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My Archive Journey Part One

Learning to deal with an accession at the Royal Voluntary Service

Following my initial introduction to the wide array of resources held by the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection, and the subsequent publication of my first Heritage Bulletin blog at the beginning of February 2017, my primary experience of an accession to the archive came in the form of a collection accumulated by the leader of the ‘Ebley Silver Threads over 60's Club’, Mrs Mary Curtis. This submission to the archive followed directly on from an interview for the ‘Voices of Volunteering’ project conducted by the Deputy Archivist, Jennifer Hunt, with Mary late in 2015.

The collection, which had been maintained by Mary between 1962 and 2008, first in her capacity as a member of WVS and subsequently as the club leader after 1966, had arrived at the archive in January 2016 following an enquiry from the custodian of the documents. It came in a hefty and bulging briefcase, along with two large and very full cardboard boxes. My first task was consequently to unpack the collection, whilst maintaining the original order, so that a preliminary assessment of the contents could be made.

Initially it had been thought that the collection was comprised mainly of the photographs and the personal records and mementoes of Mary in her association with the WRVS (now Royal Voluntary Service) and the Ebley Silver Threads club, but during this review it soon became apparent that rather than a personal collection, it would be better categorised as the records of a local office. The Ebley Silver Threads over 60's Club’ had been formed in 1966 by Mary and a few other members of the WRVS upon their recognition that no social group existed for the older members of their local community in the urban region of Stroud, Gloucestershire. Whilst identified as a local club by its members, it was nevertheless part of the wide range of older persons’ welfare work conducted by the organisation, belonging to the service originally known nationwide as the ‘Darby and Joan Clubs’.

As a consequence included amongst the documents were several WVS Circular Notices such as, "Model Rules for the Constitution of a Local Darby and Joan Club run by WVS", “"WVS Darby and Joan Clubs, Notes for the Guidance of Leaders" and “WVS Insurance in Darby and Joan Clubs”. In addition there were blank ‘Older People's Club’ membership cards which recorded subscription payments, and a WRVS newssheet on “Meals on Wheels and Lunch Clubs”.

At the club level there was a minute book of Committee Meetings and the Annual General Meetings between 1971 and 2008, extracts from the financial records and statements, in addition to copies of the letters and correspondence sent and received by Mary in her role as club leader. Whilst the bulk of the collection related to the holidays and activities organised for the club members, and was made up in particular of the photographs taken of the group, there were also records of the recognition paid and awards given to Mary by the WRVS and her local community for her work and commitment to the older citizens in Ebley and the surrounding area.

Overall there was no doubt that this collection fitted with the collection policy of the archive and that it would be a valuable addition. As a consequence a gift agreement was therefore sought from the custodian to allow work to proceed to incorporate it into the archive.

Look out for my next blog in September when I will describe my next stage of the journey: learning to catalogue the collection.

Posted by Elaine Titcombe, Archive & Heritage Collection Volunteer at 09:00 Monday, 07 August 2017.

Labels: Accession, WVS, WRVS, Gloucestershire, Stroud, Darby & Joan

Not all those who wander are lost

The second line of J R R Tolkin’s Poem All that is gold doesn’t glitter, both very true when looking at a recent deposit we received. It’s also true that if you are travelling with WVS you won’t be lost.

In July 1942 the Ministry for Homeland Security set up the Volunteer Car Pool (VCP) to address the problems of petrol shortages. Private car owners were encouraged to enrol in the service agreeing to make their car available in an emergency. WVS was asked to be involved in the running of the scheme; by 1944 they were overseeing 570 VCP schemes across Britain. This was then succeeded by the Hospital Car Service (HCS) in 1945 where WVS and the WRVS volunteers took thousands of people to Hospital every year until the Mid1970s when the charity started to run a more diverse scheme called Country Cars (1974/75).

A short time ago we received a set of driver’s records including letters, a log book, monthly summaries, petrol records and journey records for the VCP and HCS. Mrs Bird wandered around the London and Essex Metropolitan areas between 1944 and 1950 collecting those in need of transport and taking them to hospital and many other places. Of course these records don’t glitter but they contain hidden gems such as her records for July and August 1944 when she took evacuees and their escorts from Chingford to stations in London such as Kings Cross and Paddington. Most of these journeys were 30 to 40 mile round trips. Moreover one book shows that WVS’s transport services were not just used for hospital journeys even before 1974. In 1947 and 1948 Mrs Bird took people to an old people’s tea entertainment, collected wool from Tothill Street London (WVS Headquarters) and transported fruit for canning to Portland Place. Occasionally she also delivered Meals on Wheels and clothing to local clothing depots.

If you would like to find out more about the VCP and HCS why not explore our Factsheets on Transport or Hospital Services

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 25 July 2016.

Labels: WVS, Accession, Archive, VCP, Hospital Car Service

New in...

It’s been a while since we told you about some of the treasures we have in the Archive and I thought I’d tell you about some very interesting donations that have arrived here over the last few months.

Day Books from Margate and Tunbridge Wells, Kent, 1938-1945

The Archive recently received five Day Books about the WVS Centres in Margate and Tunbridge Wells from 1939-1945. These Day Books were used by volunteers to record the activities happening in the local centres across Great Britain. One book describes the daily activities in the Margate office in 1944 and 1945 including.

  • Whist drives to raise funds for POWs
  • Volunteer Car Pool
  • Clothing Refugees
  • Salvage (collecting bones)
  • Welfare Furniture
  • Repairing overalls for engineers
  • And the final entry on 30 June 1945 which records members attending a Civil Defence Standing down party.


WVS watercolour poster, 1941 from Royal Voluntary Service Chesham House Centre Café at Lancing, Sussex

This is a large original pencil ink and watercolour poster (30 x 41.5 in) of 13 scenes of WVS activities in three columns, with a WVS Badge at the top centre. The Scenes depict: the Blitz, Salvage, the Homeless, John Citizen - 1941, the Footsore and Weary, a WVS Station canteen, a WVS Aluminium Dump, a WVS Mobile Canteen, Peace, Fresh fields, a rest centre and Communal Feeding, a WVS Work Depot, and children being fitted for shoes. The scenes down the left side of the poster are 'problems' with WVS’ solutions on the right.

Yorkshire, Calderdale (Halifax) papers, 1950-2013

This collection was given to us at the end of March and contains an array of exciting material from West Yorkshire, Including among others:

  • Ten coloured photographs of exhibition to mark 40th anniversary of WRVS, held in Halifax Town Hall.
  • The Orders of Service for WVS’s 21st birthday Service of Thanksgiving at York Minster 1959, and for WRVS’s Golden Jubilee at York Minster 1988.
  • A black and white photograph taken in May 1988 during a visit from Dame Thora Herd to Calderdale.
  • A Song Book for Darby & Joan Clubs and Christmas Carols, including songs such as The Kings Orient, Holly and the Ivy, Loch Lomond, A Nice Cup of tea and The White Cliffs of Dover.
  • Ten Scrapbooks compiled from 1954-1992 in Calderdale and Halifax with a Green photograph album including photos of Calderdale volunteers 1979.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 02 May 2016.

Labels: New, Accession, Margate, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, WVS, Day Books, Poster, watercolour, Chesham House, activities, Yorkshire, Calderdale, Halifax, photograph, publication, letter, song book