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Archives and education – it doesn’t just have to be about history

Part of an archivist role is to allow access to the archives they care for, one way of doing this is through outreach work. As many of you will know here we run a remote enquiry service and cannot allow the public physical access to our records however we still manage to provide outreach through online educational resources. Over the years I have found that a lot of archive outreach programmes focus on history but if in theory we don’t keep archives for historical purposes why should we only promote them in teaching that subject? Last year we launched the Voices of Volunteering School Resources; they aim to provide learning materials for educators teaching a variety of subjects and skills.

Using our resources can actively help pupils to take part in volunteering and learn how to be good citizens and improve society. Firstly pupils learn about the role of Royal Voluntary Service today caring for older people through the memories of volunteers recorded in oral histories. The other resource discusses how in the 1990s WRVS moved from a Crown Service to a Charity and how volunteers started to fundraise in their local areas. They aim to encourage pupils to raise money for the charity in schools. It also uses some recipes from the Bulletin, volunteers and Civil Defence Cards to inspire ideas. Both resources focus on Citizenship, English and volunteering using archives and teaches skills such as planning, collaboration, problem solving, advocacy, campaigning and evaluation.  

The second set of lesson plans encourages students to get involved in debates surrounding volunteering and citizenship by using oral histories to highlight volunteers opinions and experiences. The debates include:    

  • Why do people volunteer?   
  • What are the benefits of volunteering?      
  • How has it evolved in over 75 years?

You might be thinking these resources just give students basic comprehension skills listen to a few short clips and then answer some questions. However they are more exciting than that; they allow pupils to interpret, discuss and debate helping them to form their own opinions on how we can improve society.

For example we have one resource titled “How does volunteering enhance your life as a volunteer?” This  uses  volunteers'experiences of working in different  WRVS services including Meals on Wheels and Hospital Canteens. Using these archives pupils on the roles of different types of active or potential volunteers:

They then debate the following topic:

Afterwards pupils reflect on the different interpretations of the situation and come to a conclusion about how volunteering can enhance people's lives. Using oral histories in this way teaches:

KS3:To describe the roles played by voluntary groups in society, and the ways in which citizens work together to improve their communities

KS4: To describe the different ways in which a citizen can contribute to the improvement of his or her community

GCSE AQA English

To respond to the questions and views of others, adapting talk appropriately to context and audience.  

As you can see Archives can be used in different ways in outreach programmes in a verity of subjects and not just to answer set questions.  

You can see how we’ve used archives to teach secondary school and further education students about a other topics including: PHSE, drama, volunteering and history on our Voices of Volunteering resource site.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 15 May 2017.

Labels: Archives, Education, Oral history, WRVS, Royal Voluntary Service, Voices of Volunteering

Digitising: it is not simply pushing a button on a scanner or camera

Today is VE day, it was the day marked to celebrate the end of war in Europe in 1945. It is also a year since we launched our Kickstarter project Hidden histories of a million women wartime women; women who contributed to victory. After 30 days of continuous campaigning we successful funded the project and then the hard work began to digitise 30,000 precious pieces of paper. In this week’s blog we are going to look at how the Narrative Reports which tell the WVS’s story are being digitised, preserved and made ready for online access later this summer.

Firstly we had to choose how we were going to digitise as the decision was to do this in-house it was between a flatbed scanner or a digital camera. We decided on the Cannon EOS 700D with lights to help balance the colour and image quality. A camera stand was then mounted to the wall so the camera could be level and take an aerial view image of each document. The camera settings were decided on to create the best quality images and are as follows:

a. ISO to 200

b. F Stop to F.8

c. Shutter Speed to 1/80

The camera is connected to the PC and the images once captured (yes ok this bit involves pressing a button) sent to Lightroom where they can be edited, usually rotation and cropping. This is stage one of the digitisation process and once a Region has been completed, you can find out more about the admin history on our fact sheets page, they are transferred for storage to our server. As you may or may not know Tiff is the archival standard for images but it does take up an awful lot of space and several separate images, 112 in one case for one centre! Thus we have to consider what would be the most space saving, safe and easily accessible format to upload the Narrative Reports online. In this case we have used pdf; this format is open source, saves space, easily manageable as a preservation copy (for now) and archival standard.

