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I had been waiting for years (literally) for the Antiques Roadshow to visit somewhere near the archive in Devizes, and last Thursday was our big opportunity and we took it! But having decided to go, what should we take from over a million items in the collection? There is so much rich history in the archive that it really was a very tough decision.
As an avid fan of the Roadshow I knew that it would have to be either something which was valuable, beautiful or could tell a fantastic story, or preferably all three!
As wonderful as the archive is, we have very few things that are intrinsically valuable, and certainly nothing which is worth the tens of thousands of pounds like some of the beautiful items which we see on Sunday nights. The value of the items in our collection is almost entirely in the fascinating stories they tell, of those millions of women (and later men too) who gave so much for society, but whose action on the whole were relatively mundane but completely vital.
Documents tell wonderful stories, but are mostly rather dull to look at, so what could we take? What had a great story, looked good and might be worth something?
The answer had of course been rolled up in unbleached cotton calico and sat safely on a shelf unseen for the past five years. It was Lady Reading’s Tapestry!
The opportunity to tell Lady Reading’s story, who I strongly believe to be one of the most important women in the 20th Century, (right up there with Marie Curie, Emeline Pankhurst and Eleanor Roosevelt) was too good to miss.
It combined not only our founder’s story, but also the story of the WVS itself in its twenty half cross stitched panels.
What is that story and how much was it worth I hear you ask! Well, you will have to tune into the Antiques Roadshow from Bowood House next series to find out!
BATH. One of our old ladies who had been visited for a long time by W.V.S. dropped a hint that she had a birthday the following week. This was duly noted by the member and the landlady. Small gifts of candies, biscuits etc. were produced for the great day and they all had tea together. During the little celebration the old lady coyly announced that it was not her birthday at all but she would like to make sure of it now! Tailpiece—she died before her birthday ; she was over 80.
BURTON-ON-TRENT. The Hat Stall. The Matron at the Andressey Hospital approached the leader of the trolley shop to see if it was possible to supply those mental patients who were able to go out with new hats, as the ones they had were getting very shabby. As nothing appears impossible to W.V.S. our leader went to the manager of one of our large stores to see what he could do. He most kindly agreed to help and sent up a large quantity of hats to the hospital and the trolley helpers held an extra session one evening in the women’s sitting room. It was a most exciting and interesting evening. The patients were frightfully thrilled and tried on the hats with great enthusiasm, matching them with their coats, laughing heartily when the hat didn’t suit. They had been saving up for this occasion and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The helpers and nurses were completely exhausted at the end as there were between fifty and sixty patients. We are wondering what we shall be asked for next.
ESTON (SOUTHBANK). On arriving at the post office one morning the Centre Organiser found a note asking her to telephone a crippled women who wanted W.V.S. help. It was found a self-propelling chair was needed. The Centre Organiser made several enquiries, and then told the woman what to do (all in the same morning). In less than three weeks the woman had been interviewed and examined and found eligible and now, having received the chair, she is so grateful she wants to do shopping for old people not able to do their own.
MORPETH. We have called on 38 old people to see if they need help, and came across many sad cases and some with humorous endings. For example, two poor old sisters over 80 living in most squalid conditions, no bedding, having sold belongings to keep going ; very proud and refusing any help. The National Assistance Board officer was asked to call and the Medical Officer of Health notified. The N.A.B. officer, after a lot of questioning awoke vague memories of money in their minds, and after a lengthy search he and they discovered £400 in notes in an old handbag!
. A little girl, very badly burned was transferred from the Isle of Wight to the plastic ward of Odstock Hospital. W.V.S. Isle of Wight told Southern Region and they passed the message on to South Western Region who asked Salisbury to send a visitor. Within two hours of receiving the request a member was on her way. The child was very ill and of course homesick. Our member quickly established herself as a trusted and beloved “ aunt,” and has been visiting the little girl three or four times a week for more than two months.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 22 June 2015.
Burton on Trent,
Reports from everywhere
You may have seen one of the newspaper, magazine or television pieces about our oldest volunteer Margaret Miller who is 104 years young, in our celebration of VE Day at the beginning of June.
Last week we finally managed to interview Margaret about her amazing 76 years volunteering for the Royal Voluntary Service, as part of our Heritage Lottery Funded Voices of Volunteering project.
You can listen to Margaret by following the link to Margaret's page our online catalogue
Margaret was first involved with the WVS in Glasgow during the Second World War with collecting items for the Household Gifts Scheme and distributing them to people who had been bombed out. She was also involved with visiting and talking to soldiers in hospital and talking to them or bringing them gifts.
