphs and tribulations of our charity. It is my job after all, and I think (though I try not to claim it too loudly) that I probably know more about it than anyone else alive! Well it is my job!
I have been the Archivist at the Royal Voluntary Service now for nine years this month. Sometimes it seems a long time, until I realise that the first Archivist, Mrs Doreen Harris, did the job for 24 years, and when she took up the post had already given WVS twenty years service.
In 2008 I had the unenviable task of creating timeline of the organisation’s history. No one had done this before and I spent almost a year on and off, reading through archive material and compiling lists of notable achievements and events. To say that whittling down the items to include from 70 years of history was hard would be a crashing understatement! This very long and painful process produced one of the best little booklets we have ever done a concertina timeline which became so popular we had to reprint it at least five times.
It is now seven years since we produced that and I got a call the other day asking if we could revive it. While thankfully we could re-use most of the previous one, the last seven years have to be included and while the distant past of the organisation is like an old friend to me, the recent past can sometimes seem like a foreign country! While this is the past of Royal Voluntary Service I have lived myself, it sometimes seems less real that the activities of Lady Reading, Averill Russell and those other pioneers at Headquarters in the 1930s and 40s.
Thankfully the much missed Action magazine was there to help jog my memory and below you can see a small selection of the items I chose to represent the charities achievements over the last seven years. Do you agree with me? I am sure you will let me know if you don’t!
2008 - WRVS published its first independent social impact report, which showed that 73% of the people we helped felt less isolated.
2009 - 45 WRVS rural transport schemes gave 60,000 lifts to those in need and WRVS launched its ‘Give us a lift’ campaign.
2010 - Margaret Miller celebrated her 100th Birthday and also 70 years of volunteering for WRVS.
2011 - £1.4 million was gifted by WRVS to NHS Greater Glasgow, The largest amount ever gifted in one go!
2012 - WRVS set up 67 Hubs (local offices) across the country to bring the organisation of Voluntary Service back into the community.
2013 - After 75 years, the WRVS dropped the ‘W’ from its name and becomes the Royal Voluntary Service.
2014 - Royal Voluntary Service opened its first Men’s Shed in Northumberland, giving older men a chance to make things and make friends.
2015 - Royal Voluntary Service launched the first Grandfest, a festival, celebrating the skills of older people and offering them a chance to pass those on to the next generation.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 12 October 2015.
NHS Greater Glasgow,
Social Impact Report,
This week, a return to Reports from Everywhere’ this time from September 1965. There were so many stories included in this issue of the bulletin, I found it hard to cut down so you have an ‘extended’ selection this week.
Straight to the point
The District Organiser for Lewisham received a letter from a 10-year-old boy in a local primary school. He explained that he was writing an essay about the social work being done in the Borough and he would like to know about WVS. The Organiser invited him to see some of the work if the school would give him permission- WVS was very surprised one morning when the boy arrived with 24 other pupils and his teacher. It proved a very enjoyable morning and the children seemed to ask hundreds of questions and promised they would ask their Mums to help and also to send any cast-off clothing. One small boy asked ‘Do you take ladies who are bored?’
Layettes from Salvage
During the past five years Finchley (a district of the London Borough of Barnet) Centre have made 564 nightdresses, 473 vests and 416 dresses for the Refugee Layette Scheme. This has been accomplished by using the good parts of worn garments destined for the Salvage sack. Shirts and sheets are used to make the nightdresses and vests, summer dresses and underclothes for the little dresses. Hand-made jumpers are undone, washed and re-knitted into shawls; 395 of these have been sent.
Members and friends, most of the latter being elderly, some being disabled and with failing sight, are tireless in sewing and knitting - Their policy is: ‘We are sending a present to these babies, so let us make it as attractive as possible’.
Not once but many times
When we see the students are enjoying themselves at their annual romp and they rattle the collecting boxes before our face, we sometimes forget the enormous amount of good the money will do when they have shared it out among the many local needs.
Money from the Aberdeen students’ campaign and the Welsh Caird trustees took 58 elderly people from Stonehaven on a bus run inland to some of the loveliest villages in Scotland. In a year when the broom and gorse was a mass of blooms they saw whole hillsides covered in golden yellow. Memory pictures to cherish through the dark days of the year.
From unwanted to wanted
One of our ‘Make and Mend’ members in Herne Bay has made about 550 babies’ day and night dresses out of unwanted cotton frocks and skirts in the five years she has been working for WVS; at 82 years of age an excellent record.
A word in time
A member working with the Bath Meals on Wheels service had been delivering meals to the elderly occupants of a very old house. The smell of the house had for some time been slowly getting worse, and when she went one week it was so dreadful that she felt something should be done about it, so she telephoned the Gas Board and asked that someone should be sent along to investigate.
They thought she had made a mistake and should have telephoned for the Sanitary Inspector, but said they would send an engineer along forthwith.
When the gas installations were inspected it was found that all the leads or pipes going into the meter were completely adrift. When they telephoned our member to inform her of this they said that had it not been for her prompt action, undoubtedly all the occupants of this apartment house would have been gassed.
Music in Braille
A blind woman living at Putney, who is being taken care of by a Wimbledon WVS member, is getting on well. Our member is taking great interest in her welfare, and is making every effort to get her some music written in Braille. She is teaching herself the piano and is very keen on music which is one of her greatest joys. She is so happy with her visitor and evidently appreciates this interest in her wellbeing very much indeed.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 28 September 2015.
Meals on Wheels,
Make do and mend,