When creating the pdf the images are first water marked like our Heritage Bulletin pages as you can see in the image on the left. They are also resized based on one side to exactly 2500 pixels. Once this stage is completed the reports for each centre for a particular year are converted into PDF documents which are 150dpi and Greyscale but perfectly readable and easier to open than a 200 MB document. They will be added to a multimedia field in CALM and then uploaded to the online catalogue, a red pdf icon will denote if a document is available for download.

The Narrative Reports digitised as part of the project will be uploaded and made available online in the near future. Keep up to date by watching this space, visiting our Kickstarter page, liking us on Facebook and/or following us on Twitter.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 08 May 2017.

Labels: Kickstarter, Digitisation, VE Day, WVS, Narrative Report, Camera

Equality for all through actions

It’s interesting what you find when researching for an enquiry even if Lincolnshire and the Women’s Liberation movement are two different things. Finding the Bulletin article below got me thinking about Feminism and WVS/WRVS.

Feminism first appeared in the mid nineteenth century focusing on the promotion of equal contract, marriage, parenting, and property rights for women. It moved on to focus on women’s suffrage and rights which continued into the Twentieth Century. However by the time WVS was founded in 1938 the first wave of feminism had died down; possibly calmed by the role many women played in factories and other traditional men’s roles in World War I and some women obtaining the right to vote in 1918. In my mind WVS/WRVS was never a feminist organisation but a women’s organisation. It never really suited the definition of the ideological and political movement but it was one which used women’s skills to improve the lives of everyone in Britain. During the War WVS took roles in Evacuation, Hospital Supplies, Make do and mend, knitting and many others which used skills traditionally taken on by women in their homes. However some roles such as fire watching had been assigned to the ARP whose reluctance to include women in a way led to the establishment of WVS.

These less traditional roles appeared only to last as long as the War; the re-emergence of Civil Defence in the late 1940s early 1950s didn’t lead to a revival for WVS who took on the Welfare section. Some services they provided were different such as training in what to do if there was a nuclear attack or driving in the Food Flying Squad but they weren’t promoting a political ideology or actively campaigning for women’s rights. In a way WVS did more without having a political cause because they actively changed people’s lives through their actions and gave women a voice through volunteering.

The second wave of feminism came along in the 1970s along with the Women’s Liberation movement campaigning to make women equal to men and give them more control over their lives. WRVS at this time was still striving to make British society a better place for all. The Organisation focused on offering care to those who needed it either on a regular basis or during an emergency. They were also providing children with the opportunity to go on holiday when they might never have got the chance; patients in psychiatric hospitals were also benefiting specially designed canteens/shops to help rehabilitate them in the outside world and those with disabilities were given the chance to progress in the world of work with occupational therapy. However one member must have felt inspired by this new wave as she wrote an article in the WRVS Magazine; though as she says it was an unorthodox contribution.

WRVS Magazine No.377 June 1971

In short although WVS/WRVS wasn’t known for being a feminist or political organisation in its own special and of course unique way it strived to make everyone equal. Today Royal Voluntary Service continues working to help create a society where everyone feels valued and involved whatever their age.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 01 May 2017.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, Feminism, Women's Liberation, Royal Voluntary Service, Bulletin

The WVS and Queen Mary's Carpet

In the years after World War II Britain struggled to recover economically. In stark contrast, the USA was becoming a much richer nation than before. Sterling was no longer a leading currency and national banks wanted US Dollars, not Sterling. Feeling that every citizen should try and “do their bit” for the economy, in November 1949 Queen Mary decided to donate her needlework to the nation, so that it could be sold for dollars. A committee responsible for the “disposal” of the Carpet was formed and chaired by Lady Reading as Head of the WVS.

Before its journey to America the Carpet went on public display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) on February 8th 1950. From the start queues were averaging 3000 per day who were stewarded by members of the WVS. By the end of the exhibition which finished on March 12th 1950, it had been seen by over 100,000 visitors including Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) and Princess Margaret.