After the War Margaret was involved in Meals on Wheels and the Hospital Escort Service and in 1973 she was asked to set-up and run a stroke club called the Lightburn Harmony Stroke Club, which is still running today. In the interview Margaret also talks about the different members she has had over the years and her fundraising for the club. She also comments on her Long Service medal and two British Empire Medals, attending the 50th WRVS anniversary, a Garden Party at Holyrood in 2014 and her views on how Royal Voluntary Service has changed over the years.
Hearing volunteer‘s stories in their own words is what the Voices of Volunteering project is all about. For more information about the project you can visit the Voices of Volunteering project page
You might also be interested in the media coverage about Margaret and VE Day, you can find some of the articles below:
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 10:00
Monday, 15 June 2015.
Household Gifts Scheme,
Meals on Wheels ,
Hospital escort Service,
British Empire Medal
This week on the HB blog a slight departure from the usual fare. I thought you might like a story about what we're doing at the archive, or rather, how Royal Voluntary Service and the Archive are helping the wider charity and archive sector.
On Friday (5 June) I was honoured to co-present a workshop session at the British Academy for their research project, ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’. The project aims to identify and encourage those voluntary organisations with records relating to the formation of the modern welfare state after 1945, to digitise them and make them available to the widest possible audience.
This was the first of many events in this project aimed at getting those involved together and enabling us all to start a dialogue about how charities, academics and others might work together.
My session, which I presented with Rob Baker of Blind Veterans UK, was all about the ways in which large charities like ours use our Heritage especially how it is used in helping to promote and give context to the work our charities do now. With our Grandest Festival only a week away, this offered the perfect opportunity to show how the archive has relevance to modern campaigns.
Our Grandmakers will be running sessions on ‘Heritage Skills’ something which the Royal Voluntary Service has excelled in ever since its creation. This is not just limited to the jam making, toy making or sewing (the subject of three heritage display panels at the event), but women (and later men) using their skills and knowledge for the creation of service which have come to underpin our whole society.
WVS was one of the key players in the development of the welfare state we now take for granted, especially for the older people. As part of our work at the end of and directly after the war, we helped to create a workable system of home care which became the model for the entire country and also created the model for the modern old people’s home, which was enshrined in the 1948 Assistance Act. Also don’t forget the widespread adoption of Darby & Joan clubs!
Sharing our knowledge is something Royal Voluntary Service has always done throughout our history, and allowing us to help lead the sector and assist others in similar circumstances is the very essence of voluntary service.
If you live in London and can make it to Hoxton Square on Saturday 13 June, do go along; and if you do why not buy one of our new archive tea towels, or coasters, or apron, or postcards…
Thanks for the photo to CHARM
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 10:00
Monday, 08 June 2015.
Home Helps ,
darby and Joan ,
Old peoples homes,
Assistance act ,
This month’s extract from the diary of a Centre Organiser came from June 1950
Distribution of Overseas Gift Foods to-day (at the request of the Mayor). Had purposely not sent an invitation to Mrs. Grabber, who has already had more than her fair share. However, she must have got wind of the occasion, for there she was—as usual ! “ No,” she admitted, “ you didn’t send me a card—and it upset me very much.” Then she added, “ But I was not so vexed at not being invited that I wouldn’t come at all ! ”
Mrs. Kay looked in to thank us for getting her an E.V.W. domestic, and to tell us she is settling down happily. “ Her English is quite good, too,” Mrs. Kay enthused, “ but she mixes up ‘ test ’ and ‘ taste.’ She told me to-day that she thought a plumber should be asked to come along to ‘ taste the drains’!”
An extremely handsome young man brushed past me as I entered the office this morning, and I found Miss Pretty standing by my desk looking flushed. “ What’s been happening here ? ” I enquired briskly. The question was obviously embarrassing. “ Er—that man you saw: he followed me along the street,” she answered. “ Then he came in here to ask if I was doing anything this evening.” “ Well ? ” I prompted, scenting a budding romance. “ When I told him I was free this evening ...” Miss Pretty paused, flashed me a glance and went on quickly : “ He asked me if I would sit-in with his baby so that he and his wife could go to the pictures ! ” (Poor Miss Pretty !)
Stew 1 pint of raspberries slowly with 1/2 teacupful each of sugar and water. Strain off the juice, measure and make up to 1/2 pint if necessary. Beat 2 eggs, heat 1/2 pint milk and stir it into the eggs, add 1 dessertspoonful of sugar and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. Leave till lukewarm, then slowly stir in the raspberry juice. If the colour is insipid add a little cochineal. Pour the mixture into a fireproof dish, stand this in a bowl of cold water and put them together into a slow oven. The custard should set firmly without boiling. Turn out when cold and decorate with whole raspberries. Serve with Savoy Biscuits.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 01 June 2015.
European voluntary Workers,
Overseas Gift Foods,
Spinach and Beet