Lady Reading’s PA Miss Patricia Hardie was then appointed to care for the carpet on its journey. The only qualification for the job was that Patricia had worked with the American Red Cross during World War II.

As the V&A exhibition closed, the Carpet was carefully folded and placed in its specially made oak & steel casket. Accompanied by Patricia Hardie on the RMS Queen Mary it was shipped to New York. The plan was to take the Carpet on an 80 day, 14,000 mile tour of cities across the USA and Canada, arranged by the son of Lady-in-Waiting, Lady Antrim, Colonel Angus McDonnell, who would also escort the Carpet assisted by Miss Hardie.

The Carpet, Colonel McDonnell and Miss Hardie arrived in New York on March 23rd 1950. The first exhibition was in New York for 5 days before embarking on a tour of 23 cities in the USA and Canada. Every venue had made special arrangements to display the Carpet. Some even removed priceless artefacts to make room. 

Miss Hardie noted “In every case the Carpet was in place within half an hour of our arrival. Sometimes it was hung with a curtain background, sometimes against a wooden frame or plinth and sometimes laid flat on a specially built dais.

Young GI brides helped us in many cities, always willing and enthusiastic, arranging their household duties so that they might be free to work a shift at the sales desks selling the literature from which the expenses of the tour would be paid.”

The Carpet was seen by over 400,000 across North America, including Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt former 1st Lady and wife of the former US President Franklin D Roosevelt. Mrs Roosevelt praised Queen Mary for her sacrifice and devotion in sending her needlework to the USA to generate dollar funds for her country. Miss Hardie commented that it was the most exciting three months of her life.

Patricia also commented that “so many I met were needlewomen themselves and everyone, without exception, wanted to feel the texture of the carpet.”

Sadly, present day visitors to the National Gallery of Canada are rarely able to view the Carpet. Due to the light sensitive nature of the wool dyes and degradation of the fabric, the Carpet is not on permanent display.

If you’re interested in more information on Queen Mary’s Carpet you can contact our enquiry service or search the WVS Bulletin/WRVS Magazine. 

Posted by Ian Myhill, Volunteer at 09:00 Monday, 24 April 2017.

Labels: Carpet, Canada, America, Victoria and Albert Museum, WVS, Queen Mary

Eggs, hot cross buns, daffodils and the WVS/WRVS

We hope you enjoy these extracts from the WVS Bulletin and WRVS Magazine which include WVS activities, easter traditions and recipes.

Firstly I would like to make a bid for the earliest mention of Christmas in 2017 with this Bulletin from January 1946.


The WVS worked closely with refugees from Holland during the war and established a sister organisation the Dutch UVV and  worked with them in April 1948.

IT IS ABOUT two years since the arrival of the first of the long line of Mobile Canteens which W.V.S. so generously gave to its sister organisation, the Dutch U.V.V., after the liberation of Holland. We here in Arnhem were so fortunate as to get the first two. The first arrived a few days before Christmas from Newcastle-on-Tyne, and was immediately put to work on distribution to the aged poor of loaves of sultana bread, a Yuletide speciality in Holland. …

During the bulb season the mobile canteens were used to distribute Easter eggs and daffodils to the aged, and as the bulb growers in the West had given us such tremendous quantities of flowers, we saved a canteen load of them for the Airborne Cemetery.

Over ten years later in April 1959 WVS volunteers were still hard at work.

NORWICH. This Easter we had a pleasant surprise. The staff in our building collected fresh eggs to be distributed to all the old people on the Meals-on-Wheels round.

Also published were a series of Easter Traditions in an article entitled The Egg The Hare and The Hot Cross Bun. You can read the article in full in the Bulletin from April 1963 but here is a short extract.

[T]he hot cross bun. I always assumed that the cross on the bun was a purely Christian symbol, but now I learn that it probably dates back long before that. Little crosses used to be put on cakes made for the worship of the goddess Diana, and it seems possible that the wheaten cakes known to have been eaten at pagan Spring festivals bore the same mark. Our hot cross buns have probably got a much longer history than we imagine.

Incidentally, there is one delightful individual custom associated with hot cross buns which takes place in an inn in London. In the early nineteenth century the licensee put aside one hot cross bun every Good Friday for her son who was away at sea. But one year he did not return. His mother didn't give up hope, but continued each year to replace the old bun with a new one, keeping the old ones in a basket. When new tenants took over the inn they continued to do this, and now there is a clause in the lease of the inn to enforce it.

Finally as we haven't posted any for a while a recipe for Easter Biscuits from April 1972:

12 oz. Plain flour
pinch of salt
6 oz. Butter or margarine
4 oz. Caster sugar
1 Egg
3 oz. Currants
Pinch of saffron, steeped for a few hours in 1 tablespoon milk,
Egg white and caster sugar for finish.

MethodCream the fat and sugar Beat in the eggAdd the currants and saffron mixtureFold in the flour, sifted with the salt, using a metal spoon The dough should be softer than for pastry, but firm enough to roll Kneed lightly and roll out on a floured board to 1/8 inch in thickness Cut in rounds, using a fluted cutterPut on a baking sheet and bake for approx. 20 minutes at 400°f-Mark 6 After 10 minutes in the oven, remove the biscuits, brush with egg white and dredge with caster sugarReturn to the oven for remainder of baking time Cool on a cooling tray Store in an airtight tin.

All our Bulletins and Magazines written between 1939 and 1974 (over 419 Issues) are available to download on our online catalogue. Why not search Easter in the Bulletin Text field for more extracts like these.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 17 April 2017.

Labels: Easter, WRVS, eggs, daffodils, Dutch, WVS

Hotlocks, Food Flying Squads and Soya Boilers - the equipment of Royal Voluntary Service

Welcome back to the Heritage Bulletin Vlog, in the past we’ve posted a number of blogs focusing on food from services like Meals on Wheels to recipes from the Bulletin but we never really talk about the equipment which made the volunteers work possible.


The full and original script is avaliable in this PDF Hotlocks, Food Flying Squads and Soya Boilers.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 10 April 2017.

Labels: WVS, WRVS, Vlog, Hotlocks, Soya Boilers, Flying Food Squad

A study in ink

Our regular readers may remember that last year we raised £27,724 on Kickstarter to digitise 28,000 documents telling the story of a million war time women. The work began in September and since then we have uncovered interesting, unusual and sometimes very short stories which are regularly posted on Twitter and Facebook. As well as these stories we have also discovered a number of different ink colours, styles of handwriting and spills. This sometimes makes the documents difficult to read but there are skills that can be used to help us interpret and identify them.

Palaeography is the study of ancient and historical handwriting, how it was formed and changed overtime rather than the contents or the meanings of the words themselves. It is also useful alongside the study of diplomatica for dating documents; luckily most of the Narrative Reports are stamped or dated. There are several different types of handwriting studied on Archive courses but modern historians and our team would find the study of secretary and italic more useful than anglicana or gothic. However it could be argued this does not really apply at the time covered in the digitised reports especially those produced on a typewriter. Furthermore standardised handwriting appears to be disappearing at this point (1938-1942); there are many different variations within the collection which you can see in the images throughout this blog. Although in some writing you can still see the use some identifiers of italic. The Centre Organisers were usually middle aged women who were probably taught italic in school. We use these skills to try to read and transcribe documets like the one below or Emma Yellowley's Diary.


Can you decipher this text? I will provide an answer at the end of next weeks blog. Though perhaps you are more interested in the different colours used in the Narrative Reports.              

We’ve probably all seen the beautifully illuminated documents of the medieval era and may not associate this with modern records; however another thought-provoking study of these documents is the different ways centre organisers or their secretaries chose to write or illustrate these documents. This includes small drawings, poetry or the use of different coloured inks. So far our archives assistant has encountered black and blue as you would expect but also purple and green. This doesn’t only apply to the handwritten documents but those typed on a typewriter. This wouldn’t help us to date or read the documents as coloured inks and dyes have been around for 1000s of years even though they were more expensive and less readily available before the twentieth century. On the other hand the typewriter’s (first invented in 1557) design was standardised by 1910. Though a typed document is easier to read and doesn’t require palaeography skills it can still be used to tell us where a document originated as every typewriter is individual. In our collection of reports there are some centres which continually use a typewriter that punches holes when the o or e key is used. A keen eye may also be required to read slightly blurred type or those which are fading which is why our Kickstarter project is extremely important.

I hope that I have given you some food for thought this week while also providing a challenge. The History of a million wartime women hasn’t only brought a new insight into the role of women on the Homefront but some different perspectives on the look and feel of the documents themselves. It also highlights how significant handwriting and the ability to read it is for archivists offering access to their collections and unlocking them for future generations. Finally, for those of you who know me yes I have been reading Sherlock Holmes novels again and that’s where the inspiration for the title came from.  

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 03 April 2017.

Labels: Ink, , Palaeography, , Narrative Report, , Kickstarter, , WVS, , war

What the does the Deputy Archivist get up to on Wednesdays?

Sometimes on social media (usually Facebook or Twitter) you see posts which say “you know you’re a … when you …”. Last week I had a, “you know you’re an archivist when the brass paper clips arrive and you get over excited about it” moment. I realise there has been some posts recently on Archives NRA (JiscMail Mailing list) concerning the oxidisation of brass paper clips and the damage they can cause to documents but in my opinion they are so much better than the nasty rusty staples I see in our documents. Anyway I am going to move on now and this week I thought you might like an insight into one of the projects I have been toiling over.

Since September I have been working with our large and varied collection of publications. Over the course of nearly 80 years Royal Voluntary Service has been producing publications to advertise their services and appeal for volunteers. Some Archivists may see this as ephemera but for a charity a leaflet, poster, bookmark or other such item is evidence of day to day activities and business transactions so they have earned their place as an archival document. A few years ago the collection had been sorted into acid free envelopes and listed on and Access Database; it was time for them to be appraised, repackaged into acid free boxes and catalogued to archival standards.

I began with repackaging, appraising and referencing which involved sorting through duplicates, removing them from the collection and then giving each publication a unique reference number. WVS and WRVS publications were created by the different departments within the organisation for many years thus they have been catalogued in their original order under each department for example Children, Health and Hospitals, Old Peoples Welfare and Prison Welfare. They were catalogued at Item level each with a short description.

Once all 1,368 items were repackaged and catalogued (one Wednesday a week, except over Christmas of course) they were placed on the shelves in neatly labelled boxes. This makes finding them for enquiries extremely easy. If you’re interested in testing my theory please send us an enquiry about our publications through the online enquiry form. While most of the publications live on the shelves there are also a number of large posters which wouldn’t fit in a standard archive box and needed a bit more TLC.

Before they were catalogued they were kept folded up with the rest of the collection. As you can see from this image this wasn’t doing them any good but now they have been found and catalogued they could be properly preserved. I have in the past carried out some basic conservation to ripped documents. Sometimes a terrifying moment when you have to consider the damaged you might cause. I really don’t know how conservators carry out those more complex jobs. Even cleaning documents which I had a go at on a number of work experience placements was a bit nerve racking; I have never used a rubber so gently in all my life. Anyway this task was a bit less petrifying...

As they are awkward and won’t fit into the standard boxes they must go in our plan chest. Therefore they required some protection and the first job was to place them in polyester sleeves, archival standard of course. Secondly they needed to be supported by mounting board which was measured out and then cut to the right sizes. A steady hand on the Stanley knife was required and long arms as it is fairly difficult to cut a piece of card almost the same length as yourself. Finally the posters were then attached and the reference number written on below. Job done! They now live happily ever after in the plan chest, except when we need to access them or hopefully digitise them in the future.

There you have it my Wednesday project, though now I will have to find something new and I am sure just as interesting. Our online catalogue will be updated over the next few months so watch this space or email us and ask to be added to our mailing list.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 27 March 2017.

Labels: Royal Voluntary Service, , WVS, , WRVS, , Publications, , Archive, , Cataloguing

My trip to the SEAC with WVS: the Diary of Services Welfare member Miss Yellowley

About a month ago we left Miss Yellowley as the Mauretania entered the Suez Canal; the ship sailed along the canal for 2 days before reaching the Gulf of Suez and then the Arabian Sea. The days’ activities and nightly dances or picture (film) showings continued as did their journey until the Mauretania arrived in Bombay.

Saturday getting near our sea journeys ending, feeling very sad at leaving all the friends we’ve made on the ship, still doing last minute sewing and clothing for the boys. By 5 o’clock we can just see Bombay. At 6 o’clock the ship anchored and disembarking for the troops begins. We were supposed to be having a farewell dance and cabaret from 8 to 11 but owing to changing money and posting orders being read out it didn’t begin until 10:15 so it was rather disappointing.

Sunday 4th 18 of the party including myself are disembarking in the morning for Calcutta, the other 11 will stay in Bombay for 1 night. The ship looks bare now most of the troops are off now. We had a little sing song in the evening.

Monday 5 we were called at 4:30 and breakfast 5:15, at 6:45 we were put on the tender and as we pulled out looked up at the Mauretania, she looked beautiful. The journeying had been done in 13 days and 5 hours sailing including the time we stayed at Big Britain Lake and Tewfik [Suez Port] and they certainly broke the record. When we got to the key side we were herded into army trucks and taken to the station where we got the 10:10 from Victoria terminus to Calcutta a distance of 18,000 miles. We’re on a military troop train and own compartments were very comfortable but not too clean. There was 6 of us in our compartment and heaps of room to move about in, much bigger than our own trains. There was great exciting times as we got going, we were all thrilled to bits, native children running alongside the trains … some were dreadful sights. We stopped at various stations for meals and we had sing songs on the platform, and it was very amusing when the boys were getting the native children to sing and dance to us. There was so much to see on the journey we didn’t get time to be bored and it went over very quickly. We arrived at Calcutta on Wednesday 7th November about 4:30. We were met by some WVS members and taken to “Barrackpore” 17 miles out of Calcutta where we had baths, dinner and off to bed. There was a letter from Sue waiting for me and wasn’t I pleased, it is grand to get a letter from home when you are so far away …

The Services Welfare Officers spent a few days in Calcutta and then Miss Yellowley and two other women were posted to Rangoon they were very busy and as a result Miss Yellowley was unable to write for a few months.

I’m afraid I have been very lazy in keeping this diary up to date, it is now the 10th march and this is the first time I have looked in my diary since I arrived in Rangoon. I have had a grand time up to now. Spent most of my time with Alec, dancing, on the lake, swimming, tenis, table tennis and trips in a jeep and how I have enjoyed them all, the best I think was to Pegu on 17th February. It is 55 miles from here and Pegu is a very interesting place with the Reclining Buddha. We went swimming in the lake on the way back and then I left Alec and came to our Boat Club dance which I attend every Sunday evening. I have worked at the boat club since I first arrived in Rangoon. Babs and Nora have been posted to Singapore and I heard last week that Nora had broken her leg. I have two very dear pals whom we all share a room Mrs Penman (Penny) and Mrs Joy Rydon. Joy is leaving soon as she has to see a specialist in England, Penny and I will miss her terribly as we have got very attached to each other. Alec went home on 61 days leave. He left by plane on the 22nd February, it is 16 days since he left but it seems like 16 years. I knew I would miss him but I never dreamt I would miss him so much as I do. I haven’t had a letter from him yet but keeping my fingers crossed. It is terribly hot now but my work at the Boat Club is very pleasant and I enjoy every minute of it. NAAFI have taken over this club and very soon our contracts will be transferred to NAAFI if we wish …

In our next instalment Miss Yellowley and two companions continue to have adventures manageing the NAAFI Club where the entertainments include cinema, bands, whist, concerts, games, table tennis, fishing and hot meals.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 20 March 2017.

Labels: Bombay, Calcutta, Rangoon, NAAFI

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